Showing 181 - 190 of 522 annotations tagged with the keyword "Ordinary Life"

Fix

Margolis, Leslie

Last Updated: May-21-2007
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Cameron, 18, and her sister Allie, 15, have inherited their father’s large nose. Living in Los Angeles, at the epicenter of the entertainment industry, they are familiar with the social currencies of money and beauty. Their mother, a former film actress, auditioning again after years at home, is exceptionally beautiful. Cameron’s “nose job”—the rhinoplastic surgery her parents arranged for her when she entered high school—has changed her life; it is debatable whether altogether for the better. She is now popular and accepted, but also, after a history of rejection and peers’ mockery, fixated on the kinds of beauty that bring social acceptance. Her interest in photography dovetails with this fascination.

At just the time her parents decide to arrange for a similar “nose job” for Allie, who doesn’t want it, and would rather spend the summer at soccer camp, Cameron decides to use her savings, and her new legal freedom as an 18-year-old, to have breast augmentation. Her parents and most of her friends oppose it, her boyfriend most strenuously, who can’t understand why she would take the risks entailed to do something so clearly unnecessary. As the girls learn, their mother has, at the same time, decided to have a face-lift as a return-to-career move.

Both Cameron and her mother go through the surgery—Cameron at the cost of considerable pain in recovery and aware of the long-term risks and costs. Allie, on the other hand, after coming to know an aging actress who was once a beauty, makes an eleventh-hour decision to refuse surgery and with it, the impossible standards of beauty that seem to her to entrap so many like her sister.

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An Uncertain Grace

Salgado, Sebastiao

Last Updated: May-17-2007
Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Photography

Genre: Photography

Summary:

This powerful book of black and white photographs contains four sections labeled: I. The End of Manual Labor, 1986-, II. Diverse Images 1974-87, III. Famine in the Sahel, 1984-85, and IV. Latin America, 1977-84. In addition, photographs accompany the prose-poetry opening essay, "Salgado, 17 Times," by Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano and the concluding essay, "The Lyric Documentarian," by former New York Times picture editor Fred Ritchin. This oversize book concludes with a list of captions for the photographs and a detailed two-page biography of Salgado. Essentially the photographs cover Salgado’s impressive work from 1974-89.

Every image is of a person or people. Many are suffering, many are starving, grieving, keening, dying, displaced. Many are children. Many are laboring under impossibly harsh conditions such as the teeming, mud-coated manual laborers of the Brazilian Serra Pelada gold mine. An Ethiopian father anoints the corpse of his famine starved, skin and bone child with oil. An old man, squinting in the sun, leans over to touch the arm of an equally thin and weak man in a Sudanese refugee camp. Rarely, the people are smiling or celebrating.

The photographs are global: Angola, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, Chad, Cuba, Ecuador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mali, Mexico, Portugal, Sudan, Thailand, and more. As Galeano notes, "This much is certain: it would be difficult to look at these figures and remain unaffected. I cannot imagine anyone shrugging his shoulder, turning away unseeing, and sauntering off, whistling." (p. 7) [156 pp.]

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The Quack

Dou, Geritt

Last Updated: May-17-2007
Annotated by:
Clark, Stephanie Brown

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Oil on canvas

Summary:

Among the "scenes from everyday life" which constitute so-called "genre" painting in 17th Century Dutch art, the profession of medicine was often lampooned. In Gerritt Dou’s painting, the doctor is depicted as a deceiving charlatan, marketing his products with impressive but unsubstantiated claims about their effectiveness. In Dou’s hometown of Leiden, with the Blauwpoort (Blue Gatehouse) in the background left, the quack has set up shop outside the studio of a painter. [At the Web Gallery of Art on-line site, select "D" from the Artist Index, scroll down for Dou, select "Page 2".)

The artist gazes out of his window, holding the tools of his trade, a pallet and brushes. Directly beside him the quack stands under a Chinese umbrella, with stopper in his hand, and presents the patent medicine in a large glass vial to his audience. On his table is a document with a large and authoritative red seal, indicating his credentials and bolstering his credibility. On one side is a barber- surgeon’s basin, on the other is a monkey.

A crowd has gathered around, including a huntsman with a dead rabbit suspended on his rifle, a man with vegetables in a cart, and a woman with a pancake griddle and batter in a large bowl in the right foreground; she is cleaning and diapering a child. In the right foreground a woman gapes at the doctor and his medicine, unaware that her pocket is being picked. In front of her sprawls a child who holds a bread crust to bait and capture a small bird. In the left foreground is a tall, twisted and dead tree; across from it at the corner of the artist’s studio is a living tree lush with foliage.

