Showing 21 - 30 of 43 annotations in the genre "Collection (Short Stories)"

Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Collection (Short Stories)

Summary:

Birth Sounds includes 45 short tales of labor and delivery, ranging through a wide swath of the human comedy, but always maintaining focus on the very first scene. In most of these stories, it isn't the delivery that provides the drama, but rather the people. Take the first story, for example. In "Faceless" a Vietnamese husband cautions the obstetrician-narrator, "In our country no man will examine a woman in such an intimate way." The obstetrician never sees the patient's face, which she has covered with a towel. After the delivery, he examines her and speaks carefully, not sure that she understands English. However, from beneath the towel, she thanks him in a perfect American Southern accent. A neat surprise!

In "The Little Devil" (p. 6) a 38-year-old member of a satanic cult announces that she intends to kill the baby if it is a boy. She has been directed to do so by her satanic mentor. When, amid a panoply of lit candles and inverted crucifixes she delivers a boy, the resident contacts the sheriff's office, where the mother's intentions are already known. Sure enough, the SWAT team storms the delivery room and takes the baby.

In "Red Bag" (p. 31) the narrator is serving as a medical expert in a murder trial. The defendant had arrived at the hospital hemorrhaging after delivering a baby at home, evidently into the toilet bowl. The baby had died of head injury. The obstetrician-narrator turns out to be more supportive of the woman and less compliant than the prosecutor had expected; but afterward the doctor receives his financial reward--a check from the state for a full $7.00!

In "Resilience" (p. 259) a woman with a near-term pregnancy asks the obstetrician to examine her breast, which has suddenly developed a red lump. He takes one look and immediately experiences a flashback to another young woman he cared for who had developed breast cancer during pregnancy and died of metastatic disease about a year later. Sure enough, the current patient also has cancer. But in this case the patient delivers, receives treatment, and recovers, apparently cured of her cancer.

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Collection (Short Stories)

Summary:

This is a selection of very early Chekhov tales, dating from his years in medical school (1879-1884). These nine examples of the work Chekhov churned out during those years to support himself and his family have never previously been published in English. They are all quite short. Of most interest are "How I Came to Be Lawfully Wed," "A Hypnotic Seance," "Intrigues," "In Autumn," and "At the Pharmacy."

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Letters to a Young Doctor

Selzer, Richard

Last Updated: Apr-12-2004
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Collection (Short Stories)

Summary:

This is a collection of 23 stories, five of which take the form of "letters" in which an older physician (not surprisingly, a surgeon) gives advice to an imaginary young surgeon. However, every one of the stories "fits" as a tale that might be told in such a letter--assuming the author was a wise and gifted writer, in addition to being a surgeon.

The book begins with the gift of a physical diagnosis textbook on the occasion of the young doctor's graduation ("Textbook") and ends with a reflection on "your first autopsy" ("Remains"). Among the other stories are Imelda (see annotation), Brute (see annotation), Toenails (see annotation), Mercy (see annotation), "A Pint of Blood," "Witness," "The Virgin and the Petri Dish," and "Impostor."

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Cane

Toomer, Jean

Last Updated: Jan-19-2004
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Collection (Short Stories)

Summary:

This is a collection of related stories, sketches, poems, and a one-act play by Jean Toomer, a little-known writer of the Harlem Renaissance. The book is divided into three sections. The first part of the book is a series of stories that portray the lives of poor black women in rural Georgia. They deal with such subjects as infanticide ("Karintha"), miscegenation ("Becky"), hysteria ("Carma"), lynching ("Blood-Burning Moon"), and religious mysticism ("Fern" and "Esther"). Taken together, these stories portray an intuitive, violent, spontaneous, and pre-rational culture.

The second part of Cane takes place in Washington, DC, where Toomer depicts the life of urban black Americans in the early 1920's. Here we encounter the conflict between rationalism, as represented by the well-educated "intellectuals," and traditional lifestyle and morality. The best stories in this section include, "Avey," "Theater," and "Box Seat."

The last section is a one-act play ("Kabnis") about two urban black writers attempting to establish a contemporary "Negro identity" in light of the repression and suffering of their people. One is overwhelmed by negativity and a sense of victimization, while the other man believes that the past can be transcended, especially through the power of art.

