Showing 211 - 220 of 513 annotations tagged with the keyword "Ordinary Life"

Annotated by:
Chen, Irene
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A night on the town with two friends turns into "an attack of nerves" for Vasilyev, a law student. The three students spend the night drinking and visiting houses of prostitution; Vasilyev is horrified and repulsed by the women, who he thinks are "more like animals than human beings." The social problem of prostitution becomes an obsession; he is so fixated on finding a solution that he is in moral agony. His friends, among whom is a medical student, are concerned only with his health; they take him to a psychiatrist who "cures" Vasilyev with bromide and morphine.

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Love

Butler, Robert Olen

Last Updated: Dec-01-2006
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The narrator is a Vietnamese husband who has a beautiful, flirtatious wife. They have been living in the New Orleans area for more than a decade, arriving in America after the fall of South Vietnam. The husband tells a remarkable story about the lengths to which he has gone, both in Vietnam and in America, to intercept and discourage his wife’s extra-marital interests. The narrator is humorously self-deprecating and matter-of-fact.

In Vietnam, he was a spy for the Americans, and able to "bring fire from heaven" in the form of American rocket attacks to scare off his wife’s would-be lovers; in America, he adapts to the local culture by consulting a "low-down papa" voodoo specialist. What follows this consultation is a hilariously told sequence of events that succeeds finally in winning the wife’s loyalty.

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Love Medicine

Erdrich, Louise

Last Updated: Dec-01-2006
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The author tells the story of two Native-American (Chippewa) families whose lives interweave through several generations during the years 1934-1984. The primary setting is a reservation in North Dakota. The main characters, Marie and Nector Kashpaw and Lulu Lamartine, are colorful, sympathetic people caught in a love triangle that endures for most of their adult lives. "Love medicine" represents an attempt by a Kashpaw grandson to assure once and for all that his aging grandfather will love and be true to his wife and cease "hankering after the Lamartine." The plan ends in disaster when corners are cut and the authentic old Indian customs for preparing the "love medicine" are circumvented.

There is a strong sense of the blending of cultures--religion, medicine, commerce, education all take on the distinctive qualities of an evolving mixed culture. Displacement and disenfranchisement are a fact of life, taken almost for granted, with humor, but not without a response. "They gave you worthless land to start with and then they chopped it out from under your feet. They took your kids away and stuffed the English language in their mouth . . . They sold you booze for furs and then told you not to drink. It was time, high past time, the Indians smartened up and started using the only leverage they had-federal law." (p. 326) So begins an initiative to establish a gambling casino; "gambling fit into the old traditions . . . . "

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His Story

Cisneros, Sandra

Last Updated: Dec-01-2006
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

In this autobiographical poem, the poet describes with tongue-in-cheek her status in a Mexican-American family as seen from her father’s point of view. It is clear from the outset that the father is unhappy with his only daughter’s behavior. Unmarried, she has left home to make her own way while her six brothers remain at home. The father accounts for her behavior, and at the same time predicts its consequences, by recalling all the female relatives who ended badly: widowed, in jail, cursed by voodoo, alone. The most "audacious crime[s]" of all, however, is that of "disobeying fathers."

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in the inner city

Clifton, Lucille

Last Updated: Dec-01-2006
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

This short poem contrasts perspectives of the places where two different societal groups live. What the larger (white) society considers the inner city is what the poet and her people call "home." At the same time the inner city view of "uptown" is of a lifeless place that has no particular appeal. The poet would rather stay where she is, in this "no place" and "be alive."

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Ash on a Young Man's Sleeve

Abse, Dannie

Last Updated: Nov-30-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This autobiographical novel tells the story of Michael, a young Jewish boy growing up in South Wales in the 1930's. Michael and Keith, his best friend, make their way along the difficult interface between the worlds of childhood and adulthood during the years in which Europe is preparing for war. The structure of the book is a series of tales told years later: "Cariad, clean heart, listen to me, this is my beginning. Let me start again." (The identity of "Cariad, clean heart" is left to the reader to imagine.)

