Showing 171 - 180 of 298 annotations contributed by Aull, Felice

Notes from the Delivery Room

Pastan, Linda

Last Updated: May-17-2006
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry — Secondary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

Amusing, and lovingly told in the first person, the poem describes the comically embarrassing physicality of giving birth and considers the profound implications of this life event: the sex act from which conception originates, the anguish of losing a child; the fearful joy of welcoming a new life into the world. During labor, the mother is also aware that the doctors expect her to perform, "the audience grows restive," but in the end they are of no consequence as it is "just me, quite barefoot / greeting my barefoot child."

View full annotation

In the Hospital

Goedicke, Patricia

Last Updated: May-17-2006
Annotated by:
Chen, Irene
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

A woman with breast cancer describes dealing with doctors and medical procedures, from facing "embarrassing questions" to the finality of the mastectomy itself. She copes passively with the procedures by escaping into a fantasy world; but when it is time for the doctors to remove her breast, she assumes an active role and "[gives] it to them."

View full annotation

Lady Lazarus

Plath, Sylvia

Last Updated: May-17-2006
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice
Chen, Irene

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

A 30 year-old woman describes with chilling power her three suicide attempts. She compares herself to a cat with nine lives and to a concentration camp victim; yet "dying / is an art . . . / I do it exceptionally well." The doctors/men that save her are the enemy, and she warns them to "beware."

View full annotation

Girl, Interrupted

Kaysen, Susanna

Last Updated: May-17-2006
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Written with controlled elegance, this is an absorbing autobiographical account of psychiatric hospitalization. Twenty-five years after the fact, the author describes the two years during her late adolescence in which she "slip[ped] into a parallel universe." The surreal nature of the experience is reflected in darkly comedic recollections of her inner life, the other patients, their families, the staff, and of forays into the outside world.

View full annotation

Interior

Degas, Edgar

Last Updated: Apr-27-2006
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Oil on canvas

Summary:

We look into what appears to be a woman's bedroom with two human figures. The wallpaper design of pastel colored flowers and a delicate lampshade similarly decorated give the room a feminine appearance. A single-width bed covered in a white bedspread is set against the far corner of the right-hand wall, projecting almost at right angles to the viewer. The head of the bed abuts this wall, a pillow propped up against the bedstead.

At the foot of the bed, toward the right foreground of the painting, a coat is thrown over the metal bedpost frame. In the right foreground is a closed door against which leans a bearded man, his trouser legs spread apart, hands in his trouser pockets; he wears a dark jacket and a collared shirt. His shadow looms behind him, large against the door. The shadow is generated by the single small lamp set upon a small round table near the center of the room.

Also on the table is an open suitcase-like case, possibly a sewing box (p. 674 of reference below); a light colored cloth or piece of clothing hangs partially out of it. Small implements are strewn on the table -- a scissors is among them. On the floor next to the table lies another piece of cloth or clothing (said to be a corset, p. 674).

Turned bent away from the man, partially kneeling on the floor at the other side of the room, is the other human figure in the painting -- a young woman whose left shoulder and upper back are bare, the short sleeve of her white dress (nightgown?) hanging off her shoulder. She clutches to her body a blanket or drape. In contrast to the man, who stands in semidarkness, the woman's back is bathed in the light of the nearby lamp. The expression on the woman's face is difficult to discern.

View full annotation

Opera Therapy

Evison-Griffith, Traicee

Last Updated: Mar-29-2006
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Video

Summary:

This documentary video follows the making of an opera, based on the illness experiences of four Australians who have been diagnosed and treated for cancer. Their feelings about these experiences are translated into music (with lyrics) as they work closely with music therapist/composer, Emma O'Brien. As the three women and one man tell their stories of physical debility and emotional pain, the music therapist asks them to think in terms of color (they choose purple, black) and tones and rhythms that she plays for them on the piano.

When the narratives and their musical representations have evolved sufficiently, trained singers take on the roles "written" for them by the four former patients; the latter continue to be intimately involved in the opera's production, directed by David Kram. At the end of the project, which is also the conclusion of the film, the opera is performed in front of an audience (with musicians playing instruments, singing, and dramatic enactment) and the four people whose illness experience is performed take their bows together with the singers.

View full annotation

Dying: An Update

Brodkey, Harold

Last Updated: Oct-04-2005
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Journal

Summary:

A chronicle of the author's perceptions, thoughts, memories, and personal relationships during the months after he was diagnosed as having AIDS. Brodkey's mind and prose are as sharp as a knife's edge. Beginning with the desperate struggle for breath that signaled pneumonia and, retrospectively, "how my life ended. And my dying began," continuing with the reactions and decisions of himself and his wife, the first half of the essay spins out an observant, introspective, cerebral, even amusing account of his particular experience.

But AIDS is often a disease associated with more emotional baggage than other fatal illnesses, and in Brodkey's case we learn that he traces both his dying and his homosexual experiences to "the major drama of [his] adolescence", daily sexual abuse by his adoptive father, with the implied knowledge and acquiescence of his mother. Writes Brodkey, "I experimented with homosexuality to break my pride, to open myself to the story." "Now I will die disfigured and in pain."

View full annotation

This Wild Darkness

Brodkey, Harold

Last Updated: Oct-04-2005
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Journal

Summary:

This is the last published entry in the journal kept by author Harold Brodkey, before he died of AIDS on January 26, 1996. Brodkey, ever the flamboyant writer, began a record of his diagnosis with AIDS and "my passage into nonexistence" in the pages of The New Yorker (see also earlier journal entry, Dying: An Update, annotated in this database).

In this last entry he focuses intensely on the end of consciousness that looms ahead. In spare poetic phrases he describes what he is attempting to grasp-- " . . . this wild darkness, which is not only unknown but which one cannot enter as oneself." He reflects also on memory, medication, creature comforts, family history, the legacy he leaves, and describes with amazement that he feels happy.

View full annotation

Bullet in the Brain

Wolff, Tobias

Last Updated: Oct-04-2005
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

This two-page story is a tour de force. A jaded book critic, known to us only as Anders, is standing on a long line at the bank. He engages in sarcastic, belittling repartee with the women on line ahead of him. Suddenly two ski-masked bank robbers--one with a sawed-off shotgun--appear and threaten everyone.

Anders can't keep his acid tongue quiet. He seems incapable of recognizing the real danger and instead keeps up a commentary, like a cynical uninvolved reviewer. He explodes with laughter--and is shot in the head. "Once in the brain . . . the bullet came under the mediation of brain time . . . ." "It is worth noting what Anders did not remember, given what he did remember."

The remainder of the story is a list of incidents that the victim does NOT remember, during the seconds while he is dying, followed by what he does recall. The bullet, "in the end . . . will do its work and leave the troubled skull behind, dragging its comet's tail of memory and hope and talent and love . . . . "

View full annotation

The Sick Wife

Kenyon, Jane

Last Updated: Oct-04-2005
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

Poet Jane Kenyon, very ill with leukemia (from which she died after a 15 month illness), describes what it is like to be so weakened by illness that she prefers to wait in the car while her husband buys the groceries. She is aware of how weak, helpless, and out of place she is--a middle aged woman, sitting in the car in a parking lot in the middle of the day--"she had learned what it's like / not to be able to button a button." She watches enviously as those around her--"even the old and relatively infirm"--scurry about "with such freedom" and drive off in their cars "so briskly . . . ."

View full annotation