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Eclipse

Bryner, Jeanne

Last Updated: Nov-20-2003
Annotated by:
Davis, Cortney

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Collection (Short Stories)

Summary:

Poet and writer Jeanne Bryner has assembled 24 short stories to give us Eclipse, a wise and tender collection that reflects her blue-collar roots in Appalachia and industrial Ohio, and also her work as a registered nurse. These stories are about real human beings, flawed and graced, who, for the most part, care for one another, whether family or stranger, with compassion and the kind of acceptance that comes from living a hard life. Bryner's writing skills move these characters beyond easy stereotype and turn their actions--their anger over the death of a loved one or the cooking of a Sunday supper--into transformative metaphors that illuminate the sorrows and joys of everyday life.

The following stories might be of particular interest to those teaching or studying literature and medicine: "Sara's Daughters," in which a woman undergoes artificial insemination and, through her thoughts and her conversations with the nurse, perfectly reveals an infertile woman's humiliation, longing, and hope; "The Jaws of Life," in which a young woman takes her Aunt Mavis to visit Uncle Webster in a nursing home and there observes the poignant interactions of the well and the dying, the young and the old, moments infused with both charity and dread.

In addition: "Turn the Radio to a Gospel Station," in which two cleaning ladies in a hospital ER observe and philosophize about what goes on around them, the deaths and near-deaths, the kindness or mutinies of nurses, the doctors' mechanical repetition of questions, the lovers hiding in the linen closet; "The Gemini Sisters," in which a group of weight-watching women meet to shed pounds and talk about life; "Foxglove Canyon," in which a registered nurse with forty year's experience relates memories of her work, her family, and how things change when a writer comes to teach the staff and the patients about poetry, "the flower you stumble across growing near the barn, a purple bloom that nobody planted."

"Red Corvette" examines the intimacy that develops between family members, particularly when one is caregiver to the other. In this story a woman comes to visit her post-op sister and remembers, while watching her sister suffer in pain, their childhood, those moments of freedom and health she yearns for her sister to regain.

"The Feel of Flannel" is about a woman who, like her mother and grandmother, has breast cancer. She refuses to participate in a research project but instead barrels ahead into her uncertain future, planning to wear her nightgown to the grocery store and tattoo her husband's name "right here when this port comes out."

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The Doctor Stories

Selzer, Richard

Last Updated: Apr-09-2002
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Collection (Short Stories)

Summary:

In this collection Richard Selzer brings together 25 stories from his previous books, along with two new stories, Avalanche (see this database) and "Angel, Tuning a Lute." The unifying theme is the world of medicine and healing, which Selzer explores with a keen eye and compassionate heart. These stories are firmly grounded in the foibles, suffering, and exultation of the human body.

In the Introduction Selzer sketches the path by which he became a surgeon-writer and he indicates the origin of some of the stories. Particularly interesting are the stories that do homage to literary and historical figures; for example, "Poe's Light-house," which grew out of a fragment Edgar Allan Poe wrote in his last delirium, and "The Black Swan," a re-writing of a Thomas Mann novella (Mann's The Black Swan is annotated in this database).

Likewise, the story of how "Avalanche" was written is an interesting tale in itself. Selzer's description of pruning the story from his journal reminds me of Michelangelo's comment that the sculpture already exists in the block of marble. The sculptor merely removes the unnecessary stone. The Doctor Stories contains many of Selzer's tales that have become part of the Literature and Medicine canon; these include, for example, "Tube Feeding," "Sarcophagus," Imelda, Mercy, Brute, and Four Appointments with the Discus Thrower. (See this database for annotations of the latter four.)

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Love and Modern Medicine

Klass, Perri

Last Updated: Apr-03-2002
Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Collection (Short Stories)

Summary:

In this collection of 11 short stories, pediatrician-author Perri Klass primarily explores the world of women and their multiple and complex roles as mother, mother-to-be, friend, spouse, lover and professional. Parenthood--its glories, heartaches, tensions and mysteries--plays a prominent role in many of the stories. There is also a close look at woman-woman friendship--at what women say to their best friends and the nuances of the emotional responses to what is said or left unsaid.

