Showing 201 - 210 of 427 annotations tagged with the keyword "Depression"

Letter to a Wound

Auden, W.

Last Updated: Aug-30-2006
Annotated by:
Stanford, Ann Folwell

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

Although the title suggests a letter, this prose poem is written more as a dramatic monologue. The speaker speaks to his wound ("my dear") as though it were a jealous lover. Written some 18 months after a diagnosis (which is left unclear), the poem allows the speaker to think back over the time, reflecting on "what a great change has come over us recently", meaning a new kind of maturity, of empathy, brought about by the speaker’s suffering. The "letter" ends with the speaker’s remark to his wound: "The surgeon was dead right. Nothing will ever part us. Good-night and God bless you, my dear. / Better burn this."

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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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Hope, II

Klimt, Gustav

Last Updated: Aug-29-2006
Annotated by:
Bertman, Sandra

Summary:

A pregnant woman stands in profile to the viewer, with her head bowed down toward her belly and bared breasts. The woman’s eyes are closed and one hand, its fingers curled, is raised so that the palm faces away from her. Perhaps she is praying. A streak of grey angles up behind her head, possibly an abstract halo or wing.

The woman wears a colorful shawl, although her breasts are exposed. The shawl is intricately patterned with swirls and circles evocative of sperm and ova, respectively. A grey skull-cum-death’s head peers out from behind her belly. Beneath the woman and partially enshrouded by her shawl are three women who assume the same position of bent head, closed eyes, and raised hand(s).

All the activity in the image is compacted into a long pillar of sorts, the right side of which forms a fairly straight edge, and the left side of which curves outwards. Behind, a speckled golden-brown makes for a solid background with no perspective.

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Summary:

The book is based on a series of conversations between Edith Heal and William Carlos Williams that took place over a five-month period in the mid 1950s. Williams had published more than 40 books (some of them mere pamphlets) between 1909 and 1957, the span of time covered in these conversations. The interviewer asked him to make biographical comments related to each book--what he was doing at the time, how the book came about, and how this particular work related to his development as a writer.

Thus, after Williams makes some introductory comments about becoming a poet, the book is arranged chronologically, with one to several pages devoted to each book from the privately printed "Poems" in 1909 to "The Lost Poems of William Carlos Williams" (New Directions) and "The Selected Letters of William Carlos Williams" (McDowell, Obolensky, Inc.), both published in 1957.

In many cases, especially for some of the early pamphlets and, later, the "selected" and "collected" volumes, Williams’s comments are short and avuncular. However, his reminiscences about the major books are interesting and insightful, although, of course, they put us in touch with the persona that their author wished to reveal, and not necessarily with the "real" William Carlos Williams.

Typical comments include this, about "Spring and All" (1923), in which so many of Williams’s most famous poems were originally collected: "Nobody ever saw it--it had no circulation at all--but I had a lot of fun with it." (p. 36) Regarding The Knife of the Times and Other Stories (1932), he comments: "This is the first book of short stories . . . I felt furious at the country for its lack of progressive ideas . . . These people didn’t know anything about poetry, about literature. They were not interested in me as a writer, but as a man and a physician." (pp. 49-50)

Williams’s first Collected Poems appeared in 1934, "Needless to say, it didn’t sell at all." (Only 500 copies were made.) Williams finally broke into the world of commercial publishing with New Directions and his 1937 novel, White Mule (see annotation in this database). [At the time he was 54 years old!] New Directions subsequently published two other novels in The White Mule trilogy, along with short stories (Life Along the Passaic River) and his later volumes of poems.

Williams has a lot to say about his massive poetic project, Patterson, which was very well received in its first installment (1946), but became progressively less entrancing to the critics in Books 2 through 5. In Book 2 of Patterson (1948) he mentions first using his famous triadic variable foot, which he later developed fully in The Desert Music and Other Poems (1954) and Pictures from Brueghel (1962): "From the time I hit on this I knew what I was going to have to do . . . My two leading forces were trying to know life and trying to find a technique of verse. Now I had it--a sea change." (pp. 82-83)

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The Hasty Heart

Patrick, John

Last Updated: Aug-24-2006
Annotated by:
Ratzan, Richard M.

