Showing 201 - 210 of 257 annotations contributed by Duffin, Jacalyn

Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

One 1970s summer, Madeleine L'Engle brings her mother to Crosswicks, the rambling country house where the extended family has spent extended vacations for many years. At ninety, the elder Madeleine is suffering from the ravages of the now vanished diagnosis, 'hardening of the arteries.' By times she is frightened, angry, or difficult; at night she cries out or tries to wander. Round-the-clock caregivers help with the strain, while the writer's own children and grandchildren figure in her journal with concern, affection, and wonder.

The presence of the dwindling old lady provokes detailed recollections--direct and indirect memories--of the lives of her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, all named Madeleine--bringing the span of this narrative to six generations. Despite the grandmother's slow mental decline, death comes suddenly, while L'Engle is away and her son is left to help.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

It is 1965. Graduate student, Adam Appleby (the name is significant), twenty-five years old and father of three, is terrified that his wife, Barbara, is pregnant again. He loves her and is faithful, but their commitment to Catholicism turns their sex life into a furtive obsession, encumbered with calendars, thermometers, and guilt.

This day in his life, like all others, is spent in the British Museum, researching an interminable thesis on 'the long sentence' in minor English writers. But Adam cannot concentrate for frustration, anxiety (over Barbara's delayed period), and financial despair. When a young descendant of a minor writer tries to seduce him in exchange for a steamy manuscript that could easily make his career, Adam discovers a shocking willingness to compromise on his principles.

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Love and Friendship

Lurie, Alison

Last Updated: Aug-28-2002
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Daughter of a wealthy businessman, tall, beautiful Emily Stockwell Turner falls out of love with her stolid professor husband, Holman, halfway through their first semester at a small college for men in northern New England. She is lonely and miserable in this remote place. Encouraged by her confidante and fellow faculty wife, Miranda, she embarks on a secret affair with the college musician, Will Thomas.

Divorced and sexually experienced, Will initiates Emmy into the powerful romance of physical love. But their on-again, off-again relationship is fraught by its own secrecy, Holman's jealous suspicions, Will's infidelities, Emmy's lies, Miranda's disingenuous disinterest, and the not-so-irrational hatred that Freddy, Emmy's four-year old son, bears Will.

Emmy and Will take ever greater risks with their clandestine encounters; eventually they admit to being truly in love and she decides to join him in his move to New York City. But Holman falls ill and nearly loses his contract position at the University when he tries to kill a student demonstrator whom he wrongly suspects of being Emmy's lover. Emmy postpones her departure indefinitely, because Holman "needs" her more.

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The War between the Tates

Lurie, Alison

Last Updated: Aug-28-2002
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

At the height of campus unrest over Vietnam, Brian Tate, the conventional, politically moderate, foreign policy professor at Corinth (clearly Ithaca), has an office affair with his blonde graduate student, Wendy, but only after the vapid flower-child has pursued him relentlessly for months. Brian’s wife, Erica, learns of his infidelity when she reads Wendy’s ungrammatical but explicit letter.

Miserable at home with their two shockingly difficult adolescent children, Erica is unemployed because Brian disapproves of her working. She confronts him; Wendy apologizes to her; Brian lies; Wendy is forced to have an abortion; Brian moves out; Wendy moves in; Erica grows thin and ages prematurely. She takes up with an old friend who has become a wan new-age ’guru,’ but he is often impotent.

Wendy becomes pregnant again, terrifying Brian into believing he must marry her. But she spares him this punishment by moving to a California commune with Ralph, who, unlike Brian, does not care about biological origin of her child. Hoping to return, Brian visits Erica; she is expecting him with wary resignation.

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Christ Stopped at Eboli

Levi, Carlo

Last Updated: Aug-28-2002
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Christ stopped at Eboli, say the southern Italians, meaning that they are "not Christian," uncivilized, forgotten, and deprived. Physician, writer, and painter, Levi was arrested and 'exiled' from his home in Turin for opposing Fascism during the Abyssinian war (1935). This is the memoir of his life as a political prisoner under house arrest in a malaria-ridden village in Lucania (Basilicata).

The peasants immediately seek his advice for their ailments, but the two local doctors are jealous, as well as incompetent, and they have him stopped. Grinding poverty, illness, superstition, and despair work on each individual in different ways; but the peasants move with the cycle of seasons and religious festivals. The feast of the black Madonna (Chapter 12) and an unforgettable pig castration (Chapter 19) are vividly described. In the 'atmosphere permeated by divinities' (p. 151), the animal, human, and spiritual spheres combine (Chapters 8, 13, 15).

The closing chapters are a political meditation. Deprivation and isolation make the south an irrelevant and different country to the powerful middle class that runs the Fascist party. In return, Fascism finds no supporters here other than corrupt, petty officials. Levi contends that "the State" of any political stripe will never solve the problems of southern Italy until peasants are involved.

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Foreign Affairs

Lurie, Alison

Last Updated: Aug-02-2002
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Unmarried, fifty-four year-old Virginia Miner (Vinnie), a professor at Corinth who specializes in children's literature, is off to London for another research trip. Her work has been trashed by a Professor L. Zimmern of Columbia and she is hoping to produce an important new book about playground rhymes that will restore her reputation and confidence.

A 'pro' at long flights, her serenity is ruffled by her seatmate, a garrulous married man, Chuck Mumpson, of Tulsa who wishes to chat. She puts him off with difficulty. But the smoking and drinking Chuck is persistent. He could use help with a research trip of his own to trace his family history. Vinnie slowly becomes involved with his project, and then with him.