Several stories feature single mothers: "For Women Everywhere" (a woman is helped through labor by her best friend), "Rainbow Mama" (a woman cares for her son during his diagnosis and initial treatment of leukemia), and "City Sidewalks" (a woman finds a baby on the sidewalk on Christmas Eve as she rushes to pick up her child from day care).

"In Necessary Risks," an anesthesiologist deals with work and her high energy preschool daughter while husband and easy-to-raise son head out to a dude ranch. In "The Trouble with Sophie," another high energy, dominant daughter wreaks havoc in kindergarten as well as with her concerned parents. In addition to the anesthesiologist, two other physician-mothers are featured in "Freedom Fighter" and "Love and Modern Medicine."

Parenting a newborn whilst handling other tasks is a theme featured in "Intimacy" (a high school biology teacher celebrates her first night of uninterrupted sleep as she both enjoys and envies her single friend's sex life) and in "Dedication" (a writer takes his stepson to a chess tournament while his biologist wife and newborn enjoy breastfeeding at home). Woman friendships are prominent in "For Women Everywhere," "Freedom Fighter," and "The Province of the Bearded Fathers." Grief and sudden infant death syndrome are themes of "Love and Modern Medicine."

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Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Collection (Short Stories)

Summary:

This book contains 17 short stories, all set in an in-patient hospice, all exploring the reactions of patients and their caregivers--both family members and professionals--to the last stages of terminal illness. A woman struggles to find the strength to write last letters to her loved ones, nurses are surprised when a seemingly unconscious patient suddenly joins in their conversation; the hospice chaplain becomes a patient; and so on. In the title story, a dying woman's daughter finally manages to answer honestly when her mother asks when death will come: "Soon."

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Collection (Short Stories)

Summary:

This is a collection of humorous sketches first published in 1850. They purport to describe the youthful experience (and antics) of an elderly "swamp doctor" named Dr. Madison Tensas. In fact, they are the work of Henry Clay Lewis, a young Jewish-American doctor who, after graduating from the Louisville Medical Institute in 1846, set up practice in MADISON County, Louisiana, along the banks of the TENSAS River.

The Introduction of this edition, written by Edwin T. Arnold, locates Henry Clay Lewis and his work within the context of 19th Century "South and Southwest Humor," and briefly discusses each piece. One of his major points is that the swamp doctor's "odd leaves" contain a dark, almost Gothic strain, thoroughly mixed in with their humorous and prankish sensibility. (Perhaps "lack of sensibility" would be a better phrase to use to describe these sketches.)

The first brief sketch compares characteristics of the "city physician" with the "swamp doctor." After this, we follow the growth and development of "Dr. Tensas" from childhood through medical school and into his practice in the swamp country of Louisiana. Among the more notable sketches are "Getting Acquainted with the Medicine," in which the student's preceptor conceals his bottle of whiskey by labeling it "tincture of arsenic"; "The Curious Widow," in which the student prepares a gristly surprise for his snooping landlady; "Being Examined for My Degree," which demonstrates the comic vagaries of oral examinations; "My First Call in the Swamp," in which the newly minted doctor cures his first patient (more or less); and "How to Cure Fits," which presents a novel and efficient treatment for hysterical disorders.

If you want to find some genuine clinical wisdom in this book, look no further than "My First Call in the Swamp," where the author observes, "if you wish to ruin yourself in the estimation of your female patients, hint that the disease they are laboring under is connected with hysterics" (p. 146).

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Annotated by:
Kennedy, Meegan

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Collection (Short Stories)

Summary:

Warren here supposedly presents the papers of a late friend, detailing the interesting cases he had encountered as a physician. In fact, the "cases" are sensational short stories, presented as a novel due to the framing chapter introducing the narrator's "Early Struggles" to make a living as a physician. Other stories investigate typically Gothic themes like ghosts, duels, graverobbing, elopements, and broken hearts, with other scandalous problems like gambling, dissipation, murder, domestic abuse, and suicide. Medical topics include mental illness, epilepsy, hysterical paralysis ("catalepsy"), cancer, toothache, consumption, syphilis, heart disease, alcoholism, disease of the spine, gout, amaurosis (blindness), puerperal hemorrhage, measles, and stroke ("apoplexy").

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