Showing 231 - 240 of 361 annotations tagged with the keyword "Catastrophe"

Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

This selection of Miroslav Holub's poems is organized around five major topics--genealogy, anthropology, semiology, pathology, and tautology--rather than chronologically. The poems, some of which date back to his first collection in 1958, were translated into English by a number of different persons, but mostly by David Young, who has had a long-term collaboration with Holub.

Holub states his major preoccupation in "Bones," the very first poem in this collection: "We seek / a backbone / that will stay / straight." (p. 13) The search reaches its fullest expression in "Interferon," a long poem about messages, messengers, and interference: "Cells infected by a virus / send signals out . . .

And when a poet dies, deep in the night / a long black bird wakes up in the thicket / and sings for all it's worth." (p.159) The first step in the search is to learn to interpret the signals, and to understand the black bird's song. To do that, one has to ask questions. Yet, in the face of enormous "Suffering," we are drawn to passivity: "But I ask no questions, / no one asks any questions, / because it's all quite useless." (p. 147) How to overcome the inertia and proceed, even in the face of likely failure?

Holub reminds us that even "In the Microscope" we find "cells, fighters / who lay down their lives / for a song." (p. 149) In fact, there may be something worth fighting for, although perhaps we can only see it under extreme circumstances, as in "Crush Syndrome," where a concrete mixer snaps up the hand of a man cleaning it: "The finger bones / said a few things you don't hear very often...In that moment / I realized I had a soul." (p. 174). But perhaps what we call the soul is really just our deep yearning to survive, as in "Heart Transplant": "It's like a model of a battlefield / where Life and Spirit / have been fighting / and both have won." (p. 179)

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Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Literature

Genre: Collection (Mixed Genres)

Summary:

Fifteen selections--short stories, essays, and memoir--make up this collection. Two stories are notable: The Whistlers' Room and Atrium: October 2001 (see annotations). The title story is a translation and retelling of an obscure German tale published 75 years ago. Set in a military hospital in Germany during World War I, four soldiers share a common wound--throat injuries and laryngeal damage necessitating a tracheostomy for each man. This remarkable quartet of patients forges a fellowship of the maimed.

"Atrium: October 2001" describes the random meeting between a physician and a terminally ill teenager in the hospital atrium. The subject of death dominates their discussion. "Parable" chronicles an elderly doctor's efforts to comfort a dying man, and in the process, ease both their suffering.

Excerpts from Selzer's diary reveal much about the character of the author as well as the characters in his life. He also reminisces about growing up in Troy, New York. Approximately one-quarter of the book is devoted to Selzer's musings on works of art (sculpture and painting). Lighter fare includes a discussion of life behind the podium, a description of his home, and a new ending for A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.

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Ambulances

Larkin, Philip

Last Updated: Oct-11-2004
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

Closed like confessionals, ambulances weave through the city. One of them might come to rest anywhere. When that happens, the onlookers momentarily see "a wild white face that overtops / Red stretcher blankets" as the patient is taken into the ambulance.

Suddenly, just for a moment, they "sense the solving emptiness / That lies just under all we do." The onlookers whisper in distress. But the ambulance moves on, the traffic parts to let it by, and "dulls to distance all we are." [30 lines]

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

This is a remarkable collection of poems about the Holocaust by a poet who himself survived horrific abuse during his childhood and adolescence (see The Endless Search: A Memoir in this database). "He had in mind a thousand year Reich," Ray writes (p. 16), but it has become "the thousand year Kaddish." But the grief of the Holocaust has begun to move away from us after only 60 years, and we turn our backs on continuing atrocity and death, the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, for example, (p.22) and the Death Squads of South America.

While the author was a small boy in Mingo, Oklahoma, "Dr. Mengele was cutting girls in half, twins." (p. 28) This evil remains in the world. Ray celebrates the survivors and acknowledges the very real grief that exists in the world, but he also understands that evil is an inextricable dimension of human nature. In the words Ray attributes to Adolf Eichmann just before he was hanged, "Your world is full of me, I am all over the place . . . and whether you like it or not, what I have done will be done." (pp. 66-67)

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David

Birney, (Alfred) Earle

Last Updated: Jul-26-2004
Annotated by:
Ratzan, Richard M.

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

David tells the apparently fairly simple story of two young friends feeling their youth, their growing friendship, and their love for the mountainous outdoors of rural Canada. The narrator, unnamed until nearly the end of the poem, falls under the charismatic spell of David, the leader and more experienced climber of the two.

After introducing us to David, the narrator describes a particular climb they had been anticipating for months. During the ascent, the narrator slips. David saves him and then slips and falls himself, landing many feet below on a jagged rock that has broken both his fall and his back, leaving him paralyzed. David asks his friend to push him over the cliff citing paralysis as no way for someone like himself to live, i.e., in a wheelchair. The narrator acquiesces.

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Annotated by:
Ratzan, Richard M.