Meanwhile, her young colleague, Fred Turner, has left his wife, Roo, at home for his own sabbatical; they have quarreled. Soon, he consoles himself with the affections of Lady Rosemary Hadley. Quite by accident and with the encouragement of Chuck, Vinnie becomes an emissary for Fred's estranged wife in an improbable midnight walk on Hampstead Heath.

Just as she begins to think Chuck's affections have cooled, because of his silence of several days duration, she is visited by his daughter who describes his sudden death while climbing the stairs of a small town hall. When her publisher patronizes his memory, she realizes with surprise that he loved her and she loved him. She returns to her life in Corinth, solitary and unloved, but altered for having loved and been loved.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Dr. Constance Petersen (Ingrid Bergman) is a beautiful, unattached psychiatrist whose business-like facade fails to conceal a natural empathy that draws men. For her, however, love is a mere epi-phenomenon, easy to explain and resist, until she meets Dr. Edwardes (Gregory Peck). The famous expert on the guilt complex has arrived to replace the retiring chief (Leo Carroll). Constance is smitten, and so, it seems, is he.

But soon, she realizes that Edwardes is "not well," that he is terrified of dark lines on white: fork marks on a tablecloth; threads in her robe. Worse, she discovers that Edwardes is not, in fact, Edwardes, but an amnesic physician of initials "J. B." who is convinced that he has murdered his analyst. Constance does the right thing by having him removed from work, but she refuses to believe he is a murderer. Wanting to protect her, he leaves. But she, intent on curing her lover, follows him on a journey to retrace his last movements. The task is to recover both a memory and a missing person.

They go skiing (dark lines on white) at a resort where the real Dr. Edwardes had sojourned with his patient-colleague. On a dangerous slope, J. B. suddenly remembers that Edwardes went over the cliff. The body is found, but it has a bullet in the back.

Now hiding from the police, the couple pose as newlyweds and flee to her old mentor in Rochester. Complete with accent and beard, Dr. Brulov (Michael Chekhov) is a delightful double of the recently deceased Sigmund Freud (1858-1939). It emerges that John Ballantine (Peck) never lost his childhood feelings of guilt over the accidental death of his little brother.

In a gruesome ten-second flashback, the tyke is abruptly impaled on a iron-spike fence. This ancient guilt was reactivated by his doctor’s demise and it was sublimated by the defense mechanism of an assumed identity to keep the dead man alive. An idle slip of the tongue reveals the murderer to be the jealous retiree. The killer threatens Constance and then makes a quick end by dispatching himself instead.

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Dream Story

Schnitzler, Arthur

Last Updated: Feb-19-2002
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Fridolin, a doctor, and his wife, Albertine, have been married for a few years and are the parents of a much adored little girl. In a moment of unusual frankness, they decide to confess all their temptations and adventures to one another. Albertine admits that she deeply desired a blond Dane encountered in the previous summer. Fridolin professes to welcome this news and tells of similar attractions. They promise to confide the sexual adventures of their waking and dreaming states.

But Fridolin is not at ease. The idea that his wife desired another-even in a dream-inspires a jealous energy that sends him in search of adventures that will reassure him of his own desirability and hurt if not repudiate Albertine. On the pretext of a house call, he wanders, masked and unmasked, through the decadent private clubs and cafés of night-time Vienna. He toys with the dismal daughter of a patient, an "unspoiled" prostitute, and a sophisticated matron--none of whom he actually claims, all of whom remind him of his wife, one of whom dies, he believes, in protecting him.

Uncertain if his adventure was reality or dream, he returns with tenderness to Albertine, although he has repeatedly vowed to leave her. He tells his entire story; she listens with better grace than he would have done. Then he asks what they should do. She replies that they should be grateful to have "emerged safely from these adventures" . . . "neither the reality of a single night nor even of a person's entire life can be equated with the full truth about his innermost being." "And no dream," he responds "is altogether a dream." (p. 98-9). They begin another day.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Paula Henning (Franka Potente) is a brilliant medical student from Munich, who comes second in the Robert Koch competition winning a place at the prestigious Heidelberg medical school. Medicine is a family tradition, but Paula has little respect for her father's boring suburban practice. Instead, she takes inspiration from her dying grandfather, an academic doctor, who celebrates her decision.

En route to Heidelberg she meets the stunningly beautiful and highly sexed Gretchen (who stood first in the competition) and David, a 22 year-old lad with cardiomyopathy and multiple piercings. Gretchen is interested in partying; Paula is serious, studies all the time, and ignores fellow student Caspar (Sebastian Blumberg) who strives for her attention. When David appears on the dissecting table with no obvious cause of death and "rubbery blood," Paula begins investigating. She determines his death is due to Promidal--a drug developed by The Anti-Hippocratic Society (or "AAA!").

This clandestine group engages in unethical anatomical research on living subjects to "better" the human race. Her classmates scorn her conspiracy theory, but she is drawn deeper into the mystery when Gretchen disappears only to reappear as a perfectly dissected, plasticized cadaver. Paula nearly succumbs to the same fate with her lover, Caspar (who turns out to be an incognito history student writing his thesis on the AAA! ). The ending is happy, although Paula must reckon with the discovery that her venerated grandfather was a member of the "AAA!".

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

A tiny figure slowly emerges from a vast expanse of snow, and a succession of short essays recreate moments in the life of the brilliant Canadian pianist, Glenn Gould (Colm Feore). From his unusual Ontario childhood to his musical debuts on the international stage, to his eccentric living, performing, dressing, driving, waking, and sleeping habits, this film offers insights into his loneliness, hypochondria, polypharmacy, and tragic death from a stroke at age 50 in 1982. The artistic vignettes are enriched by a tender humour, the intimate recollections of real-life friends, the abstract beauty of piano keys in motion, and above all, Gould's immortal playing.

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