Showing 211 - 220 of 629 annotations tagged with the keyword "Survival"

Reading Lolita in Tehran

Nafisi, Azar

Last Updated: Feb-15-2007
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

The author reminisces about her experiences teaching English literature in Iran before, during, and after the revolution and the Iran-Iraq war. Chronology is not important and the book opens near the end of her sojourn in Tehran. A small group of young women who met when they were University students gather in her home to read and discuss English literature. They wear western clothes, remove their veils, and eat sweets. Some have been in prison. They conceal their simple purpose from fathers, husbands, brothers, because their gathering to read Western fiction would be construed as an act of defiance.

In four sections, two named for twentieth-century novels and two for nineteenth-century authors--"Lolita," "Gatsby," "James," and "Austen"--Nafisi constructs a series of flashbacks that describe the events of late 1970s to the 1990s in the inner and outer world of an academic woman. The books and writers used in the section headings have walk-on parts or starring roles that jar in this ostensibly alien context. Yet, they work surprisingly well for the women students, stimulating them to think in new ways about the situation in which they find themselves. Conversely, as the students assimilate the English and American writers into their world, we learn more about their Iran.

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Oryx and Crake: A Novel

Atwood, Margaret

Last Updated: Feb-15-2007
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Please note that in order to properly annotate this novel, the novel's surprise ending will be revealed here. Snowman--who used to be called, Jimmy--is a rare survivor of a dreadful catastrophe that seems to have been both the product and the demise of modern science. He lives in a tree, clad in rags, hiding from relentless heat and hoarding his precarious cache of food and alcohol, while he tries to obliterate consciousness and avoid contact with a peculiar race of beings, the Crakers. Through a series of reminiscences as he makes his way back to where he once worked, Snowman's past slowly advances to meet his future.

The world heated up to be uninhabitable desert and genetic engineering created more problems (and species! [pigoons, rakunks, wolvogs]) than solutions. People became increasingly reliant on artificial environments--both internal and external--while their purveyors--drug and technology firms--held ever greater but unthinking power. The world was divided into two: the rich, safe controlled spaces and the dangerous chaotic realm of the poor. Then an epidemic wiped out most of the human race.

Two friends are central to the story: brilliant but inscrutable Crake whose nerdy gift for science had a role in engineering the 'pure' Crakers and the horrifying world that they occupy; and beautiful, seductive Oryx whose regard of knowing innocence heaps scorn upon messy human desire and emotion. They are the Yin and Yang of the "constructed" world. Only at the end, the reader learns that Oryx was murdered by Crake, who was slain by Snowman. It seems that his arduous journey was simply to destroy the history of the events that he had written and left behind.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Collection (Short Stories)

Summary:

A collection of short stories loosely connected to each other by centering on the experiences of four people from their first encounters during medical school and continuing into young middle age.

The first and third stories “Getting into Medical School, Part I” and “Part II,” are about study partners, Fitzgerald and Ming, who have trouble admitting their love for each other until she is accepted to medical school and he is not. Ming teaches Fitzgerald how to prepare successfully by passing along learning tips her physician-cousin provided her in exchange for sex. In the second story, Ming meets fellow students Sri and Chen and drifts away from Fitzgerald. In the third, he wrestles with feelings of rejection and misery as he realizes she has opted for a relationship with the more culturally “appropriate” Chen; however, her study tips pay off in more than one way when he meets Ming’s unsavory cousin at his medical school interview.

Later stories describe clinical encounters with specific cases, one of the most memorable being “Winston,” about Sri’s relationship with a paranoid person; the tale is told alternatively from the doctor’s perspective and the patient’s. in “Afterwards,” Sri must explain to a man’s wife and son, how he died suddenly at a strange hairstylist salon; the news disturbs the family who discover that the supposedly impotent diabetic had been a regular at a sex shop.

Fitzgerald and Chen become emergency physicians. Less settled, Fitzgerald tries several settings, including working for an air ambulance company. His problem with alcohol emerges from deep disaffection and brooding resentment over Ming’s callous rejection years earlier and her subsequent marriage to Chen. The problem begins to threaten his judgement and seriously compromises his health when he falls ill.

In the ironically titled “Contact Tracing” both Fitzgerald and Chen contract SARS (the latter from the former) during the (real) 2003 Toronto epidemic. They are isolated in adjoining rooms separated by glass and phone each other for support and discussion. They reminisce about Sri who has died of cancer and muse on the relevance of do-not-resuscitate orders. The outcome is both humorous and surprising.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Canadian surgeon Norman Bethune, 1890-1939, (Donald Sutherland) journeys 1500 miles into China to reach Mao Zedong's eighth route army in the Wu Tai mountains where he will build hospitals, provide care, and train medics. Flashbacks narrate the earlier events of his life: a bout with tuberculosis at the Trudeau sanatorium; the self-administration of an experimental pneumothorax; the invention of operative instruments; his fascination with socialism; a journey into medical Russia; and the founding of a mobile plasma transfusion unit in war-torn Spain.

Bethune twice married and twice divorced his wife, Frances (Helen Mirren) who chooses abortion over child-rearing in her unstable marriage. By 1939, Bethune had been dismissed from his Montreal Hospital for taking unconventional risks and from his volunteer position in Spain for his chronic problems of drinking and womanizing. As his friend states: "China was all that was left." Even there, Bethune confidently ignores the advice of Chinese officials, until heavy casualties make him realize his mistake and lead him to a spectacular apology. The film ends with his much-lamented death from an infected scalpel wound.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Living in Bombay, India, Sera (Souad Faress) and Sam (Khodas Wadia), a beautiful Parsee couple who adore dancing, have a son (Firdaus Kanga) who will never grow and never walk because he has osteogenesis imperfecta (brittle bone disease). They name him Brit, for his bones. As narrator, Brit says that Sera suffers from the "Parsee disease of anglophilia." But she accepts Brit’s disability.

