Showing 241 - 250 of 257 annotations contributed by Duffin, Jacalyn

Therapy

Lodge, David

Last Updated: Feb-19-1998
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Laurence "Tubby" Passmore is a successful scriptwriter for a television sitcom, in his mid-fifties, married and the father of two grown children. He is indecisive and inexplicably depressed, unhappy with himself, his fat body, bald head, wonky knee, and impending impotence. At least, he is confident in his marriage to Sally, an attractive, self-made academic who enjoys sex; on weekly jaunts to London, he maintains a supportive but platonic relationship with the earthy Amy.

Seeking to alleviate his woes, he dabbles in acupuncture and aromatherapy and regularly attends a blind physiotherapist and a woman psychiatrist; the latter counsels him to write a journal. His wife suddenly announces her wish for a divorce and the television network invokes a contractual obligation to make unwelcome demands on his skills. These events shatter his unappreciated but complacent "angst" and deepen his identity crisis.

Laurence scrambles to rediscover himself. He reads the gloomy, Kierkegaard--because he identified with the titles--and he travels to the existentialist's Copenhagen. He pushes the boundaries of his relationship with Amy in a maudlin trip to Tenerife. He befriends a philosophic squatter, called "Grahame" (with an "e" no doubt to distinguish him from Graham Green whose "writing is a form of therapy" is an epigraph to this book). He flies wildly off to Los Angeles hoping to rekindle a one-night stand "manqué." Finally he recalls and tracks the Irish Catholic, Maureen, his first girlfriend from forty years before. Maureen has suffered too--the death of her son and breast cancer; he finds her on the Road to Compostella.

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Rab and His Friends

Brown, John

Last Updated: Jan-24-1998
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The narrator recalls a boyhood encounter with Rab, a majestic dog. Rab causes the lad to make friends with his master, James Noble, a simple horse-cart driver. Six years later, James brings his beautiful old wife, Ailie, to the hospital where the narrator is now a medical student. She has breast cancer and the surgeon tells her that it must be operated the following day. James and the dog are allowed to remain nearby.

Ailie endures the operation in brave silence, commanding silent respect from a lively group of students. James nurses her tenderly, but she develops a fever and dies a few days later. Shortly after her burial, he too falls ill and dies. Rab refuses to eat, becomes hostile, and is killed by the new driver.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay

Summary:

Canadian artist, Robert Pope (d.1992), devoted the last years of his short life to documenting his decade-long experience as a patient with Hodgkin's Disease. Shortly after his diagnosis he was influenced by the 1945 autobiographical novel of Elizabeth Smart, By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept. Pope's early work explored the interconnectedness and pain of individuals bound by an imperfect love, in Smart's case for a married man. After his disease went into remission, he began to paint the patient's perspective on illness, hospitals, visitors, family, and health-care providers in a series of images that suggest the lighting of de la Tour, the photographic immediacy of Doisneau, and the menacing surrealism of de Chirico. His book, Illness and Healing: Images of Cancer (1991), became a bestseller.

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A Midwife's Tale

Rogers, Richard; Lee, Kaiulani

Last Updated: Nov-23-1997
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

This docudrama traces the life and work of Maine midwife, Martha Ballard (Kaiulani Lee), through the account of her own diary from 1785 to 1812. She and her surveyor husband, Ephraim (Ron Tough), moved from Massachusetts to the frontier of Maine during the Revolution; the rapid social changes in their new republic are felt at the domestic level. Ballard cared for many sick people, more than a thousand women in labour, and their infant children. She also becomes a witness for a woman who was raped by a judge.

A local doctor makes a brief appearance as a bungling meddler; other doctors perform an autopsy of her own deceased niece, which the midwife attends; but most often Ballard works alone. Her five surviving children leave home, and she comes to relate the experiences of her patients to those of her own life.

Her husband shares the slow decline into age surrounded by the frictions of proximity with an uncaring son and his months in debtors' prison. The recreation is interspersed with interviews and voice-over with historian and author, Laurel Ulrich. Ulrich describes her discovery and fascination with the Ballard diary, the difficulties in interpretation, and the still unanswered questions.

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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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Summary:

In 1831 Edinburgh, Cabman John Gray (Boris Karloff) delivers a paralyzed little girl and her mother to the office of Dr. Wolfe "Toddy" MacFarlane (Henry Daniell). A body snatcher by night, Gray has a special hold over the doctor, who has lost his clinical nerve and hides in the teaching of anatomy. The earnest medical student, Donald Fettes (Russell Wade), is on the verge of abandoning medicine, but MacFarlane notices his good bedside skills with the little girl, makes him his special assistant, and initiates him into the business of grave-robbing. His wife (Edith Atwater) is opposed to this action, complaining that the student will be "ruined."

Fettes is unaware that Gray and MacFarlane narrowly missed conviction for murder in the Burke and Hare affair of 1823. Obsessed with helping the child, Fettes begs Gray to find a subject on which they can practice spinal surgery. Gray complies by "burke-ing" (murdering) a well-known street singer. MacFarlane forces Fettes to remain silent and they begin their research, but they are overheard by the servant, Joseph (Bela Lugosi), who then tries to blackmail Gray only to be "burked" himself.

The child's operation does not supply immediate results and in a fit of frustration MacFarlane murders Gray as he cries: "you'll never be rid of me." Buoyed up by the news that the child has finally begun to walk and mostly to prove to himself that he does not need Gray, MacFarlane robs a fresh grave.

