Showing 191 - 200 of 515 annotations tagged with the keyword "Memory"

Mother of Sorrows

McCann, Richard

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

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Collection (Short Stories)

Summary:

This partly autobiographical collection of linked stories could, as the author notes at his web site, be considered a novel as much as a collection. There is a single first-person (unnamed) narrator throughout, a circumscribed cast of characters, a timeline of almost 30 years, and "individual stories [that speak] to each other and [gather] force as they go forward" (see interview at the author's web site). At the center of these reflections and of the narrator's life is his enigmatic, beautiful mother, "Our Mother of the Sighs and Heartaches . . . Our Mother of the Mixed Messages," "Our Mother whom I adored and whom, in adoring, I ran from, knowing it 'wrong' for a son to wish to be like his mother" (17). The book also delves significantly into the relationship between the narrator and his older brother, and to a lesser extent concerns the narrator's relationship with his father, who dies when the narrator is 11 years old. Interwoven throughout is the narrator's growing awareness and suppression of his own homosexuality.

All the stories are refracted through memory, back to when the narrator was nine years old, living with his brother, mother, and father in post-World War II Silver Spring, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, DC. The stories progress through a roaming young adulthood of lies and random sexual encounters; and move into adulthood, committed relationships, and accumulating personal losses. In addition to the mother, of almost equal importance is the narrator's ambivalent relationship to his brother, Davis, who is sometimes an ally and sometimes a competitor or antagonist. Initially contemptuous of the narrator's identification with his mother, Davis later leads a defiant, drug dependent, and openly homosexual life while the narrator himself remains closeted to his parents and to many others. The narrator depicts himself and his brother as Cain and Abel, only "I was Cain and Abel both, as was my brother" (158).

Particularly striking are "My Mother's Clothes: The School of Beauty and Shame," "The Diarist," and "My Brother in the Basement." In "My Mother's Clothes" McCann develops themes of the narrator's infatuation with his mother, his guilt about that, his uncomfortable relationship with his father, and renunciation -- of his friendship with another boy. "The Diarist" focuses on the narrator's difficult interaction with his father, who expects masculine behavior from him, and with brother Davis, who seems to have no trouble fitting into the role expected of him. "My Brother in the Basement" moves forward into young adulthood and the shocking outcome of Davis's life, and the narrator's retrospective and revisionist analysis of that time.

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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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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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Vegetative States

Caspers, Nona

Last Updated: Mar-05-2007
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

An already depressed second year medical student, Deborah, finds herself even more confused about the meaning of life after her aunt sustains a head injury and is in critical condition. Auntie Jenny’s convertible car collides with a utility pole and the impact ejects the woman (who was not wearing a seatbelt) onto the concrete road where she smacks her head. Five days later, Jenny remains in a vegetative state and connected to a ventilator. Deborah’s mother and Auntie Sal keep vigil over their unresponsive younger sister.

Deborah has been slacking – missing classes, sleeping a lot, and uninterested in most activities she formerly enjoyed. Previously she has suffered from insomnia and has fifteen barbiturate sleeping pills remaining. She questions the medical librarian as to how the drug works and the physiologic effects of an overdose. In the seventh grade, Deborah was hospitalized and out of school for one month with unexplained abdominal pain. In retrospect, her mother now admits that Deborah was likely suffering from depression as a child but no diagnosis was made and no treatment provided.

Jenny’s medical status remains unchanged. Deborah’s mother gives her an ultimatum: “You’ve got to make up your mind. The living or the dead” [p 119]. Deborah envies Jenny. No more worries about finding answers to important questions. Survival itself seems to be out of her control. Jenny’s fate rests in the hands of her close relatives who confer with the doctor about whether to continue artificial life support or “pull the plug.”

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

George Stewart had always loved his best friend's wife, Catherine. After her doctor husband, Jerome Martel, is presumed to have died in a Nazi prison camp, George and Catherine marry, respectful of Martel's memory and mindful of her chronic illness. The central crisis of the story, which is introduced in the first chapter, is the surprising return of Martel a decade after his death.

Martel still burns with the passion for social justice that took him to war in Europe. The long story of their lives is narrated by George through a series of flashbacks and reminiscences, in which Catherine's illness is ever present.

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The Calcutta Chromosome

Ghosh, Amitav

Last Updated: Feb-15-2007
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In the not too distant future, the morose Egyptian, Antar, works in New York City, as a home-based computer employee, monitoring artifacts which he can study holographically through cyber space. He conjures up the I.D. card of one L. Murugan, who had supposedly disappeared in Calcutta back in 1995. Murugan is/was an expert on Nobel laureate Ronald Ross, discoverer of the role of the anopheles mosquito in the transmission of malaria.

Through flashbacks to the intense week of his disappearance and to episodes in the late nineteenth century, the virtual Murugan roams Calcutta trying desperately to understand and expose a subtext of counter science in Ross's laboratory. He is joined by Urmila, a journalist whose life is endangered by their collaboration.

