Showing 221 - 228 of 228 annotations tagged with the keyword "Humor and Illness/Disability"

A Plague of Tics

Sedaris, David

Last Updated: Sep-16-1997
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Autobiography

Summary:

This is the second of 13 short autobiographical pieces in the book, Naked. In it, Sedaris describes, in vivid and humorous detail, the obsessive compulsive behavior that plagued his life from grade school into college. From licking every light switch encountered, to counting each of "six hundred and thirty-seven steps" on the way home from school, "pausing every few feet to tongue a mailbox" and having to retrace his steps if he lost count, Sedaris was compelled to " . . . do these things because nothing was worse than the anguish of not doing them."

Each year, a teacher called on his mother to discuss the strange tics. His mother took his behavior and these visits in stride: "The kid's wound too tight, but he'll come out of it. So, what do you say, another scotch, Katherine?" "She suggested my teachers interpret my jerking head as a nod of agreement. 'That's what I do, and now I've got him washing the dishes for the next five years.'"

Life became more complicated when Sedaris entered college and had to contend with a roommate. There are amusing descriptions of the elaborate stratagems that he devised to conceal or explain the tics. Finally, "my nervous habits faded about the same time I took up with cigarettes . . . more socially acceptable than crying out in tiny voices."

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Memento Mori

Spark, Muriel

Last Updated: Sep-16-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Seventy-nine year old Dame Lettie Colson begins to receive anonymous phone calls from a man whose message is, "Remember, you must die." Soon, her octogenarian brother, her senile sister-in-law, and many of their tottery friends begin to receive similar phone messages.

The novel takes us through a year or so in the lives of this group of eccentric elderly upper-class Brits and a few of their not-so-privileged servants and caretakers. As they pursue the source of the "memento mori" message, we discover a complex matrix of infidelity and deception, ranging from youthful love affairs and harmless perversions to manipulation and blackmail. In the end, though, Death will not be denied.

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The Night-Side

Skloot, Floyd

Last Updated: Sep-16-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Collection (Essays)

Summary:

This book is a series of essays about the illness experience. The author developed chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) after a viral illness in 1988. Suddenly, this 41-year-old public policy analyst, who was also a successful writer and a competitive runner, was thrust into the world of severe disability. He developed subtle but extensive neurological deficits that affected his concentration and memory. For months he could hardly get out of bed. He discovered that not only was the cause of CFS unknown, many physicians did not even believe it was a "real" illness.

"Double Blind" tells the story of Skloot's participation in an ill-fated clinical trial of Ampligen, an experimental treatment for CFS. Other essays describe the author's experience with alternative medicine, including an intensive course of Ayurvedic "detoxification" ("Healing Powers") and a visit to Germany to encounter Mother Meera, an avatar of the Divine Mother ("Honeymooning With the Feminine Divine").

"Home Remedies" presents his comic experience with helpful calls and letters telling him how to get rid of the illness. Other essays deal with Skloot's learning to cope with chronic disability. A final section includes poems about the illness experience of several composers and artists (e.g. Carl Maria von Weber, George Gershwin, and Vincent van Gogh).

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Home Remedies

Skloot, Floyd

Last Updated: Sep-16-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

This eight-part poem presents the wisdom of home remedies. The first voice tells the sick person to drink the juice of half a lime each day. "No virus can stand up / to a lime." The second voice explains the toxic effects of electromagnetic waves. Another tells him to submerge himself in garlic. Still another says to "visualize little men / in white overalls / scrubbing the lesions / from your brain." With regard to diet, one home remedy advises abstinence from bread, vinegar, dairy products, bread, corn, caffeine, alcohol, chocolate, vitamins, fruit, meat, fish, and fowl. In the end the only solution is to "embrace your illness . . . . "[133 lines]

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Chris Cooper (Kevin McDonald) is a shy researcher working for a huge pharmaceutical firm with a team of sympathetic, but unusual personalities. He discovers a substance that makes people (and the company executives) very happy. Promoted as "Gleemonex," the new "brain candy" rapidly begins to make money, and Chris becomes a hero; however, the team soon realize that their wonder drug can render its users comatose.

Their "good" efforts to stop their own creation are opposed by their employer, especially the "bad" chief executive (Mark McKinney) and his cloying "yes-man" (Dave Foley), who relentlessly pursue sales to a craving market. After many tragicomic and slapstick escapades, good mostly prevails in the end.

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

The poems in this collection celebrate many of the patients Dr. Schiedermayer has encountered in his practice, and what they have taught him. Most of the poems are vignettes of patients or narratives of medical encounters. The poet begins by "rummaging / with my hand / at the bottom" of his medical bag ("Black Bag"); he needs something more than the usual instruments. He writes wryly about Ricky ("Skin for Ricky"), a 30 year old man with cerebral palsy, who has normal human desires and aspirations; and compassionately about "A Poet Benefactor," who is suffering from breast cancer.

As Dr. Schiedermayer notes in "Amputation," his first serious lesson in medicine is "what you must lose." You must certainly lose a sense of invulnerability--but by becoming vulnerable to your patients' stories, you may also become a source of healing. In the end he gives thanks "for more love than I deserve."

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Coda

Astley, Thea

Last Updated: Feb-18-1997
Annotated by:
Taylor, Nancy

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Kathleen Hackendorf is the funny, strong heroine of Thea Astley’s Coda, a book built around two eternal questions, "What are we going to do with Mother?" and, from the elderly person’s point of view, "What am I going to do with myself?" Kathleen wants to remain on her own despite her growing awareness of her frailties. But when she begins getting lost and when the government requires her house as right-of-way for a road, Kathleen calls on her children for help.

They, who she says have "the empathy of a piranha" (164), will not take her in; Sham and her husband finally "book" Kathleen into a retirement village called Passing Downs, which Kathleen describes as "fucking awful" (169), where she stays, wreaking havoc at every opportunity, for two nights. We last see her wandering the city, being mugged, and, finally, literally and metaphorically, "taking the ferry to the island."

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The Shipping News

Proulx, E. Annie

Last Updated: Jan-29-1997
Annotated by:
Marta, Jan

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Here is an account of a few years in the life of Quoyle, born in Brooklyn and raised in a shuffle of dreary upstate towns, where the novel begins. In these few years Quoyle metamorphoses from the human equivalent of a Flemish flake--a one layer spiral coil of rope that may be walked on if necessary--to a multi-layered presence with the capacity for constantly renewed purpose and connection. Grief, love, work, friendship, family, necessity, and community effect this transformation, as does Quoyle’s ancestral home of Newfoundland, a place of beauty and hardship, of memory and reverie.

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