The tales are humorous (e.g. the boys' first aborted attempt to purchase condoms) and touching (e.g. the death of Keith's mother). The novel ends with childhood's end: Keith is killed in a German air raid. Michael, now a medical student, stands by helplessly as the body of his friend is carried away.

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Sapphira and the Slave Girl

Cather, Willa

Last Updated: Nov-30-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Sapphira was a fashionable young woman in Winchester when she married Henry Colbert, a man beneath her station, and moved to a rugged backwoods village, where they have lived for more than 30 years. Twenty of Sapphira's slaves came with them. This caused somewhat of a sensation among the poor, non-slave owning population of the region, where even to this day the Colberts are admired but not well-liked. Henry successfully took over the village grinding mill, while Sapphira assumed the role of local granddame. They had three daughters, all of whom married and moved away. However, Rachel's husband died, and she returned to Back Creek with her two young children.

Sapphira and Rachel are lay nurses who often visit and comfort the sick. Sapphira appears to do this work out of a sense of noblesse oblige, but Rachel feels empathy for the sick and less fortunate. She sets herself above nobody. Rachel is also an abolitionist at heart (as, to some extent, is her father), but Sapphira is firmly convinced that slavery is not only necessary, but also moral. Henry, a rather ineffectual male presence in this story, has responded to Sapphira's haughty regime by gradually withdrawing. In fact, he has largely abandoned the Big House to live at the mill, which he justifies by claiming the lack of a reliable foreman.

Sapphira suffers from severe dropsy. Her swelling is so bad she can no longer walk. She is jealous of a young slave named Nancy, with whom she believes Henry is having an affair. Much of the novel describes Sapphira's attempts to get rid of Nancy, first by selling the girl in Winchester, and later (when Henry refuses to sell) by importing her ne'r-do-well nephew to rape and destroy Nancy. This doesn't work either, primarily because Rachel takes Nancy under her wing and arranges her escape to Canada via the Underground Railroad.

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Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Biography

Summary:

Belle Yang has created a beautiful and lyrical tribute to her father (Baba) and to her Chinese heritage. She has illustrated the folktales and life of her father with her own brilliantly colored paintings, which complement her vivid and colorful prose. Several stories concern doctors and healing in early to mid 20th century China. For example, in the chapter titled "Secret Family Recipes," the tale of Daye reveals the intricate world of family relations, social structure based on wealth and family position, and country versus city prejudices.

Daye is a poor relation but a hard-worker. After he and his wife take an old traveling doctor, "jangling the healer’s trademark ring-shaped rattle," into their humble home, the old doctor teaches Daye how to heal and gave him his "family recipes" for healing. However, Daye’s troubles are not ended, as the townspeople call him a charlatan and quack. Daye does, though, possess the power to heal.

When a wealthy magnate is injured, Daye stakes his life that he can save the man’s leg, even though all the important doctors of Western medicine advise amputation. Daye saves the magnate’s leg, is catapulted to become the head of herbal medicine at the medical institute and passes on the "family recipes" to his daughter, "a short, squat, swarthy woman with bulbous eyes and yellow, ratlike teeth that sprouted between her normal adult ones, leaning every which way like disrupted roof tiles."

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Annotated by:
Davis, Cortney

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poetry and Art

Summary:

David Rosen and Joel Weishaus are long-time friends, the former a psychiatrist, the latter a poet, teacher, and literary critic. Both authors have lived and traveled in Japan, and both are enamored of the haiku form. In this book, Rosen and Weishaus carry on the "renga" tradition of writing haiku as part of an on-going conversation, a call and response of commentary and haiku. Grouped into 53 two-page chapters, such as "Feeling Death," "Learning to Bow," "Eating," "Mother Ill, Mother Dead," "Tuscany," and "Turtle Wisdom," this conversation is enriched by the black and white illustrations of Arthur Okamura.

