Showing 191 - 200 of 361 annotations tagged with the keyword "Abandonment"

Losing Julia

Hull, Jonathan

Last Updated: Aug-30-2006
Annotated by:
Nixon, Lois LaCivita

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Losing Julia is narrated by Patrick Delaney, age 81, a World War I veteran, who lives, somewhat independently, in Great Oaks, an assisted living facility. Still able to go into town to get new clothes, books, etc. and enchanted with the kindness and loveliness of Sarah and other female staff members, the well-educated and quick-witted protagonist offers a fresh perspective on "institutional" care.

Much of Patrick’s story, however, concerns Daniel, a war-time buddy, and other soldiers in his embattled unit prior to and during the hellacious Battle of Verdun. Several soldiers are carefully and memorably drawn by the stories they tell about life at home and their aspirations. Daniel stands out as Patrick’s closest friend in the trenches, a young man who is courageous, rational, fearful, and in love with Julia.

Like his peers, Patrick listens to Daniel’s lyrical recollection of the woman others can only imagine. Patrick realizes that he has fallen in love with Julia’s image. Most of the men, including Daniel, are killed brutally in one of the war’s most savage battles. When Patrick’s post-war efforts to find the elusive Julia fail, he marries, works as an accountant, and has two children. Like the war, Julia remains, however, a constant shadow throughout his life.

When a war monument is constructed ten years later on the site of the last atrocious battle, Patrick, his wife, his toddler son, and his sister-in-law journey to Paris. With his family happily detained in Paris, Patrick goes to Verdun alone for the monument’s unveiling ceremonies with many other veterans and grieving family members. It is here that Julia appears and the two become lovers during the time at Verdun and then for a short time in Paris.

The story, non-sequential in its presentation, weaves the various elements of aging, memory, war, love, and loss together for readers to untangle and follow.

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Annotated by:
Donley, Carol

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A one-armed tramp, appropriately named "Mr. Shiftlet," walks up to a run-down farm where an old woman and her retarded daughter, Lucynell, are sitting on the front porch. Lucynell cannot talk. Mr. Shiftlet persuades the old woman to hire him for work around the farm and for repairing a car. She says she can feed him but not pay him. Over a period of a few weeks he repairs the car (which is what he really wants) and offers to marry Lucynell if her mother will give him some money.

After the wedding Mr. Shiftlet takes Lucynell on a honeymoon, but abandons her in a country diner the first day, claiming she’s a hitchhiker. As he drives towards Mobile, he picks up a boy and begins to lecture him about being good to his mother. The angry boy jumps out of the car, and Mr. Shiftlet prays that God will "break forth and wash the slime from this earth."

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Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The setting is the California coast (presumably in the Los Angeles area). The narrator recalls her one and only hospital visit to her best friend, who was dying. Why has it taken her so long to make this visit? Because she is afraid.

When she arrives, her friend is wearing a surgical mask, and so must she. They talk about inconsequential things, bantering, but then her friend says that there "is a real and present need here . . . like for someone to do it for you when you can’t do it yourself." The narrator tells her sick friend the story of a dog who "knows when to disobey."

The narrator remembers how she and her friend played a word-game to ward off earthquakes. Now, however, it is not a question of "if" but only of "when." When the narrator returns to her friend’s hospital room after taking a walk on the beach, there is a second bed there. The narrator knows it is meant for her, so that she can keep vigil. Both women take a nap, but on awakening, the narrator says, "I have to go home."

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Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

An imaginative recreation of profound personal loss, the resulting changes wrought by unexpected responsibility as well as opportunity, all occurring during the progression from late adolescence into young adulthood, this work is centered on the death and its aftermath of the author’s parents 32 days apart, when the author was 21 years old (in 1991). With two siblings embarked on their own careers, it was Dave who took on "parenthood" of their eight-year old brother, "Toph."

The book details first, the mother’s death, then, the life that Eggers and Toph negotiate for themselves and with each other after they move from suburban Chicago to Berkeley, California, and, finally, Dave’s return visit to his hometown, wherein he seeks to exorcise some ghosts. In between these landmarks are reflections on family relationships, including that with a shadowy, alcoholic father; the launch of a satiric magazine, "Might" (a title meant to signify both power and possibility); concern for wounded friends; attempts to lead a "normal" life.

