Showing 281 - 290 of 523 annotations tagged with the keyword "Ordinary Life"

Dancing with Elvis

Stephenson, Lynda

Last Updated: Aug-15-2006
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Fifteen-year-old Frankilee's sense of justice leads her to conspire with her mother to kidnap Angelica Musseldorf from a home where there is every evidence she has been consistently beaten and abused. With reluctant cooperation from her father, they take the girl in, confront the parents, and install her in Frankilee's room for an indefinite stay. Angelica, who asks to be called Angel, is not only scarred, but needy--indeed, over time, demanding. As her parents shower her new roommate with attention, clothing, lessons, Frankilee struggles with her deepening resentments. She confides them to Wanita, the family cook, an African American whose long service to the family has given her a place of special affection.

When Wanita's son is killed in an accidental shooting, Wanita abandons the family for a time; she returns, sorrowful, but steady, to see Frankilee through her own trauma. Suspicions aroused, Frankilee decides to do some detective work with the help of a reluctant boyfriend, and discovers that Angel's "parents" are an aunt and uncle with a criminal record in fraud; they have staged abuse in order to situate their orphaned niece with unsuspecting families of means who will take on the expense of her upbringing and education. In her efforts to expose the fraud, Frankilee is attacked by the aunt who is, in fact, violent, but she survives with some stitches and a sobering sense of what it might mean to be both kind and discerning in offering help.

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Balancing Acts

Schwartz, Lynne Sharon

Last Updated: Aug-15-2006
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Max, who has lost his wife after a long life and career together as circus acrobats, reluctantly retires to an assisted living home. There he finds unexpected friendship first in his neighbor, Lettie, a widow who has a gift for uncomplicated kindness, and Alison, a thirteen-year-old he meets when he gives juggling and stunt lessons at the local junior high. The unhealed ache of his wife's slow death from cancer makes Max skittish about opening his heart to either of them, though Lettie offers him patient companionship and Alison, full of adolescent restlessness, unfocused intelligence, and need, desperately wants something of the grandfatherly good humor and wit she finds in Max.

Alison's mother is pregnant with a long-delayed second child and the distance she feels from her parents drive her to lengthy novel-writing and to rather pushy efforts to make Max her special friend. For him, she learns to juggle. She cuts class to visit him, and to go out for sodas with Lettie. Alienated from peers she finds silly, the old people touch a place in her that needs love. After a heart attack, Max comes home with newly raised defenses, and retreats from the budding friendship with both women.

But when Alison runs away to a circus he refused to attend with her, and then to Penn Station, Max goes with her parents and finds her on a hunch. Found, she clings to him like a small child, and he finds himself full of a long-resisted love. On the way home, however, he succumbs to a heart attack. In the final chapter, Lettie helps Alison begin the long, difficult process of accepting mortality, grief, and the possibility of eventual healing from a loss of a kind she finds herself still unable fully to articulate to anyone she believes will understand.

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Adam

Vonnegut, Jr., Kurt

Last Updated: Aug-10-2006
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

An expectant father waits to learn the outcome of his wife’s labor and delivery. In his brief exchanges with another father-to-be the reader is apprised of Mr. Knechtmann’s history. He and his wife are holocaust survivors; their only prior child died in a displaced-person’s camp in Germany--and there is no one to carry on the proud family name if this infant is not healthy. A bored nurse comes to inform Heinz that he has a son and everyone is well.

The ecstatic father seeks someone to share in his joy. The folks in the bar across the street could care less; the delivering physician just wants to go to sleep; the other father now has seven daughters and can’t get too excited about someone else’s son. Even a fellow worker whom Heinz meets on the street is politely unimpressed. Only when he can finally visit with the baby’s mother can he find a partner in joy. She says, "It’s the most wonderful thing that ever happened, isn’t it?"

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Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Warren Schmidt, played by Jack Nicholson, is a middle level officer in an Omaha insurance company who faces retirement and, shortly afterward, the sudden death of his wife of 42 years. He struggles with emotional chaos and mental confusion and with the nagging thought that his life is over and that he has failed to make the world better in any way.

