Showing 241 - 250 of 428 annotations tagged with the keyword "Depression"

Chekhov: 1860 - 1904

Laffitte, Sophie

Last Updated: May-09-2005
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Biography

Summary:

This biography, first published in French in 1971, was written by a Soviet émigré living in Paris. She begins her introduction with a quotation from Chekhov, "Happiness and the joy of life do not lie in money, nor in love, but in truth" (1). She follows this statement with an observation of her own, "Chekhov makes no prognoses, never raises his voice, does not explain, insist, and above all, does not instruct. . .

He is the least Russian of the great Russian writers." To a large extent, her short biography is devoted to presenting a particular vision of Chekhov that might be called "compassionate objectivity." Although her subject may not have insisted or instructed his readers, Ms. Laffitte does. In fact, there is a hagiographic quality about this book that leads the reader to conclude that if Chekhov had been a believer, by now he would have been canonized as Blessed Anton of Moscow.

Ms. Laffitte proceeds in multiple short chapters. While they are generally in chronological sequence, each one also takes up an issue or theme in Chekhov’s life. She makes copious and skillful use of her subject’s letters and notebooks. She also devotes considerable attention to Chekhov’s medical career, unlike V. S. Pritchett, whose short biography entitled, Chekhov. A Spirit Set Free (1988, see annotation in this database) portrays medicine as more of a hobby than a serious enterprise for Chekhov.

Ms. Laffitte also has a habit of tying up loose ends without presenting much evidence for her point of view, or acknowledging that uncertainty exists. For example, when dealing with what she calls Chekhov’s "moral depression" of the mid-1890s, she concludes, "By a logical exertion of willpower, Chekhov was gradually to emerge from this moral depression" (168). It seems here that she considers depression--assuming this is the correct term to use in the first place--a weakness or failure of will, rather than a clinical disorder.

Nonetheless, this short literary biography (not out-of-print) provides much easier reading than most of the major Chekhov biographies that have appeared since it was published.

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Vertigo

Capek, Karel

Last Updated: May-09-2005
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

When a wealthy man falls victim to incapacitating attacks of vertigo, a young doctor decides that the problem and solution both reside in the patient's head. Gierke is an eccentric widower in his forties who remarries. While honeymooning in Italy with his 17-year-old bride, he collapses after looking down from the heights of a bell tower. Gierke becomes paralyzed by a fear of future attacks of vertigo and eventually stops walking.

Multiple physicians evaluate him without success. Finally a neurologist, Dr. Hugo Spitz, is consulted. He wants to try psychoanalysis but the patient has become extremely introverted. Spitz interviews all Gierke's relatives and even hires private investigators. The doctor devises a theory that Gierke murdered his first wife by pushing her off a mountain and then inherited her fortune.

Spitz reasons that Gierke's vertigo is the result of repressed feelings of fear and guilt. After confronting Gierke with the explanation, Spitz orders his patient to stand. Gierke walks without experiencing any dizziness. Immediately after the doctor exits the house, there is a loud sound and Gierke's dead body, fractured in multiple places from a fall, is found at the bottom of the staircase. Spitz deduces it was suicide.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Biography

Summary:

In four lengthy chapters, the biographies of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert are carefully presented. Special attention is given to health, both physical and psychological, throughout life and at its end. Autopsy information is included. In particular, the author emphasizes the impact of illness on the composers' relationships with family members and doctors, and on their musical composition.

Evidence is derived from a wealth of primary sources, often with long citations from letters, poetry, musical scores, prescriptions, diaries, the remarkable "chat books" of Beethoven. Neumayr also takes on the host of other medical biographers who have preceded him in trying to retrospectively 'diagnose' these immortal dead.

Late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Vienna emerges as a remarkable city of musical innovation and clinical medicine. The composers' encounters with each other link these biographies. Similarly, many patrons, be they aristocrats or physicians, appear in more than one chapter, such as the Esterhazy family and Dr Anton Mesmer.

The disease concepts of the era, prevalent infections, and preferred therapies are treated with respect. Rigid public health rules in Vienna concerning burial practices meant that ceremonies could not take place in cemeteries and may explain why some unusual information is available and why other seemingly simple facts are lost.

Biographical information about the treating physicians is also given, together with a bibliography of secondary sources, and an index of specific works of music cited.

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Death Defier

Bissell, Tom

Last Updated: Apr-28-2005
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

While driving away from a dangerous city in an area of north Afghanistan ravaged by war, three men must journey by foot when their car is damaged in an accident. Donk is an American combat photographer. Hassan is a young Afghan translator. Graves is a British journalist suffering from a severe case of malaria and in desperate need of medication.