While the bare facts of Eggers’s story are unusual enough, the writing is arrestingly original--performative, conversational, brash, yet self-deprecating, funny, and often moving. It is not inaccurate, and will give a flavor of the writing style, to describe the book’s "themes" in the author’s own words (from the 21-page Acknowledgments), for example: "The Unspoken Magic Of Parental Disappearance"--the admission that this traumatic experience of loss "is accompanied by an undeniable but then of course guilt-inducing sense of mobility, of infinite possibility, having suddenly found oneself in a world with neither floor nor ceiling" (xxv); "The Brotherly Love/Weird Symbiosis Factor"; "The Knowingness About The Book’s Self-Conscious Aspect"--an acknowledgment that self-reference is "simply a device, a defense, to obscure the black, blinding, murderous rage and sorrow at the core of this whole story" (xxvii); "The Telling The World Of Suffering As Means Of Flushing Or At Least Diluting Of Pain Aspect"; "The Putting This All Down As Tool For Stopping Time Given The Overlap With Fear Of Death Aspect."

Dave Eggers is on his way to New York with Toph as the book ends. They currently live in Brooklyn, where Eggers produces a quarterly literary journal (Timothy Mcsweeney’s Quarterly Concern, A Journal Created By Nervous People In Relative Obscurity) and a related Web site.

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Heredity

Davidson, Jenny

Last Updated: Aug-24-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Elizabeth Mann, the daughter of a world famous fertility specialist whom she despises, hasn’t quite made it into medical school. She runs away to London, where she can revel in an orgy of self-destructive behavior, while working as a freelance writer for a travel guidebook. She soon develops two obsessions. In an obscure medical museum she encounters the skeleton of Jonathan Wild, a famous 18th century criminal who met his death by hanging. During the same museum visit, she runs across Gideon Streetcar, a young fertility specialist who once worked with her father. Though Gideon is "happily" married, he and Elizabeth soon begin a torrid affair.

Elizabeth’s obsession with Jonathan Wild grows when, through Gideon, she obtains a copy of the criminal’s second wife’s memoir. Through it, she learns that his first wife, who died in childbirth, was named Elizabeth Mann. She develops a scheme to obtain DNA from Wild’s skeleton and use it in association with an experimental cloning procedure to become pregnant with the 18th century criminal’s child (clone).

When the 25 year old Elizabeth reveals that her father tied her tubes when she was 16, after having aborted her fetus--a "slut," he called her--Gideon agrees to attempt in vitro fertilization with her eggs and his sperm. He transfers two blastocysts, plus one of the supposedly cloned Jonathan Wild cells. She becomes pregnant. Soon thereafter she returns to the USA when her father has a massive heart attack and she, apparently, has an opportunity to go to medical school.

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Summary:

This collection of sixteen Chekhov stories brings together in one volume many of Chekhov’s finest tales about doctors. The chronologically-arranged collection includes the famous novella, Ward 6, as well as such shorter classics as An Awkward Business and A Doctor’s Visit. In all sixteen stories, the doctor is a major figure, often at the center of a moral conflict.

Robert Coles , in his thoughtful forward, notes that Chekhov raises the "big questions" about "the meaning and purpose of life and the manner it ought to be conducted (and why)." Himself the editor of William Carlos Williams’s doctor stories, Coles recognizes and honors the comparison between Chekhov’s and Williams’s works and their dual careers as physician-writers. Jack Coulehan, in his introduction and comments, provides interesting biographical information on the great Russian writer as well as insightful interpretations of each story.

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Summary:

A long hallway stretches almost all the way to the end of the viewer's perspective. One solitary figure about halfway down the hall makes a quick exit from our view as it ducks into an abutting room. The hallway is colored in somber tones--browns, greens, and muddy yellows make up most of the coloration. These colors make the hallway appear as though it is composed of awkward rivers flowing across the plane of the floor, suggesting a sort of moat or barricade across which travel might be difficult. Additionally, the archways are not stylistically consistent--the arch closest to the viewer is more plain, more bleak, and seems to cordon off the viewer's end of the hall from the remainder of the corridor.

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Gorgeous Mourning

Jones, Alice

Last Updated: Aug-22-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

Gorgeous Mourning is a sequence of 72 short prose poems; each one a reflection--or investigation or explosion--on the single word that constitutes its title. Cycles within cycles--the cycle of individual leaves of poems from the beginning of the book to the end; the cycle of creative energy that springs from the word that identifies each poem; the cycle of relationships amongst the poems. Every aspect of this book "fits," but at the same time its "fit" is surprising and often "off."

Take, for example, the title, "Gorgeous Mourning." The front cover is a lustrous image of autumn leaves, close-up. Beautiful? Yes. But is it "morning"? It may be, nut autumn suggests the day’s ending, the year’s ending . . . more "mourning" than "morning."