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

Written in 1896 and originally a collection of poems that seemed destined to go out of print forever, A Shropshire Lad comprises 63 individual poems of varying meter and length, all dealing with the themes of adolescence, the rustic countryside of Shropshire, and premature death, usually by violence, war, e.g., I, III, IV, XXXV, LVI; homicide, e.g., VIII, XXV?; suicide, e.g., XVI, XLIV, XLV, LIII, LXI; and state execution by hanging, e.g., IX, XLVII. There are the deaths of young lovers (XI, XXVII), young soldiers (see war and XXIII, perhaps), young revelers (XLIX) and young athletes (XIX). The living and dying and, most of all, the remembering occurs in the pastoral setting of Shropshire.

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After the Plague

Boyle, T. Coraghessan

Last Updated: May-27-2004
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Francis (aka "Jed") tells how he went off into the Sierra mountains for a few weeks of peace in order to write a novel and accidentally left his world behind. Fragmented radio reports hint that a catastrophe is brewing; appeals to avoid panic splutter to a silent stop. A trip to the nearest gas station confirms his impression that an Ebola-like epidemic must have wiped out most of the people of America. He worries about friends and family, but he worries too about himself and decides to stay put with his large cache of food.

Soon, wiry Sarai storms out of the wilderness demanding help. She has lost her hiking companion and refuses to believe in the full extent of the horror. They return to a city trying to build a life, but they dislike each other too much. They and other scattered survivors dwell in whatever house and drive whatever vehicle they choose; they avoid rotting corpses and each other, furtively taking what they need from shops and leaving the aisles undisturbed. Francis finds a compatible companion in Felicia and they engage in a polite, easy courtship. Their peace is disturbed by the rantings of Sarai, until they are saved by a survivor ex machina.

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The Dream of Scipio

Pears, Iain

Last Updated: May-10-2004
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Manlius is a 5th C Roman patrician living in Provence who has studied with the wise, reclusive Sophia. He writes his understanding of her teaching in his essay, 'Dream of Scipio,' which trades on an essay by the great Roman orator, Cicero. Sensing that the Empire is gravely threatened, he makes a pact with barbarians, sells out his neighbors, slays his adopted son, and becomes a bishop of the Christian religion, which he has long despised. Late in this ruthless and doomed attempt to salvage what he values most in his world, Sophia makes it clear that he has misunderstood her teaching.

Olivier is an astonishingly gifted 14th century Provencal poet whose intolerant father tries to stifle his love of letters, among which is Manlius's 'Dream'; his father destroys the manuscript, but Olivier recopies it from memory. As plague advances on their region, Olivier finds a mentor in the high churchman, Ceccani, who is bent on keeping the papacy in Avignon. He plans to destroy Jews as symbolic expiation for plague, widely construed to be a form of divine punishment. Olivier befriends a Jewish scholar and falls in love with his beautiful heretic servant.

The 'Dream' and the imprisonment of his friends lead Olivier to question and then betray his mentor. Either because of his efforts to save them, or for his role in a murder, he is mutilated--his tongue and hands cut off to rob him of speech and writing. The brutal mutilation appears early in the book--it is not fully explained until the end.

Julien is a French historian who has studied the poet, Olivier, and the rendition of Manlius' manuscript. He finds solace in his erudition as his county falls to the Nazi occupation. An old school friend who is a collaborator, gives him work as a censor and tolerates Julien's Jewish lover, the artist Julia. In the end, Julien is forced to choose between saving either another school friend in the Resistance or Julia. He chooses Julia, looses her anyway, and commits suicide in a vain attempt to warn his friend.

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Annotated by:
Holmes, Martha Stoddard

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

This story of one exceptionally accomplished family's discovery of their past and future relationships with Huntington's Disease (HD) is also the story of how the Wexler family changed the cultural narrative of HD for other families at risk for this genetically-transmitted and currently incurable disease. The HD diagnosis of Leonore Wexler (the author's mother) inspires Milton Wexler, a psychologist, to create a major foundation for HD research, which develops critical mass and influence as Leonore Wexler's condition deteriorates, and after her death. The book interweaves the story of the Wexlers' emotional and other negotiations with HD and the story of their efforts to create an HD community comprised of those with active symptoms of HD, family members, advocates, and researchers.

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The Head Gardener's Story

Chekhov, Anton

Last Updated: Apr-28-2004
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

At a flower sale on Count N.'s estate, the head gardener tells the story of Thomson, a doctor who lived in a certain village and who was such a good man that no one could conceive of wishing him harm. Even the bandits held him in such high esteem that they wouldn't rob him.

One day Thomson was found dead in a ravine. Even though it looked like murder--he was stabbed--the people thought he must have died in a strange accident because no one would be evil enough to kill the doctor. Later, a vagrant was caught trying to sell Thomson's snuffbox. The police found the doctor's bloody shirt under his bed.

Thus, the vagrant was put on trial for the doctor's murder. At the last minute, however, the judge acquitted him because, "I cannot admit the thought that there exists a man who would dare to murder our friend the doctor."

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