They arrive at a remote village ruled by a warlord, General Ismail Mohammed. Medication is unavailable there and transportation to a larger city is not possible for at least another day. The local doctor recommends an herbal remedy for the treatment of malaria, and General Mohammed attests to its effectiveness. The medicinal grass grows only in a nearby mountain valley. Two soldiers escort Donk and Hassan to the vale. They encounter a convoy of transport vehicles that have been incinerated by a bomb blast.

When the grass is finally in sight, Donk and Hassan race towards it even as the two soldiers shout at them. Too late! Donk steps on a bomblet and the device detonates. Badly injured (and maybe even mortally wounded), Donk and Hassan lie on their backs and gaze at the sky. They are surrounded by the thick grass they hoped might save the life of their companion, Graves.

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Summary:

This film by Danish filmmakers focuses on two Scots, Wilbur (Jamie Sives) and his older, considerate brother Harbour (Adrian Rawlins), who own a family buy-and-sell bookshop, North Books, in Glasgow. The opening movie credits intersperse with Wilbur's suicide attempt by pills and gassing himself. Wilbur's attempt is thwarted first by the fact that he has to put more coins into the apartment gas meter, and then by his brother, whom Wilbur had telephoned just before losing consciousness. Wilbur continues suicide attempts throughout much of the movie, with methods that range from the absurd to the disturbingly tragic.

The brothers' father had recently died and several scenes occur at a hillside cemetery. Surrounded by imposing stone monuments, the brothers' parents are buried without markers, but with a view, if you cock your head and imagine, of the bookshop. The tragedy of the mother's death when Wilbur was only 5 years old, is invoked to explain much of Wilbur's disturbance.

Early in the movie, Alice (Shirley Henderson), a waif-like single mother who cleans the operating and trauma theatres and sells books she finds at the hospital to the bookshop, is introduced, along with her soon to be 9 year old daughter, Mary (Lisa McKinlay). Alice and Harbour wed, and Mary presciently plunks a penguin eraser she has just received atop the wedding cake next to the bride and groom: "That's Wilbur," she says.

Two hospital workers feature prominently in the film. Horst (Mads Mikkelsen) is a Danish ex-pat physician and "senior psychologist." He chain smokes, distances himself from the group therapy he supposedly supervises, and yet deftly discusses bad news with Harbour in several scenes. The psychiatric nurse, Moira (Julia Davis), however, who, with ever-changing hairstyles and inappropriate nurse-patient interactions, acts primarily as comic relief, delivers the same bad news with unthinking, devastating directness.

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Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

In his mid-twenties and having been estranged from his family since his mid-teens, Andrew Largeman (Zach Braff) returns home to New Jersey for a few days to attend his mother's funeral. The world he meets there (in "The Garden State," ironically) is persistently unnatural and weird. His old school friends are leading grotesque and diminished lives, and Andrew dislikes and dreads his father, a psychiatrist played by Ian Holm, because of the prehistory we discover in mid-film. (Andrew's mother had suffered with depression, and young Andrew hated her for it. One day, aged 9, he gave her a shove, and freak circumstances led to a hard fall and her becoming paraplegic. Fifteen years later she has died in her bathtub, perhaps a suicide--although that isn't mentioned in the film.)

Andrew keeps his psychic distance from all this, with one fortunate exception: By chance he meets Samantha or "Sam" (Natalie Portman), a sweet loopy girl his age who lives in a child-like room in her mother's house and has a tendency to lie a lot and then confess. She and Andrew take a liking to each other, and a relationship develops that eventually helps Andrew come to terms with his mother's death, with his role in the tragic prehistory, and, thus, with his father and his own life, now able to begin, finally, as a young adult.

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Annotated by:
Donley, Carol

Primary Category: Literature / Literature

Genre: Anthology (Mixed Genres)

Summary:

As Bertman says in her introduction, this book "is meant to refuel therapists, counselors, social workers, physicians, nurses, clergy and all others who are committed to providing support to those in grief." While the caregivers' focus is on those in grief, they also have to give some attention to their own bodies, minds and spirits. This collection of essays, poems and stories, illustrated with drawings and photographs, examines grief from several perspectives.

The opening section looks at professional roles in experiencing and understanding suffering and empathy. Section two provides several descriptions of how caregivers use the arts for themselves and for those they companion. Section three is devoted to lessons from old and new cultures. The final section explores basic needs of grieving people.

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Surgical Ward

Auden, W.

Last Updated: Feb-17-2005
Annotated by:
Stanford, Ann Folwell

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

Beginning with the words, "They are and suffer, that is all they do," this poem describes the experience of those who are recovering from surgery and their treatment at the hands of impersonal doctors ("The treatment that the instruments are giving"). Suffering and pain narrow the patient's world and isolate patients who "lie apart like epochs from each other" and for whom "truth" is "how much they can bear."