"Mourn" (p. 22) reflects, "Ordinary, because everyone is full of loss . . . Lovelorn. Unformed, words for what’s gone down the drain. I thought we would have years." In "Wonder" (p. 27) the poet confesses, "I don’t have a clue. I thought I knew more than that . . . Maybe something will unfold like hose embryos morphing into form that can breathe." In the face of cancer she considers the word "Expunge" (p. 58), "Never having suckled a child she thought breasts were a waste of time to begin with. After the mastectomy, she refused to remember what his love letters said . . . "

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Exit Amor

Adair, Virginia Hamilton

Last Updated: Aug-21-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

You went out with the turning tide --Addressing her dead husband, the poet mourns the fact that he has thrown out "the bound volumes of our years . . . . " She asks why did he end his own life, "What dark eye smiled from the bore?" But no answer is forthcoming; she must simply live with the loss and endure it.

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Fragments

Wilkomirski, Binjamin

Last Updated: Aug-21-2006
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Note, entered 12/99: The authenticity of this account has been called into question. Legal documents and school records contradict the author’s claim of being a Holocaust survivor. The author, however, maintains that his story is true. News accounts of this controversy first appeared in Weltwoche, a Swiss publication, in an article written by author, Daniel Ganzfried, who researched Wilkomirski’s background (August 27, 1998). Among later reports are those in The Times of London (Sept. 8, 1998), and The New York Times (Nov. 3, 1998). In October, 1999 (Oct.,14, 1999 NY Times report) the German publisher, Suhrkamp Verlag, withdrew from stores all hardcover copies and Schocken Books suspended publication on November 1, 1999.

My Summary and Commentary below were written under the assumption, which appears to be false, that Fragments is a memoir, and not fiction. All indications are that Wilkomirski believes his story to be true. Readers might consider the metaphoric significance of the Holocaust in ongoing individual suffering.

Note, entered 10/01: Interestingly, in relation to my final comment of 12/99 above, a recent article places Wilkomirski’s book within the context of scholarly work on trauma, memory, and testimony. See "Beyond the Question of Authenticity: Witness and Testimony in the Fragments Controversy" by Michael Bernard-Donalis (Proceedings of the Modern Language Association, 116/5, October 2001: 1302-1315).

Note: 2/02: The recently published book, A Life in Pieces, by Blake Eskin (New York: W. W. Norton, 2002) tells the story of Wilkomirski, Fragments, and the research into Wilkomirski’s claims, and places the affair into sociohistoric context.

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Subtitled "Memories of a Wartime Childhood," this Holocaust memoir unveils the memory "shards" of a childhood spent in the Nazi death camps of Poland. The author, now a musician living in Switzerland, believes himself to have been born around 1939, in Riga, Latvia. He can’t be certain because his father was shot by militia as young Binjamin watched; later he was separated from his brothers; he remembers his mother only from one brief, forbidden visit with her in Majdanek concentration camp when they were both confined there.

Because the memoir is narrated primarily in the present tense, from the perspective of a confused, frightened child, in disjointed flashbacks, the reader viscerally experiences the bewilderment, physical hardships, the viscious cruelty of the guards, the sickening realities of existence (rats, lice, beetles; standing barefoot, ankle-deep in excrement), the fear and guilt [yes, guilt!--for inadvertently betraying another child]. But there was kindness as well--the wise older child, Jankl, who taught Binjamin survival techniques; the women inmates who hid Binjamin and other children under cloths in the laundry room--for weeks on end.

Near the end of the war, camp guards deserted and the surviving inmates staggered out--Binjamin was literally dragged along, against his will, by a camp inmate who recognized him. Somehow he ended up in an orphanage in Krakow, Poland. Here, there was fear of a different kind--distrust of all adults, fear of being "discovered" as a camp survivor (to be held responsible for another child’s death, and for abandoning his mother), total unfamiliarity with the habits of "normal" life.

Wilkomirski’s memoir begins and ends in Switzerland, where he was placed in foster care. In Switzerland there are other nightmares. Spastic attempts to verbalize his experiences are ridiculed, disbelieved, squelched. Not until a high school teacher--a German who fled to Switzerland during the war--shows documentary footage of the allied liberation of Mathausen concentration camp, does Binjamin realize that HE was never liberated. "Where was I when everyone else was being freed? . . . nobody tended us . . . the way it happened in the film. Nobody ever told me that the camp was . . . finally, definitely over . . . that . . . I could go forward without fear or threat into a new time . . . Not even later."

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