Murugan theorizes that Ross was sloppy, intent on fame and fortune though a simplistic rendering of the parasite-host relationship; his discoveries were fed to him by others and he was blind to the spiritualistic ambitions of Mangala, his Indian laboratory technologist. Conceiving of the powerful significance of malaria prevention and control, Mangala held different views on the purpose and means of investigating the disease and, Murugan thinks, she anticipated the later discovery of another Nobel laureate, J. Wagner-Jauregg, in the use of malaria for the treatment of syphilis. The travels of Murugan and Urmila imply that these views are still there awaiting their own discovery.

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The Forbidden Woman

Mokeddem, Malika

Last Updated: Feb-15-2007
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Sultana, a doctor who escaped her illiterate nomadic background to study and work in France, returns to her native Algeria when she hears of the death of her former lover and fellow physician, Yacine. She is treated with hostility, but defiantly stays in Yacine’s place at the clinic. Vincent, a Frenchman who is the baffled recipient of a perfectly matched kidney from a young Algerian woman, travels to the desert to explore the culture of this unknown person whose death has brought him back to life.

Sultana and Vincent meet through their common friendship with the furtive, questioning children, Dalila and Alilou. Vincent and Salah, Yasmine’s best friend, both fall in love with Sultana, but she seems indifferent to them. The violence and suspicion of the town leaders causes her to regress into anorexia and mutism, during which she is tormented by the horrible memory of the loss of her parents. Her three male friends and the village women help her to recover a sense of self worth, but she must flee when the leaders set fire to their dwellings. A glimmer of optimism can be found in the aspirations of the children and the solidarity of the women.

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Reading Lolita in Tehran

Nafisi, Azar

Last Updated: Feb-15-2007
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

The author reminisces about her experiences teaching English literature in Iran before, during, and after the revolution and the Iran-Iraq war. Chronology is not important and the book opens near the end of her sojourn in Tehran. A small group of young women who met when they were University students gather in her home to read and discuss English literature. They wear western clothes, remove their veils, and eat sweets. Some have been in prison. They conceal their simple purpose from fathers, husbands, brothers, because their gathering to read Western fiction would be construed as an act of defiance.

In four sections, two named for twentieth-century novels and two for nineteenth-century authors--"Lolita," "Gatsby," "James," and "Austen"--Nafisi constructs a series of flashbacks that describe the events of late 1970s to the 1990s in the inner and outer world of an academic woman. The books and writers used in the section headings have walk-on parts or starring roles that jar in this ostensibly alien context. Yet, they work surprisingly well for the women students, stimulating them to think in new ways about the situation in which they find themselves. Conversely, as the students assimilate the English and American writers into their world, we learn more about their Iran.

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Oryx and Crake: A Novel

Atwood, Margaret

Last Updated: Feb-15-2007
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Please note that in order to properly annotate this novel, the novel's surprise ending will be revealed here. Snowman--who used to be called, Jimmy--is a rare survivor of a dreadful catastrophe that seems to have been both the product and the demise of modern science. He lives in a tree, clad in rags, hiding from relentless heat and hoarding his precarious cache of food and alcohol, while he tries to obliterate consciousness and avoid contact with a peculiar race of beings, the Crakers. Through a series of reminiscences as he makes his way back to where he once worked, Snowman's past slowly advances to meet his future.

The world heated up to be uninhabitable desert and genetic engineering created more problems (and species! [pigoons, rakunks, wolvogs]) than solutions. People became increasingly reliant on artificial environments--both internal and external--while their purveyors--drug and technology firms--held ever greater but unthinking power. The world was divided into two: the rich, safe controlled spaces and the dangerous chaotic realm of the poor. Then an epidemic wiped out most of the human race.

Two friends are central to the story: brilliant but inscrutable Crake whose nerdy gift for science had a role in engineering the 'pure' Crakers and the horrifying world that they occupy; and beautiful, seductive Oryx whose regard of knowing innocence heaps scorn upon messy human desire and emotion. They are the Yin and Yang of the "constructed" world. Only at the end, the reader learns that Oryx was murdered by Crake, who was slain by Snowman. It seems that his arduous journey was simply to destroy the history of the events that he had written and left behind.

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Common Threads

Epstein, Robert; Friedman, Jeffrey

Last Updated: Feb-14-2007
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

This documentary film is narrated by Dustin Hoffman; all other characters play themselves. Five stories (pathographies) introduced as panels from the 14-acre AIDS quilt are interwoven with each other, together with personal photos, newsreels and radio reports to recount the history of the first decade of AIDS in the United States.

Tom was a highly educated and athletic, gay man whose story is told by his lesbian friend and co-parent of his adored little daughter. Rob was a married Afro-American, I.V.-drug-user whose loving wife recounts his battle with drugs as well as his disease and who views her own HIV seropositivity as "God’s will." Jeff’s story is told by his grieving male lover over images of his once golden health.

The parents of twelve-year-old hemophiliac, David, tell the story of his entire life as a rush to consume, from his babyhood forward until the sadness of his last Christmas. The shy, handsome architect, David, is mourned by his bisexual lover, a naval officer at the Pentagon, who now lies dying with the lesions of Kaposi’s sarcoma quite visible on his face.

The narrators describe solace they derived from quilting memorial panels for their loved ones. In the final scene, the AIDS quilt lies on the Mall in Washington as names of hundreds of loved ones are read by grieving families and friends.

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