Showing 191 - 200 of 228 annotations tagged with the keyword "Humor and Illness/Disability"

Ice Follies

Matthews, William

Last Updated: Mar-28-2001
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

A wonderfully descriptive three-stanza poem about the icy perils of a winter walk, especially for "the claudicators, the lace- / boned, the seven-months-pregnant, and the lame." The poet juxtaposes the ludicrous (teetering, wobbling, toppling), with the serious, the "spry" with the infirm. One comfort in this situation is that it threatens everyone who ventures outdoors and there is a camaraderie and mutual empathy among those who are struggling to remain upright. [18 lines]

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Dire Cure

Matthews, William

Last Updated: Mar-27-2001
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

This long (11 stanzas of ten lines each) poem takes us through the--at first faulty--cancer diagnosis, treatment, and recovery endured by the speaker's wife, and witnessed by the speaker. The poet personifies the tumor because to do otherwise would mean that he would "have to think of it as what, / in fact, it was: part of my lovely wife." The poison of chemotherapy that renders his wife "averse to it all" is contrasted with "perky visitors" and the flowers that they bring.

The poet imagines that the tumor of which his wife has been cured now resides in "Tumor Hell" where it lies "bleak and nubbled like a poorly / ironed truffle." The doctors who practice in teaching hospitals show the students how to deal with tumors: "batter it . . . strafe it . . . sprinkle it with rock salt and move on."

Now that his wife is better, the poet and his friends consider how he has fared. At first he was unable to concentrate, made lists, "wept, paced, / berated myself, drove to the hospital" and was "rancid with anger." Yes, it was awful, but he rejects pity--even self-pity. Only his wife has the right to give a name to the experience: "let her think of its name and never / say it, as if it were the name of God."

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Sperm Test

Freisinger, Randall

Last Updated: Feb-07-2001
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The narrator has entered a hospital lavatory, prepared to obtain his sperm sample. He can hear voices at the nursing station, the everyday comings and goings of patient care. He tries to focus on erotic images, but deadening thoughts of "four hundred million perfect / spermatozoa" keep invading his sanctuary. Waves of guilt lap listlessly around the room, as he tries with eventual success to produce the needed specimen. At this point he emerges triumphant, having convinced himself that "Like John Wayne, your gun is legend." [58 lines]

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My Funeral

Hikmet, Nazim

Last Updated: Dec-27-2000
Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

My Funeral is a touchingly funny and poignant salute to the beautiful ordinariness of life and a wish for it to go on that way. The speaker of the poem wonders what the scene will be as his body is removed from his apartment. "Maybe there will be sun knee-deep in the yard" or perhaps "a pigeon might drop something on my forehead: it's good luck" But regardless of circumstances, the speaker tells his neighbors: "In this yard I was happier than you'll ever know / Neighbors, I wish you all long lives." (p.239)

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A Prayer for Owen Meany

Irving, John

Last Updated: Oct-16-2000
Annotated by:
Wear, Delese

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The novel, set in the 1950s in the prep school town of Gravesend, is an extraordinary account of friendship, coming of age, families, "normalcy," politics, faith, and doubt. The title character is an unusually small child--as an adult barely five feet tall--with a strange and striking voice that makes many people uneasy.

The only son of a New Hampshire granite quarrier and his odd and reclusive wife, Owen is best friends with Johnny Wheelwright, the narrator of the book and grandson of one of the town's most distinguished families. The friendship is sealed by a freak accident when Owen hits a baseball that kills Johnny's mother, Tabitha, who is just arriving at the game.

The remainder of the novel is a back-and-forth between past and present as Johnny searches for his identity--his mother is unmarried and never reveals the father's name--and Owen searches for his destiny--he believes that he is an instrument of God. Both searches have amazing resolutions.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay

Summary:

After a stressful trip to cold-war Russia in 1964, Saturday Review editor Norman Cousins tells how he developed a debilitating illness which confines him to bed. He is admitted to hospital for tests and treatments, and is diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, but his condition deteriorates and he is given a gloomy prognosis. He notices that the depressing routine of hospital life tends to produce side effects that aggravate his condition.

With the blessing of one of his doctors, he checks out of hospital and into a comfortable (yet less expensive) hotel where the food is better and he can watch funny movies while he medicates himself with high doses of Vitamin C. He is convinced that the slow improvement in his condition is owing to his individualized methods of therapy and his having taken charge of his own situation.

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The Shadow Box

Cristofer, Michael

Last Updated: Aug-04-2000
Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

The setting for "The Shadow Box" is three cottages on the grounds of a large hospital. Here, three tales unfold, at first serially, and then towards the end of each of the play’s two acts, simultaneously. Each tale features a person who is dying. Each person is surrounded by loved ones. All are trying to face and make sense of death.

The first family we meet is the most conventional. Joe, a working class husband and father, is joined at the cottage by his wife Maggie, who, in denial of Joe’s impending death is afraid to enter the cottage. Their son, Stephen, age 14, has not yet been told of his father’s terminal condition. The second family consists of Brian, who is brutally forthright about his demise; Mark, his doting lover; and Beverly, Brian’s wild ex-wife who comes to visit them. The third family is a feisty, blind, and wheelchair-bound mother, Felicity, and her dutiful daughter, Agnes. An off-stage character, "the interviewer," pops in and out of the scenes, offering insight into the various characters through questioning.

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Death Beds

Collins, Billy

Last Updated: May-10-2000
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

Death beds have been around for a long time. Ancient Greeks, Japanese monks, Medieval Christians, and tubercular Victorians all had opportunities to use them. Some folks were witty, some were slow, and some called for a priest when the time came. "And you and I, too, may lie on ours, / the vigilant family in a semicircle, / or the night nurse holding our hand / in the dark, or alone." We cannot avoid the death bed, but what we can hope for is "just at the end / a moment of pure awareness . . . . " [56 lines]

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Innocence

Fitzgerald, Penelope

Last Updated: Apr-03-2000
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The story is set in the mid-1950s in Italy, where the old order has passed away and the postwar economic miracle is beginning to blossom. Our heroine, Chiara, is the beautiful 17-year-old daughter of Count Giancarlo Ridolfi, the scion of a distinguished (but now impoverished) Florentine family. Indeed, Chiari's family history includes the romantic tale of a 16th century female dwarf.

The (more or less) hero of our story is Salvatore Rossi, an earnest young neurologist who hails from a Communist family in a poor village in the south. One night Chiara and Salvatore meet by chance at a concert and fall hopelessly in love. Neither one knows how to respond to the powerful emotions that possess them.

Chiara consults Barney, her worldly and loudmouthed English friend from boarding school. What should she do? Salvatore consults Gentilini, his older and overwhelmingly married colleague. How should he proceed? Meanwhile, Cesare, Chiara's avuncular and solitary cousin who lives on the family farm, has his own part to play in the story. And, in truth, the story lurches from one misunderstanding to another as the wedding approaches, eventuates, and recedes into the past.

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Jeffrey

Rudnick, Paul

Last Updated: Feb-29-2000
Annotated by:
Jones, Therese

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

Terrified of dying from AIDS but even more afraid of living with it, the title character of this romantic comedy--a gay actor/waiter-- makes the ultimate safe choice: to give up sex entirely. Determined to find both a substitute for sex and the meaning of life in the cruel meaninglessness of an epidemic, Jeffrey embarks on a journey through a picaresque and postmodern landscape. What he discovers is that while his desperate renunication of human connection may remove him from the physical experience of death, it will not protect him from the emotional experience of loss.

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