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

Written in 1944 and first staged on January 3, 1945 with Richard Basehart and Anne Burr and Earl Jones as Basuto, The Hasty Heart grew out of the playwright’s experiences in an ambulance unit on the Burma front in World War II. The play was made into a movie in 1949 (with Richard Todd and Ronald Reagan) and was revived on Broadway in 1984.

The Hasty Heart concerns, initially, six characters in a British General Hospital in the rear of the Assam-Burma front: a nurse (Sister Margaret--"Sister" is a British term for a nurse; she is not a religious--and five Allied patients: Kiwi (a New Zealander), Tommy (a Brit), Digger (an Australian), Yank (an American), and Blossom (an indigenous Basuto) who understands and speaks no English, an important fact for later developments in the play.

Patrick introduces us to Sister Margaret and the five original patients who are, for all their good-natured bickering and nationally directed gibes, clearly a cohesive unit characterized by the camaraderie of an in-patient ward with residential patients. For instance, Tommy, who is chronically kidded about his obesity, claims to be proud of it and accuses Digger of being jealous about Sister Margaret’s giving Tommy therapeutic back rubs.

Enter Colonel "Cobwebs," the medical officer. He solicits the group’s help and cooperation in keeping a new patient "contented." It seems the Colonel has just successfully removed a patient’s kidney damaged by shrapnel only to discover that the soldier’s remaining kidney is "defective." The wounded soldier, Lachie, a Scottish Sergeant, will therefore die in only six weeks of uremic poisoning. The Colonel has "decided against telling him" since "[W]orry won’t help him."

The Colonel tells the men and Sister Margaret that "The only help anyone can give him now, [sic] will come from you." When Yank asks, "And he thinks he’s well, sir?" the Colonel replies, "In a sense--he is. But it would be criminal to release him just to collapse up forward. Do what you can to keep him contented--and happy."

With the arrival of Lachie, an incredibly difficult, abrasive and unfriendly Scot with pathological chips on both shoulders, the scene is set for "an archetypal story about friendship under fire." [Mell Gussow as quoted in a 1984 NY Times review in the obituary above, op. cit.] Despite all their earnest attempts at striking up a friendship, the other patients find themselves rebuffed, often quite rudely, by Lachie. Eventually, at the insistent urging of Sister Margaret, they are successful. A birthday gift of a complete Scottish highlander outfit touches Lachie who admits that he’s never had friends and is, to no reader’s deep surprise, a truly lonely man.

Near the end of the play, the Colonel, following orders, tells Lachie his diagnosis and prognosis, and his superiors’ desire for Lachie to return home, despite his wishes to remain with his friends, in order to become a military hero to be honored before his death. Lachie understandably retreats into a shell of resentment, blaming the men for treating him with pity instead of friendship. Eventually things right themselves and the play ends happily.

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Hard Laughter

Lamott, Anne

Last Updated: Aug-23-2006
Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The narrator, Jennifer, is a young, eccentric, struggling writer who lives in a small northern California coastal town full of even more eccentric individuals. Her father, Wallace, a kind and generous intellectual, is diagnosed with a brain tumor and has to undergo surgery and postoperative radiation therapy. It is a story of a family dealing with the rage, grief, anxiety and sudden changes in everyone’s lives when a family member has a serious illness. This is a family knit well with love, tenderness, alcohol, and lots of humor (often black and exceedingly funny)--the diagnosis brings the family and small circle of friends even closer together.

The writing shifts easily between the specifics of observed details to general philosophizing about life and death. Despite the horror and uncertainty, Wallace notes: "I still believe that life is supposed to be good, and my life as a cancer patient can be good, lived one day at a time, and at some point it may be determined that I am no longer a cancer patient, and my life will be better for this scare we’re having. We’re all on borrowed time anyway, and it’s good to be reminded."

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Vessels

Raeburn, Daniel

Last Updated: Aug-22-2006
Annotated by:
Wear, Delese

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay

Summary:

Daniel Raeburn tells the story of watching the birth of his infant daughter Irene who had died in utero three days before and the weeks and months following the event, spent at the intersection of immense grieving, trying to understand why, and attempting to live in a world without his daughter.

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Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

This film is biographical, based on the life of the actress Frances Farmer (1914-1970), who was briefly successful in Hollywood in the early 1940’s and was then institutionalized for mental illness. She was "cured" by a transorbital prefrontal lobotomy.