While Nicolas Tulp (see Rembrandt’s "The Anatomy Lesson of Nicolaes Tulp") enjoyed a reputation as the "Vesalius of the North," this painting is more typical of the prevailing popular depictions of the doctor, not just in the Netherlands but elsewhere in Europe and equally subject to mockery and suspicion. At this time medical care was provided by local physicians, but also by traveling barber-surgeons whose skills and knowledge were dubious.

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Incomplete Knowledge

Harrison, Jeffrey

Last Updated: Apr-26-2007
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

The author dedicates this collection to "my brother Andy, in memory." Indeed, the second half of the book (Part II) contains 22 poems that concern the brother's suicide at age 47. Although two poems in Part I are in memory of recently deceased poet-friends, most of Part I handles a variety of experiences, memories, and reflections, all written with self-deprecating humor. There is "My Worst Job Interview"; a poem about a writing class in which the instructor repeatedly announced to the class that Harrison was "hopeless" ("Fork"); a riff on being one of those "who know something about the world / but not a whole lot" ("Incomplete Knowledge"); a poem about a disastrous breakfast with a friend who is said to have Asperger's syndrome ("Breakfast with Dan"); and in a more serious vein, "My Personal Tornado," in which Harrison presciently speculates about "the maelstrom" that is bound to hit him, just as all lives undergo "this beast of wind that sucks you into / the updraft of its hungry funnel."

Part II begins with a museum visit in which the poet speaks to a 15th century statue of a saint: "Now I want to tell you everything / that has happened to me since I last saw you" ("Saint"). There follows the 12 part poem, "An Undertaking," which begins with "The Call" from Harrison's father in the middle of the night, and moves through the family entering the dead brother's apartment, packing his belongings, telling the poet's children, and above all, trying to understand: "I weighed possibilities, made lists, wrote memos / to myself: was it spontaneous or planned -- / and for how long? I couldn't let it go" ("The Investigation"). Attempts to understand continue in "Confession" in which Harrison retrospectively acknowledges "your small odd habits // that were probably symptoms / but which I chose to see as harmless quirks." This long poem sequence ends with a "Plea" to be forgiven for preoccupation with self, for not recognizing a brother in need of help, yet: "No one can forgive me but myself . . . but I can forgive you for killing yourself."

The remainder of Part II includes a poem about the poet's senile grandmother who nevertheless notices at Thanksgiving that "Someone's missing" ("Happiness"); poems about joy and renewed loss when his brother appears in dreams ("The Return," "Not Waking Up," "Visitation Rights"); anniversaries of the death ("Anniversary," "Fall Truce"); memories.

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Holy the Firm

Dillard, Annie

Last Updated: Apr-23-2007
Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay

Summary:

The narrator is a woman who lives alone in a rural area of Puget Sound. She is a writer, an observer, a spiritual thinker. "Each day is a god, each day is a god, and holiness holds forth in time" begins her musings about the first of three days. But on day two, a catastrophe occurs: a small plane crashes and a seven-year-old girl’s face is "burned off" as she is carried away from the explosion in her father’s arms.

The narrator had met the girl once before, at a neighbor’s farm, and had formed a connection--they looked alike and the girl playfully tormented the narrator’s cat with a dress-up game. The narrator imagines the girl in the hospital, imagines her future life as a nun with no face, and ultimately imagines a gentler future in which the girl’s face is restored, she is married and the narrator has assumed the function of the nun for her.

Throughout, the narrator wrestles with the hard questions of life: why are we here; why do horrible things happen; what is the relationship of God and the world; where is God and what is he doing? She is angry: "Do we need blind men stumbling about, and little flamefaced children, to remind us what God can--and will--do?"

A Christian, she seeks answers in her wide-ranging theology, and seems to find an inroad in the idea of "Holy the Firm"--a substance lower than salts and minerals, below the earth’s crust, in touch with "the Absolute." The narrator hence posits that "Holy the Firm" allows for an unbroken circle between God, Christ, and the created world.

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The Mailbox

Shafer, Audrey

Last Updated: Apr-07-2007
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

After living with various foster families, nine-year-old Gabe is taken to live with his aging Uncle Vernon in West Virginia. The relationship with his mother's gruff and distant older brother, a Vietnam vet, is distant at first, but warms up over time. But after his first day in 6th grade, Gabe comes home to find his uncle dead on the floor.