His father, however, does not; and he continuously appeals to magic, folklore, and religious healers, hoping to find a cure. He professes love for his son, but is never able to forge a confident bond. Brit does not fail to criticize. Sam’s quest leads to a woman scholar who nurtures the boy’s intelligence and encourages him to write a diary and short stories.

Brit’s older sister is his staunchest ally and best friend, but she eventually must leave for a marriage in America. Sam escorts his daughter to America, where he commits suicide on Fifth Avenue. Brit and his mother come to rely heavily on a widow friend and her deaf daughter, "promised" to Brit in childhood.

But the girl is soon spirited away on a wave of romanticism into a life of prostitution. They take a boarder, Cyrus, a gifted and handsome law student who offers Brit a new world of night life, action, dancing, and physical affection; his love leads Brit to like and accept his own body. When his mother dies, Brit becomes a writer and finds a new life and a new lover.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

In the year 2000, Nafas (Niloufar Pazira) a 29-year old Afghan-born Canadian journalist travels back to her homeland in search of her sister. The sister was maimed by the long war, and her life under oppressive Taliban rule is no longer worth living; she has resolved to commit suicide on the last solar eclipse of the century.

Dependent for her travels on the uncertain help of men, Nafas encounters many other charismatic women hiding under the seclusion of the burqas. The inquiries she makes to find her sister raise the veil just enough to reveal the torment of Afghan women, deprived of rights, education, and basic health care. A doctor must question his women patients, who are hidden from him by a canvas wall, through a child intermediary; he does not touch them. The ending is inconclusive.

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The Lives of Rocks

Bass, Rick

Last Updated: Jan-16-2007
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Although doctors have told her that things will get better, Jyl’s odds of surviving cancer are only five percent. She lives alone in a mountain cabin and receives cancer treatments at the hospital in town. She sleeps much of the day. “Her intestines had been scalded, cauterized as if by volcanic flow” [p 67], and Jyl continues to experience problem with digestion. She feels fatigued and is easily short of breath.

Her closest neighbors are the Workman’s, a Christian fundamentalist family of seven. They live miles away in a mountain valley near the creek. Without telephone, electricity, or indoor plumbing, they live off the land and toil day and night. Jyl starts carving small boats toting messages to send down the creek for the Workman children to find. Soon 15-year-old Stephan and 7-year-old Shayna visit Jyl. The two children bring her food that the Workman’s have hunted and gathered. They cut and stack firewood for the recluse. Jyl teaches them about geology and gives them small gemstones that her father had collected. The children’s visits revitalize the ill woman.

When Stephan and Shayna do not return to see her, Jyl is overcome by loneliness. She acknowledges that being alone is far worse than any aspect of her disease and treatment. Jyl makes the difficult trek to the Workman’s property to call on the children but finds that the place is deserted. Nothing remains in their boarded-up cabin except a stack of the small boats that she had crafted. Jyl sits outside their cabin and cries. The falling snow and silence envelop everything.          

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Arrows

Hoagland, Tony

Last Updated: Jan-09-2007
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

Similar in theme to Hoagland's poem, Emigration (see this database), "Arrows" presents us with a series of images that convey what it is to be "a sick person." The poem is divided into three short sections, moving from the generic sick person waking up to face another day, to a first-person parody of Whitman's song of "the body electric" in which the speaker sings "the body like a burnt-out fuse box." Hoagland piles metaphor upon metaphor in a tour de force that evokes sickness. The concluding section, from which the poem takes its name, compares the sick person to a stoic martyred saint--"bristling with arrows"--who has "that ability to say, 'None of this is real' . . . ."

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Annotated by:
Wear, Delese

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Investigative Journalism

Summary:

To find out how humans live and survive in minimum-wage America--particularly women who were at the time about to be pushed into the labor market because of "welfare reform"--writer Barbara Ehrenreich moved three times, from Florida to Maine to Minnesota, and worked as a waitress, a hotel maid, a house cleaner, a nursing home aide, and a Wal-Mart employee.

The "rules" of her project (1) prohibited her from falling back on skills available to her because of her education (a PhD in biology) or previous work (an essayist with 11 books); (2) required that she take the highest-paying job offered to her and do her best to keep it; and (3) dictated that she take the cheapest accommodations she could find. The idea was to spend a month in each setting and to see if she could find a job and make enough money to pay a second month's rent. The book, then, tells her story of trying to make ends meet, what "millions of Americans do . . . every day, and with a lot less fanfare and dithering."

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Robinson Crusoe

Defoe, Daniel

Last Updated: Jan-04-2007
Annotated by:
Kennedy, Meegan

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Young Robinson Crusoe defies his father's recommendation to seek a "middle way" of life, and runs off to find his fortune at sea. After a series of misadventures including storms at sea and capture by pirates, he succeeds in becoming a plantation owner in "the Brasils." When he sets out to add slave trading to his income, a storm shipwrecks him alone on a desert island. Here he must learn to support himself through farming, hunting, and simple carpentry, making whatever he could not salvage from the ship.

Cannibals from a nearby island use his domain for occasional feasts, but Crusoe rescues one "savage" from certain consumption and finally gains a companion, Friday, whom he teaches English and Christianity and learns to love. In Crusoe's twenty-eighth year on the island, Friday helps him engineer the takeover of an English ship with a mutineed crew nearby, and they journey to England with the ship's grateful captain.

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