Showing 181 - 190 of 293 annotations tagged with the keyword "Obsession"

Summary:

The film opens with a bird's-eye sweep over the frieze of a post-engagement battlefield--mud, strewn with bodies and shards of machinery, all iron grey and relieved only by rare patches of crimson blood. Psychiatrist William Rivers (Jonathan Pryce) treats shell-shocked soldiers in the converted Craiglockhart Manor. He is obliged to admit the poet and decorated war hero, Siegfried Sassoon (James Wilby), because his military superiors prefer to label the much-loved Sassoon's public criticism of the war as insanity rather than treason. Rivers is supposed to "cure" the very sane poet of his anti-war sentiments.

At the hospital, Sassoon meets another poet, Wilfred Owen (Stuart Bunce), equally horrified by the war although he, like Sassoon, believes himself not to be a pacifist. A secondary plot is devoted to the mute officer Billy Pryor (Jonny Lee Miller) who recovers his speech, his memories, and a small portion of his self-respect through the patience of his doctor and his lover, Sarah (Tanya Allen). Vignettes of other personal horrors and the brutal psychological wounds they have caused are presented with riveting flashbacks to the ugly trenches. Sassoon, Owen, and Pryor return to active service. The film closes with a dismal scene of Owen's dead body lying in a trench.

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The framing story of this novel is simple: an elderly literary agent receives word that a person named Yvonne Bloomberg would like to meet with him. When he at last visits the woman, he discovers that she was an acquaintance from their youth--Yvonne Roberts--and she wishes to publish the journal that a mutual acquaintance, Dr. Simmonds, had bequeathed her. The agent agrees to read this journal, which provides most of the novel's text. A series of letters that appear in the last few pages indicate that, indeed, the journal is accepted for publication.

The journal recounts the first six months of 1950. Dr. Simmonds is an unmarried general practitioner nearing his 40th birthday. He has mixed feelings about his practice and his patients. For example, he likes Michael Butler, an irascible middle-aged man dying of cancer, but he dislikes many of his other patients, including Anton Bloomberg, a repulsive Jew with a "hooked nose," "too thick lips," and a "wheezing chest." (p. 25)

Bloomberg originally consults Simmonds about his young wife's frigidity; she simply will not perform her wifely duties. Simmonds himself is attracted to Bloomberg's beautiful young Yvonne, who mysteriously sends him a copy of a novel called Doctor Glas, published in 1905 by the Swedish author Hjalmar Soderberg [see annotation in this database]. Dr. Glas is the fictional journal of a doctor who treats Rev. Gregorius, a 57-year-old minister and his young wife. The wife complains that her husband's sexual advances are repulsive. From this point on, the story of Dr. Simmonds parallels in many ways that of Dr. Glas, a parallelism which Simmonds records in his journal and struggles to understand. Dr. Glas ultimately murders Rev. Gregorius.

Simmonds becomes obsessed with Yvonne Bloomberg and imagines that she is attracted to him. They interact in a variety of social settings, including a forum in which he suggests that he approves of euthanasia. She speaks to him of her husband's unwelcome advances. He considers killing her husband under the guise of treating his asthma, but shies away from taking that step. However, when Anton Bloomberg fails to respond to repeated injections of adrenalin during a severe asthmatic attack, Simmonds gives him morphine (which could kill him), then immediately relents and calls for an ambulance. Bloomberg recovers, but is permanently brain damaged.

Subsequently, Yvonne is free to spend the next 50 years living with her real lover (Hugh Fisher), and the two of them take care of her childlike husband. Simmonds, however, sinks into melancholy and several years later commits suicide.

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Summary:

In this tightly organized study of the relationship between creativity and manic-depressive disease and its variants, the author asks and attempts to address some interesting questions. Is there sufficient evidence in the histories of well-known artists and their families to demonstrate a genetic linking of creativity and depressive disorders? Are there phases in classic bipolar cycles that are particularly conducive to bursts of, or sustained, creative productivity? Does treatment (be it chemical or psychotherapeutic) of his or her psychiatric symptoms blunt the ability of the artist to work successfully?

In an attempt to answer these and other intriguing questions, Jamison explores in some detail the personal, family and creative histories of writers long suspected of being depressed with or without alcohol or having periods of mania. She opens by defining for the novice the parameters of the disorders in question, examines some of her subjects' family history of "madness," and discusses evidence for relationships among the waxing and waning of depressive disorders and creative productivity.

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The Man in a Case

Chekhov, Anton

Last Updated: May-27-2003
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The story is told of Byelikov, "the man in a case." Byelikov, the Greek teacher at a provincial school, was extraordinarily orderly both in his personal and professional lives. A strict disciplinarian, he never made exceptions to the rules. He always did things the proper way, determined to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.

Although he and his colleagues had nothing to speak about, he would regularly visit each one of them because it was the accepted thing to do. Every time something slightly irregular came up, Byelikov would cry, "Oh, how I hope it doesn't reach the ears of the authorities!" Naturally, the other teachers hated him.

At one point, Byelikov became enamored of Varinka, the sister of Kovalenko, a new teacher at the school. Everyone encouraged this relationship, hoping that marriage would moderate Byelikov. However, someone drew a humorous caricature of Byelikov and Varinka.

Then, Byelikov saw Varinka and her brother bicycling in the park. Outraged, Byelikov went to the brother to complain about this scandalous behavior, but Kovalenko pushed him down the steps. Byelikov than became depressed, took to his bed, and died, thereby truly becoming a man in a box (i.e. a coffin).