The speaker also describes how difficult it is to imagine pain when one does not have it ("we stand elsewhere / For who when healthy can become a foot?"). Finally, the speaker refers to "the common world of the uninjured" where we "cannot / Imagine isolation," but share happiness, anger and "the idea of love."

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To a Distant Island

McConkey, James

Last Updated: Jan-31-2005
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Biography

Summary:

During a sabbatical year in Florence, English professor and writer James McConkey immersed himself in reading Anton Chekhov’s works, as well as biographies of the Russian writer. He began to feel a particular affinity for Chekhov’s crisis of 1889-1890 and his resolution of that crisis by traveling alone to Sakhalin Island off the eastern coast of Siberia to investigate conditions in the penal colonies that the Russian government had established in that distant region. Perhaps because McConkey himself was recovering from a series of traumatic experiences in his own life, he felt a kinship to this depressed young Russian author and his search for a new direction in life.

McConkey responded to this feeling of kinship by writing To a Distant Island, which is partly biographical, in that it retells the story of Chekhov’s six month long journey to Sakhalin Island in 1890; and partly a memoir, in that McConkey relates Chekhov’s life events to the feelings and events of his own life at the time. McConkey establishes this perspective from the beginning, when he explains why he refers to Chekhov throughout the book as "T": "I honor the man too much to call him by name throughout an account, which. . . is bound to be a fiction of my own" (8).

To a Distant Island dwells especially on the motivation for Chekhov’s journey to Sakhalin, a question scholars have debated for a hundred years now. Of the many contributing reasons for the trip, McConkey chooses to highlight and fictionalize "the suicidal tendency that surfaced again a decade later in the marriage his health simply couldn’t afford" (26). McConkey refines this to "T. wants to escape--he wants out, at whatever the personal cost" (27). It is in this state of mind (or soul) that the brilliant and sensitive T. begins his journey to the end of the earth.

Perhaps as a metaphor that characterizes any human quest, McConkey devotes most of the writing and energy to T’s justification, preparation, and outward-bound journey. Only 37 pages remain for the story of what happens to his hero once the goal is achieved; and less than 6 pages for the homeward trek (or homeward "sail" in this case). [This is a technique, come to think of it, quite the opposite of Homer’s in "The Odyssey"!]

The conclusion? "Sakhalin, then, gave to T. nothing he hadn’t known all along. . . Perhaps despair--that absence of hope--is a requisite for any deepened understanding of a universal hope for something never to be found in the present time or place" (82).

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Doctor Jazz: Poems 1996-2000

Carruth, Hayden

Last Updated: Jan-31-2005
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

Written while Carruth was approaching or had reached the age of 80 years, this collection understandably reflects the recognition of aging, loss, and of a changing world. Also, there are memories--of jazz and jazz players, relatives, pets, youth. And there is life in the present--with grown children, old friends, the Vermont countryside, writing, remembering, coping, not coping. Throughout, Carruth has a no-nonsense style; a mixture of straight talk, irony, irreverence, contemplation--and wonderful craft.

Carruth's adult daughter, Martha, died miserably of cancer in the late 1990s; in Part II, "Martha," Carruth describes himself as "blocked and almost silent / for two years. Titled "Dearest M --", this is a 15-page elegy that accomplishes "a release of some dire kind" (46) for Carruth, but he can't take pleasure in the release, feeling shame instead ("how shaming, how / offensive!"). Even in his mourning, Carruth raises questions about the ethics of writing such poems, and questions whom he is addressing ("not Martha. The absence / is like a hollow in my mind" [48]).

Section IV, "Faxes to William," is a series of 54 short poems addressed in "faxes" to a mysterious William: "William, do you know why / I like writing these faxes / to you? Because you / don't have a fax machine" (75). The poems instruct William about writing poetry ("some poets write blurbs, William, / and some do not. And it is by / a law of nature that the former / envy the latter desperately . . . They have unmade / their beds and they must schlepp in them" [67]); and life ("William, for the things / life didn't give us / we have no / compensation. None." [7]); and pose conversational questions ("You say I shouldn't write / so much about old age?) that have their own answers (I always / told my students to write / about what they know" [86]).

Section V, "Basho," is in dialogue with a 17th-century Japanese poet who is considered to be the best haiku poet during the time this form was being developed. Carruth's haiku-like poems in this section blend reflections on aging with reflections on writing poetry.

The final section, "Second Scrapbook," continues to explore memories ("Memory," in which Carruth learns of a former wife's death and can remember her--fondly--only as she was years ago. "My dear, / How could you have let this happen to you?" [116]); growing old ("Senility": "week after week, the mist gathering" [120]); representation ("Something for the Trade": Please note well, all you writers, editors, directors / out there: when a phone call is terminated / by the other person you do not, NOT, hear / a dial tone" [121]).

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