The comments and haiku range widely and deeply, reflecting the authors’ recognition of the possibility and need for healing, not only in human relationships but also with Nature. In part, this conversation is the authors’ quest to understand the "psychology, meaning, and healing value" of haiku (1), and to explore how poems might lead not necessarily to cure but to "becoming whole" (5).

The commentaries are open and transparent, interwoven as one poet picks up a word or image in his friend’s haiku and extends it, turning it over both in commentary and verse-for example, see the chapter "In the Flow" where the last line of Rosen’s haiku, "A river streaming back toward the sun," is used as the first line of Weishaus’s responsive commentary, one that transports the discussion from Japan to Africa (82-83). Often movingly honest, the poets discuss loneliness and death, their insights reflected in artist Okamura’s stark ink swirls (8-15). They examine their relationships with their fathers ("making Peace with One’s Father," 44-45), and they don’t shrink from humor ("Learning to bow," 34-35) or from sensuality ("Anima," 86-87). Their spiritual references range widely, from the Hebrew God to the Buddhist’s tribute to Nature (70-71).

The haiku are lovely, both strong and delicate, our appreciation of them enhanced by a review of haiku’s traditions in the Preface (1-5). Rather than try to describe the haiku (because, like all good haiku, these cannot be captured or retold and remain the same), I’ll present one haiku from each poet and hope readers will be compelled to seek out the book and read further.

David Rosen, on walking near his apartment in Mukaijima (40): Shimmering paddy-- / The slap of small feet nearing / Where dragonflies hover. Joel Weishaus, on September 11, 2002 (103): Sluggish creek-- / A shadow dips / And drinks.

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Quartet in Autumn

Pym, Barbara

Last Updated: Nov-16-2006
Annotated by:
Mathiasen, Helle

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Pym’s novels depict ordinary life among middle class Englishmen and women with compassion, humor, and irony. The quartet denoted in this title consists of two men and two women in their sixties, the autumn of their lives. These characters hold menial jobs at the same office in London during the nineteen-seventies; two live in rented rooms, and two own their own small houses. Pym’s opening chapter catches them going to the library, because it is free. She clues us in to their personalities by describing their hair: Edwin’s hair is “thin, graying and bald on top”; Norman’s hair is “difficult”, as he is; Letty wears her faded brown hair too long and soft and wispy. Marcia’s hair is “short, stiff, lifeless” and home dyed. (1-2)

Only Letty visits the library because she likes to read; the others take advantage of the shelter it offers. Edwin frequents the local churches when there are masses or holiday celebrations with sherry and perhaps free food. Pym depicts their office routines, conversations, and uneventful lives. When Letty and Marcia retire, the (acting) deputy assistant director wonders what they have done during their working life: ”The activities of their department seemed to be shrouded in mystery – something to do with records or filing, it was thought, nobody knew for certain, but it was evidently ‘women’s work’, the kind of thing that could easily be replaced by a computer.” (101)

Letty moves in with another woman, and Marcia, alone in her house, wears her old clothes and forgets to eat. She resists the well-meaning social worker knocking on her door. Letty begins thinking of her failures: she did not marry, and she has no children or grandchildren. After some time, Edwin arranges a reunion at a restaurant; Letty tries to be upbeat: ”She must never give the slightest hint of loneliness or boredom, the sense of time hanging heavy.” (134) Marcia complains about the social worker and brags about her “major operation”, a mastectomy. She takes the bus to her surgeon’s, Mr. Strong’s, house to spy on him, and her encounters with him are her happiest moments. After Marcia’s decline into dementia and lonely death, the three office mates meet at her house, which Marcia has willed to Norman. Here they divide up the contents of her cupboards: the tins of sardines, butter beans, and macaroni cheese. They find an unopened bottle of sherry and toast each other as they remember their deceased friend.

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