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Volodya

Chekhov, Anton

Last Updated: May-27-2003
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Seventeen year old Volodya and his mother visit the home of their wealthy acquaintances, the Shumihins. Everyone teases the awkward and shy young man. Volodya is infatuated with Nyuta, the Shumihins' cousin, a married woman of 30 "with rosy cheeks, plump shoulders, a plump round chin, and a continual smile on her thin lips." Volodya encounters her as she returns through the garden from bathing. She teases him to speak. Finally, he blurts out, "I love you" and grasps her around the waist. She laughs and frees herself.

Later, Volodya hears Nyuta and his mother laughing about the incident. He remains at the house overnight and has another encounter with Nyuta, this time in her room. When Volodya and his mother return home, he goes to his room, puts the muzzle of a revolver in his mouth, and kills himself.

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Ariadne

Chekhov, Anton

Last Updated: May-27-2003
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The story takes place on a steamer bound for Sebastopol, where the narrator meets Ivan Ilych Shamokhin, who tells the story of his helpless love for Ariadne. She was his neighbor, a beautiful but cold young woman, "a nightingale made of metal," who challenged him to fall in love with her. When Shamokhin refused to elope with her, she eloped with Lubkov, a married man with four children.

Months later, Ariadne wrote again to Shamokhin, begging him to join her in Abbazzia. When Shamokhin finally caved in and went to her, he discovered that Ariadne and Lubkov were lovers. A year later, Lubkov had used up all his money and returned to his wife. Shamokhin then became Ariadne's lover. Now his money is almost gone and his life is destroyed, but he feels helpless to leave her.

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The Kiss

Chekhov, Anton

Last Updated: May-27-2003
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Lieutenant General von Rabbek hosts a party for members of the regiment in his magnificent home. Of all the attendees, the most awkward is Ryabovitch, "a little officer in spectacles, with sloping shoulders and whiskers like a lynx's." He considers himself the shyest, most undistinguished officer in the whole brigade. While wondering through the mansion, trying to avoid talking to people, he stumbles into a dark room, whereupon a woman rushes up to him, whispering, "At last!" She throws her arms around his neck and kisses him. At once, however, she realizes her mistake, runs from the room, and is lost in the crowd.

Ryabovitch's passion awakes! He feels that his life is beginning anew. For the rest of the evening, he searches in vain for the woman who kissed him. The next day his regiment departs for another area, but some time later, when he returns to the same town, Ryabovitch continues his obsession with the kiss he experienced that night, and still hopes to discover who the woman in the dark room was.

If only he could communicate with General von Rabbek--but no, Rabbek doesn't respond. In the end he stands on the riverbank: "Now that he expected nothing, the incident of the kiss, his impatience, his vague hopes and disappointment, presented themselves in a clear light . . . And the whole world, the whole of life, seemed to Ryabovitch an unintelligible, aimless jest . . . "

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Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The 58 year old plastic surgeon who narrates this story has plenty of problems. He drinks too much and his surgical skills are deteriorating. His wife Maya, a neurosurgeon young enough to be his daughter, has a miscarriage not long after her father dies from a brain tumor. The narrator is plagued by an obsession with butterflies.

He seems to have inherited his unnatural interest in these insects from both his father and grandfather. Strangely, the pursuit of butterflies has brought only tragedy to these men. Maya believes her husband's butterfly collection is a curse so she destroys it. Her action seems insufficient to liberate the narrator from the burden of his ancestors. He is convinced that his destiny was dictated by his family years ago.

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Annotated by:
Donley, Carol

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

This poem, told in the voice of a troubled, angry teenager, describes her determination to control her eating and her body. The eight, eight-line stanzas each repeat the same words at the end of the lines, in a modified sestina form, so that emphasis falls on the same eight words: "disappear," "smile," bones," "fat," "mother," "touch," "person," "guts." By the end of the poem, the girl is clearly suicidal and unable to control her anorexia.

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Summer in Baden-Baden

Tsypkin, Leonid

Last Updated: Jan-31-2003
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In this novel the narrator travels by train from the present into the past and back again. The narrator boards a train in Soviet Moscow; travels to Leningrad in a compartment with some not too friendly people; stays overnight in a relative's run-down, crowded apartment; and rambles through the streets of Leningrad, stopping to visit Dostoyevsky's last place of residence, which is now a museum.

However, this framing story occupies very little of the book. During the train ride, the narrator re-imagines a much earlier trip in April 1867, as Fyodor Dostoyevsky and his young wife, Anna Grigoryevna, travel by train to Baden-Baden in Germany. They will remain abroad for four years, as Dostoyevsky indulges in his passion (and later obsession) for gambling.

In Baden-Baden he loses all their money; he pawns their belongings and loses; he begs and borrows money from friends and publishers, and loses. Each time he loses, he comes home to their rented apartment and throws himself at Anna's feet. He protests his love, berates himself, and promises to do better in the future; and Anna forgives him.

In this dream-like story, repentance and forgiveness, memory and desire, hope and despair revolve like electrons around Dostoevsky's addiction to gambling. Fyodor and Anna recall earlier events in their lives; for example, Anna remembers herself as a hesitant young secretary arriving for the first time to take dictation from the famous man; and Fyodor, the former convict, Slavophile author of Crime and Punishment, remembers being scornfully dismissed by the smooth and sophisticated Turgenev.

Within the 1867 framework, the story seems to be stuck, unable to move forward, although we know from our late 20th century perspective--as Tsypkin recalls (and invents) the events while on his train trip to Leningrad--they are part of a larger story which moves inexorably forward through time and ends at the Dostoevsky house in Leningrad (St. Petersburg), with the moving scene of Fyodor's last days. And the two stories converge as Tsypkin visits the Dostoevsky museum where those last days took place.

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