An additional complication is that his only child, Jeannie (Hope Davis), is planning to marry a man (Randall, played by Dermott Mulroney) Schmidt strongly feels is below her. He tries several times to prevent the marriage but fails at that, too. Returning home from the wedding in despair, Schmidt finds a piece of mail with a drawing made by a young boy in Tanzania he had begun to support just after he retired, and the final scene shows him deeply moved.

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Totally

Hoagland, Tony

Last Updated: Jul-10-2006
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

This is a poem that celebrates the divided self and disconnection. The speaker wonders whether his tendency to be scattered--to not "find out till tomorrow / what you felt today"--is natural, is in fact, "what makes our species great." Is this "dividedness" what allowed "surgeon Keats to find a perfect rhyme / wrist-deep in the disorder / of an open abdomen"? The poem ends with another kind of disconnectedness: a deliberate separation of self from "the whole world in unison" that is preparing itself for the onset of winter: "I have this strange conviction / that I am going to be born."

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Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Summary:

A woman dressed in simple clothes sits sideways in a small room. The furniture is sparse and primitive; a shaft of daylight shines from above into a corner--the effect is almost dungeon-like. In the left foreground is a standing object--perhaps a churn or other implement.

The woman is leaning forward, facing the floor, the left side of her head resting on her bent left arm. Her eyes seem to be closed. Close by, in a corner, two young children are tangled up with each other--playing or fighting.

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Girl, Interrupted

Kaysen, Susanna

Last Updated: May-17-2006
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Written with controlled elegance, this is an absorbing autobiographical account of psychiatric hospitalization. Twenty-five years after the fact, the author describes the two years during her late adolescence in which she "slip[ped] into a parallel universe." The surreal nature of the experience is reflected in darkly comedic recollections of her inner life, the other patients, their families, the staff, and of forays into the outside world.

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Annotated by:
Nixon, Lois LaCivita

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Set in the 1950s Eisenhower era, this film creates an enlarged snapshot of a model suburban household in Connecticut as well as a companion negative of two suppressed social issues lurking beneath the painfully smooth surface. In his effort to portray dominant values, as well as the melodramatic look and feel of the period, Director Hayes appropriates visual effects and music associated with fifties films by Douglas Sirk such as "All That Heaven Allows" with Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman. Colors are too vivid; music heavily underlines emotional elements; and stylistically designed sets reflect superficial ideals. Too perfect.

Moving from the margins and into the center two disruptive shadows gradually emerge, one dealing with race, the other with homosexuality. In the years preceding racial protests and riots and in a time when few could imagine public conversation about sexual orientations, use of condoms, or AIDS, the story reveals unspeakable abuses, intolerances, and injustices that have subsequently been addressed but not resolved.

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What are Tuesdays Like?

Bumbalo, Victor

Last Updated: May-12-2006
Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

This AIDS play removes "the fourth wall" of a waiting room at an HIV clinic. Using numerous scenes the audience is able to sense how over a period of time a group of strangers thrown together by circumstance "travel the way to friendship, and, finally to family." (from author's note) Juxtaposed through the characters in this play are boundary issues dealing with differences and similarities among gay/straight, rich/poor, black/white, sick/healthy responses to HIV/AIDS.

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The Body Beautiful

Onwurah, Ngozi

Last Updated: May-12-2006
Annotated by:
Holmes, Martha Stoddard

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

This documentary, narrated alternately by the daughter-filmmaker and mother whose stories it tells, focuses on how two women move apart and together while experiencing, respectively, adolescence and mid-life. The mother has cancer, a mastectomy, and then rheumatoid arthritis, and these experiences intertwine thematically and structurally with the narrative of the mother-daughter relationship.

Another provocative juxtaposition cross-cuts scenes from the daughter's modeling career (and the social and erotic body that context constructs for her) with scenes of the mother's illness, stigmatization, and erotic daydreams. Both women come to a new awareness of the social meaning of mastectomy within heterosexual and same-sex contexts by the documentary's end; they also come to a place of recognition of the mother's personal and social value and the nature of their relationship.

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