Showing 191 - 200 of 360 annotations tagged with the keyword "Catastrophe"

Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The poet stands before an ancient Lycian tomb, upon which is carved the sorrowful face of a woman: "One woman garbed in sorrow’s every mood." He reflects on the constancy of loss in human life. He asks the woman to weep for him, also, because [I] "Share thy stilled sadness, which must ever be / Too changeless, and unending like my own . . . . "

Though the Lycian woman’s grief is old, the poet’s is young. He has lost a child: "With that too human wail in pain expressed, / The parent cry above the empty nest." He is skeptical about dreams of a better life. He rejects "The first confusing, mad bewilderment, / Life’s unbelief in death . . . . " Death is real and final. He concludes with full understanding that "life is but a tender instrument / Whereon the master hand of grief doth fall."

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Night Letters

Dessaix, Robert

Last Updated: Sep-01-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

An Australian man has recently been diagnosed as having a fatal disease. He decides to take a quixotic trip to Europe, an open-ended adventure to unplanned destinations. This novel takes the form of 20 long and extraordinarily articulate letters written from Venice to an anonymous correspondent in Melbourne.

The letters work on three levels. First, they describe the writer’s travels from Locarno to Vicenza to Padua, stages of his journey prior to arriving in Venice. In fact, the book is divided into groups of letters, each of them dealing with one of the three cities and followed by a set of notes that illuminate some of the writer’s literary and historical allusions.

Second, the letters describe the writer’s current activities in Venice and especially his reflections on human nature and mortality. Finally, he refers back to events that occurred in Melbourne immediately preceding his journey. The most important of these events are the consultations with his doctor and, to a lesser extent, the reaction of Peter, his lover, to the lethal diagnosis.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Bob Merrick (Rock Hudson) is a reckless playboy who is injured in a speedboat accident. Life-saving equipment is brought to his aid although it is needed for the brilliant but seriously ill Dr. Phillips, who dies. Merrick’s selfish clumsiness leads to yet another accident, in which the doctor’s widow, Helen (Jane Wyman), is blinded.

Overcome with remorse, Merrick studies medicine, visits Helen under a false name and falls in love. He refers her for special eye examinations in Europe. She begins to love him too, but the specialists are unable to help her and when she learns of his deception, she flees. Years later, Merrick is summoned from his busy practice by Helen’s confidante and nurse (Agnes Moorehead); he arrives just in time to perform brain surgery, saving both her eyesight and her life.

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Summary:

When we meet Frankie "Starlight," (Corbin Walker) he has become, suddenly, an acclaimed writer, and the center of Ireland’s literary circle. In frequently interrupted flashbacks viewers become acquainted with the memoirs in his best-selling book. Much of this story, his story, is about Bernadette (Anne Parillaud), Frankie’s remarkable mother, her life prior to his birth, and the life that they would share until her death.

Bernadette’s story begins in France in the days before the D-Day invasion. She and her family live on the Normandy coast of occupied France where they suffer wartime abuses and atrocities imposed by Nazi soldiers. Just prior to D-Day, Bernadette and her teen-age friends discover an unusual metal object on the dunes. When the object explodes, only Bernadette survives. Shortly thereafter, and minutes before the D-Day attack, her father is brutally executed by the soldiers with all villagers, including Bernadette, bearing witness. Not surprisingly, these two traumatic events leave her damaged and scarred.

Bernadette escapes to Ireland on an American troop ship where she becomes pregnant with Frankie. The remainder of the story concerns her loving and supportive relationship with her child, a dwarf. Other characters include two of Bernadette’s lovers sensitively played by Gabriel Byrne and, later, Matt Dillon. Their relationships with her and her young son bring bizarre twists to an already unusual story. Set in France, Ireland, Texas, and back to Ireland.

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Please Let Me Die

White, Robert

Last Updated: Aug-31-2006
Annotated by:
Jones, Therese

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Video

Summary:

Ten months after being burned over 68% of his body, Dax Cowart was interviewed on videotape at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston by Dr. Robert B. White. Blind, disfigured and helpless, Dax had consistently asserted his right to refuse medical treatment, including further corrective surgery on his hands (useless, unsightly stumps) as well as the daily, excruciatingly painful baths in the Hubbard tank.

At the time of his admission to UTMB, he had become adamant that he be allowed to leave the hospital and return home to die--a certain outcome since only daily tankings would prevent overwhelming infection. Dr. White had been called in as a psychiatric consultant, and much of the twenty-nine minute documentary is a conversation between patient and psychiatrist.

Calm and coherent, Dax states his wishes clearly and presents his case compellingly. He does not "want to go through the pain"; he does not "want to go on as a blind and a crippled person"; and he does not understand or accept any physician’s "right to keep alive a patient who wants to die."

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Summary:

This anthology frames a rich selection of fiction and nonfiction with astute and helpful introductions to issues in nineteenth-century medicine and the larger culture in which it participated. The fiction is comprised of Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Steel Windpipe in its entirety; Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s story, "The Doctors of Hoyland" from Round the Red Lamp; and selections from George Eliot’s Middlemarch, Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, Sarah Orne Jewett’s A Country Doctor, Sinclair Lewis’s Arrowsmith, Thomas Mann’s Buddenbrooks, W. Somserset Maugham’s Of Human Bondage, George Moore’s Esther Waters, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Eugène Sue’s Les Mystères de Paris, and Anthony Trollope’s Doctor Thorne [the full-length versions of many of the above have been annotated in this database]. The nonfiction consists of two versions of the Hippocratic Oath, two American Medical Association statements of ethics, and selections from Daniel W. Cathell’s The Physician Himself (1905).

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Literature

Genre: Anthology (Mixed Genres)

Summary:

Life on the Line relates the experience of 228 writers who express in their work the deep connection between healing and words. Walker and Roffman have organized their anthology into eight topical chapters: Abuse, Death and Dying, Illness, Relationships, Memory, Rituals and Remedies, White Flags From Silent Camps, and a chapter of poems about the nuclear accident at Chernobyl. This hefty volume contains a very broad selection of contemporary poems, stories, and essays by both well-known and relatively unknown writers on the experience of illness and healing.

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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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Horizontal Woman

Berger, Suzanne

Last Updated: Aug-29-2006
Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Autobiography

Summary:

This book is an autobiographical account of an abrupt and painful injury that completely transforms the author’s life. Berger in 1985 was a healthy woman who enjoyed ice skating and canoeing, a published poet, wife, and mother of a toddler. She bent over one day to pick up her daughter and felt a tearing "within the thickness of flesh, moving in seconds across the base of the spine." No longer able to run, walk, or even sit, she is forced into a life spent lying down.

Hers is now a world of boundaries and barriers--physical, psychological, and societal. The book chronicles her struggle to parent her child (they make gingerbread creatures lying down on the kitchen floor), to relate to her husband (she has to deal with the constant feeling of being the recipient of his care), to live with pain, and to regain her mobility.

Because hers is not a visible injury and because she must frequently lie down in public places or use her carry-along lawn chair, she suffers the stares and scrutiny of people who cannot pigeon-hole her into a tidy handicapped-wheelchair category. After seven years of physical therapy (she calls her therapists "angels of attempted repair ") she is able to walk and drive, though she is still limited in activity and lives in fear of re-injury.

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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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