The film begins with Frances (Jessica Lange) winning a high school writing competition with an essay criticizing God. This outspoken intelligence characterizes her. As a young actress, she wins a trip to Russia in a competition run by a Communist newspaper, performs on Broadway, and ends up in Hollywood. Quickly, however, it becomes clear that her unconventional behavior and attitudes make her vulnerable to people, including her overbearing and vicariously ambitious mother (Kim Stanley), who demand that she conform to more passive forms of femininity.

When Frances is arrested for drunk driving, her mother puts her in a "convalescent home," where she is given insulin injections in the guise of "vitamins." She escapes and, deciding that the pressures of the film industry are causing her drinking problem, tells her mother that she won’t be returning to Hollywood. Her starstruck mother, appalled, has her committed.

After undergoing the closely filmed experiences of the strait jacket, the padded cell, and shock treatment, all in the frighteningly bedlam-like atmosphere of the asylum, Frances submits to psychiatric surgery. This is perhaps the most disturbing part of the film. She is lobotomized in front of an audience by a mallet-wielding surgeon who boasts he can do ten patients per hour because "lobotomy gets ’em home."

Sure enough, Frances is allowed to go home. The film ends several years later in 1958, when Frances Farmer really did appear on the television show, "This is Your Life." We watch the show through the eyes of Harry York (Sam Shepard), the journalist who has always loved her, and he goes to meet her afterwards.

She has been transformed: composed and seemingly serene, but fundamentally blank, she has become a chilling shadow of herself. Early on in the film, she refuses to cooperate with a psychotherapist, saying "I don’t want to be what you want to make me: dull, average, normal." By the end of the film she has been reduced to the hollow appearance of all these things--and is grateful for it.

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A Face at the Window

McFarland, Dennis

Last Updated: Aug-21-2006
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Cookson Selway has had a problematic childhood (his mother dressed him as a girl and his father was a murderer) and a complex youth (after dealing cocaine and becoming an alcoholic, he went into the restaurant business, made a fortune and retired at thirty-nine). Now 44, he is settled into wealthy middle age, living in Massachusetts with his wife, Ellen, a mystery writer, and his teenage daughter, Jordan. When Jordan goes away to boarding school, Cook and Ellen move to London so that Ellen can research a new novel.

Cook, always unconventional, sometimes sees things no-one else can, and in England, his condition, whatever it is, becomes worse. He begins to believe that the Willerton, the old hotel he and Ellen stay in, is haunted. He encounters three "ghosts," a small boy, an adolescent girl, and a man about his own age who is always drunk and repulsively lascivious. He learns that, years before, a girl died after jumping or falling from an upstairs window. It is rumored that she had been sexually abused by her drunk uncle. The only other person who seems aware of the ghosts is Pascal, the French bellboy, who soon becomes Cook’s ally.

Cook begins acting increasingly strangely, and his wife and the people she befriends (in particular the Sho-pans, an elderly Chinese couple) are convinced that Cook has started drinking again or is having some kind of mental breakdown. The reader is never given a final explanation for what happens; the "ghosts" certainly seem to reenact events from the hotel’s history, but they are also deeply linked to Cook’s own obsessions. They are all, perhaps, aspects of himself. Both fascinated and horrified, he is unable to reject them, even as his obsession estranges his wife. Only when it causes the death of Pascal is he able to leave the hotel and, perhaps, the ghosts. The couple return to America, and tentatively begin to recover.

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Father and Son

Gosse, Edmund

Last Updated: Aug-21-2006
Annotated by:
Holmes, Martha Stoddard

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Victorian critic and poet Edmund Gosse was the child of respected zoologist Philip Gosse, a minister within the Plymouth Brethren, a fundamentalist evangelical sect. This memoir of Gosse’s childhood and young adulthood details his upbringing by parents whose faith and literal approach to Scripture directed all their domestic practices.

It details the older Gosse’s agony as he struggles to reconcile his scientific vocation with his religious faith in the face of the hefty challenges posed by Chambers, Lyell and Darwin’s mid-century hypotheses about the age of the earth and the diversity of its species.

Edmund’s own agony as he realizes his inability to fulfill his parents’ expectations for him in terms of religious vocation is another significant thread. While "father and son" is the primary relationship explored, the early parts of the memoir describe Emily Gosse’s influence on her son, particularly during her illness and death from breast cancer.

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