Uncertain what to do, he does nothing for a day or two, pretending at school that everything is normal. Then the body disappears and cards with cryptic messages appear in the mailbox that indicate that someone is looking out for him. After a time, a dog appears, too, sent by the mysterious correspondent. Gabe continues to attend school, and to visit his close friend, Webber, whose mother extends healing hospitality and discreet concern to him. His English teacher takes a particular interest in Gabe, noticing both his honesty as a writer and the signs that he is carrying an unarticulated burden.

Finally the police apprehend Gabe and question him about the disappearance of his uncle's body. The mysterious correspondent turns out to be Smitty, a wartime companion of his uncle's, who has lived alone, unwilling to disclose his disfiguring facial injury in public, and isolated by the lasting effects of post-traumatic stress. Mr. Boehm, the English teacher, takes Gabe under his wing, arranges for a proper military burial for Uncle Vernon, and helps Gabe make direct contact with Smitty, then offers Gabe a home with him.


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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

A dark-eyed, ten-year-old Indian pauses for a moment in playing with her friend to explain that she is soon to be married, but would rather stay at home and in school. Her friend announces that she will never get married; she wants to become a policeman. Another smiling child in Yemen wants to be a doctor to help people. She looks forward to wearing the hijab. Little girls with great family burdens, and others who have no families, all expect to become mothers themselves. They talk about their daily routines.

A confident child in Peru cooks, cleans, does laundry, and then washes, dresses and feeds her younger siblings, before putting on her crisp uniform and going off to school. Two shy girls from Africa describe the painful ritual of circumcision--and a "cutting" ceremony is observed from a modest distance. One talks about her separation from her mother and life as a slave.

Interspersed are scenes of the children playing. Commentary emphasizes how soon these little girls must become women and how much of the world's work and how little of its wealth belong to them.

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Only Yesterday

Gloag, Julian

Last Updated: Feb-02-2007
Annotated by:
Ratzan, Richard M.

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

When Rupert Darley, a twice married writer and teacher, shows up unannounced at his elderly parents’ home in rural Southeast England for a weekend, having just left his second wife, he has little reason to suspect that it will be the eventful weekend that it is. In only 170 pages, he is joined by his medical student daughter, Miranda (also called Milly), whose visit to her grandparents is expected by them but not by Rupert; he must come to grips with the harsh realities of aging, most especially that of his suddenly quite old and frail parents, whom he calls by their given names, Oliver and May; he and his daughter discuss for the first and most honest time their lives and those of their family; and they all must deal with the crisis of sudden unannounced illness.

Oliver is a well known architect who is stodgy and well aware of his eccentricities, tolerated but not allowed free range by May, his arthritic wife who is probably stronger in spirit than Oliver. The four of them discuss - jointly and in various permutations of groupings - a costly stair lift for May, Rupert's marriages and current (extended) mid-life crisis, Oliver's quixotic project to build a huge pyramid city complex, the vicissitudes of aging and approaching death (which is the elephant in the parlor in this book), health, illness and societal change.

Of interest to literature and medicine readers, Milly has frank conversations regarding end of life choices, to Rupert's initial dismay, with both grandparents individually and accompanies Oliver to the hospital in an ambulance when he has a heart attack at the end of the book.

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so much depends

Williams, William Carlos

Last Updated: Jan-10-2007
Annotated by:
Nixon, Lois LaCivita

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The eight-line poem frustrates expectations about poetry. It stands like a small aside, a voice suggesting in rather emphatic terms, "so much depends upon," that the seemingly simple, often overlooked elements of life are what really matters. In fact, the short aside is akin to the wheelbarrow and "white chickens" in the poem--essential, but easily ignored. Pay attention, the speaker advises, to the ordinary, to the quotidian.

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Persimmons

Lee, Li-Young

Last Updated: Jan-09-2007
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

In the poem, persimmons are a symbol of several elements that have figured importantly in this Chinese narrator's life: they stand for painful memories of cultural barriers imposed by language and custom, and for a present-day loving connection to an elderly, blind father. The poet begins with a schoolboy incident in which he was punished for not knowing the difference between "persimmon" and "precision" and makes a play on other words which sound similar and "that got [him] into trouble." He takes revenge later, when the teacher brings to class a persimmon that only the narrator knows is unripe, as he "watched the . . . faces" without participating. Persimmons remind him of an adult sensual relationship with Donna, a Caucasian woman, and of his attempts to teach her Chinese words which he himself can no longer remember.

The second part of the poem describes the role persimmons have played in his father's life and in their relationship. To comfort his father, gone blind, the narrator gives him a sweet, ripe persimmon, so full and redolent with flavor that it will surely stimulate the senses remaining. Later yet again, the father and he "feel" a silk painting of persimmons, "painted blind / Some things never leave a person."

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