On the return journey from the cemetery in a driving night rain, MacFarlane is tormented by Gray's last words; the elderly woman's corpse changes into the partially animate body of Gray. The doctor loses control, his horse breaks loose, and the carriage plunges down a bank where Fettes finds the doctor dead beside the woman's corpse.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

The beautiful Polish student, Marie Sklodowska (1867-1934) (Greer Garson), is the only woman graduate student studying physics in Paris. She attracts the attention of her kindly professor by fainting in class. A father of two daughters, the professor realizes that she is both brilliant and poverty-stricken. He offers her a paid research project, and, without revealing her sex, arranges for her to occupy space in the laboratory of absent-minded Professor Pierre Curie (1859-1906) (Walter Pidgeon).

At first, Curie is annoyed by her presence, but he soon realizes that she is immensely gifted. When she decides to leave Paris (and physics) after standing first at her graduation, Curie is horrified and clumsily proposes marriage to stop her. Their union will be based on respect, reason, and physics, he claims, and she accepts. With his support, she embarks on an obsessive project to isolate what, she realizes, must be an unknown element in the compound pitchblende--a substance that emanates rays like light.

Four years of intense labor with few resources, inadequate facilities, incidental child-bearing, the threat of cancer, and many disappointments lead to the isolation of a minute quantity of radium in 1898. The Curies share the 1903 Nobel prize in physics with Henri Becquerel. Their future seems assured, but tragedy soon strikes: the distracted Pierre is run over by a horse-drawn cab and dies instantly.

Madame's grief is powerful, but she recalls her husband's prophetic words and returns to work. In the final scene, the elderly Madame Curie, now twice Nobel laureate (1911 chemistry), delivers an inspirational lecture on the promise of science to help "mankind" by curing and preventing disease, famine, and war.

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Adrift on an Ice Pan

Grenfell, Wilfred

Last Updated: Jul-22-1997
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Easter Sunday April 1908, at St. Anthony on the tip of Newfoundland's Great Northern Peninsula. Grenfell is summoned sixty miles south to a boy with osteomyelitis who had been operated two weeks earlier. "The people had allowed the wound to close," he said, and the lad needed immediate attention to save not only his leg but his life. Grenfell set out with his komatik (dog sled) and his eight best dogs. "A lover of dogs, as every Christian man must be," Grenfell writes how each was as "precious as a child to its mother."

To save a few miles, he takes a short cut across a bay, but the ice breaks up beneath him, his komatik sinks, and one dog drowns. He and the other dogs climb out of the water on to an ice pan, which drifts out to sea in an offshore wind. In the cold and solitude, he decides to stab three dogs with a small knife, stifling their cries and struggles with his numb hands. He skins the animals for their warm hides and assembles their frozen legs into a flagpole from which he waves his tattered shirt.

After a day and a night on the ice, he is rescued by "five Newfoundland men . . . with Newfoundland muscles in their backs, and five as brave hearts as ever beat in the bodies of human beings." On shore the frostbitten and snowblind doctor is greeted with tears and rejoicing. Many feared he would be lost. But, he says, he had not been afraid in the face of immanent death; he felt merely regret for lost opportunities. And the sick boy? Two days later he was brought to hospital by boat, operated, and cured. Grenfell closes his "egotistic narrative" by describing the brass plaque dedicated to the memory of the three sacrificed dogs: it proclaims "not one of them is forgotten before your Father which is in heaven."

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The Torch

Penfield, Wilder Graves

Last Updated: Mar-08-1997
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Although he could be a court physician in Macedonia, Hippocrates has returned to the island of Cos, at least temporarily, to take over his dead father's practice. He is summoned to the villa of a wealthy citizen to consult on the fits of a daughter of the house. Using precise clinical observation, he diagnoses hysteria instead of epilepsy. Then, he relates the girl's psychological problems to the neglect of her selfish and adulterous mother, Olympias, who prefers her handsome, athletic, but rather dense (and as it turns out, illegitimate) son, Cleomedes.

A marriage is to be arranged with Cleomedes's obsession, Daphne, the exquisitely beautiful and intelligent daughter of a physician from Cnidus. But Daphne falls in love with Hippocrates, and he with her. In between solving clinical problems, including a real case of epilepsy, a botched abortion, and a broken hip in his own grandmother, Hippocrates is led along a tangled path of intrigue, seduction, and false accusations.

A fire destroys the medical library of Cnidus, killing Cleomedes, who, for once in his life had risen to heroism in attempting to save an invalid woman and her son. When the newly orphaned child reveals that Olympias and her old lover have committed arson, Olympias leaps from the highest wall to her death. Hippocrates is now free to marry Daphne. Adopting the child as their own, they return to the island of Cos.

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Ship Fever

Barrett, Andrea

Last Updated: Mar-08-1997
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

In early 1847, the young Quebec city doctor, Lauchlin Grant, struggles to extract a living from his boring practice and pines over his childhood sweetheart, Susannah. She is now the wife of a prominent journalist, Arthur Adam Rowley, who has charged Lauchlin with her care, while he travels in Europe to report on the ghastly potato famine in Ireland and his predictions for its effects on immigration.

Even as Rowley's letters are read at home, waves of starving Irish land at Grosse Ile in the St. Lawrence River where thousands are ill or will sicken of ship fever (typhus), and die. Lauchlin is called to help at the quarantine station. Of the hundreds in his care, he rescues only Nora. Having lost her family, Nora decides to remain as a nurse, because she is now immune.

Lauchlin sees Susannah only once more, learning that she too cares for victims of typhus, which is also ravaging the mainland, despite the quarantine. He senses her unspoken love for him and, filled with an inner peace, returns to Grosse Ile, only to contract typhus and die. Nora takes the doctor's belongings to Susannah's home, hoping to meet the woman whose name he had mumbled in his delirium. Instead, she finds Susannah's newly returned husband dreading the loss of his now dying wife.

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