Showing 281 - 290 of 472 annotations tagged with the keyword "Time"

Giving Blood

Updike, John

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

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

When a cousin is scheduled for major surgery, Richard and Joan Maple volunteer to donate blood. They have been married for nine years. During their drive to the hospital, the Maples argue about Richard's behavior at a party. The intern who performs the phlebotomy is clumsy and rough. He needs three attempts to successfully insert the needle into Richard's vein.

Richard and Joan occupy beds at right angles during the procedure and their blood is taken simultaneously. While watching the blood flow from his wife's arm, Richard experiences deep tenderness for her. An elderly man arrives and chats with the intern. Because Richard has never donated blood before, the three others in the room (Joan, the doctor, and the old man) all expect him to faint, but Richard never does.

The Maples have lunch afterwards. When the check arrives, Richard discovers he has only one dollar in his wallet. He and Joan must both pay. That's how marriage usually works.

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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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The Persistence of Desire

Updike, John

Last Updated: May-05-2005
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Middle-aged Clyde Behn has been bothered by a twitching eyelid for two months. His doctor in Massachusetts diagnoses the disorder as minor and transient. While visiting his mother in the town in Pennsylvania where he grew up, Clyde seeks advice from his former eye, ear, nose, and throat specialist. Dr. Pennypacker examines Clyde but is less concerned with the twitch than a possible fungus problem of Clyde's eyelashes. The ENT specialist eventually decides the tic is the result of muscle fatigue.

While at Pennypacker's office, Clyde encounters a former girlfriend, Janet. Although both are now married, Clyde is still attracted to her and asks to see her again. Janet slips a handwritten note into Clyde's shirt pocket and then leaves. Because his eyes have been dilated by Pennypacker, Clyde is unable to read the note. Even so, he exits the doctor's office buoyed by the familiarity of his hometown and the promise of recapturing a bit of his youth.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

A stern, old doctor (Victor Sjostrom) is preparing to travel by car to Lund to receive an honorary degree. He has a disquieting dream in which he perceives his own death as the frightening, lonely end to a hollow existence. In the morning, his gruff demeanor is considerably altered by the intimations of mortality. His daughter-in-law (Ingrid Thulin), who has inexplicably been visiting, decides to accompany him to Lund. En route they encounter a trio of mirthful teenagers, a bickering married couple, and grateful patients. They also visit the doctor's mother.

The dream and the journey unleash a recurring flood of memories of youthful summers at the family home among the wild strawberries and of his unrequited love for a beautiful cousin. He learns that his daughter-in-law is pregnant, but his only son is about to repeat his mistakes by rejecting an emotional bond with his wife and his future child in the empty pursuit of professional achievement. The pregnancy is the reason she left her husband to visit his father. At the end, the doctor establishes a small but real rapport with his son and achieves a degree of understanding about his own life.

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Sarcophagus

Selzer, Richard

Last Updated: Feb-07-2005
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The surgeon-narrator and his team of assistants (the anesthesiologist, scrub nurse, circulating nurse, surgical resident, and medical student) perform a difficult operation during the night. The patient has an infiltrating cancer of the stomach (linitis plastica) that has eroded his aorta. Because of uncontrollable bleeding, the operation (an exploratory laparotomy with attempted repair of a malignant aorto-gastric fistula) is as doomed as the patient himself.

The surgeon soon comprehends the hopelessness of the procedure as well as the patient's terminal condition. He turns off the oxygen from the gas tank and stops the patient's blood transfusion. Minutes later, the man dies. Blood is all over everything. The doctor must now deliver the bad news to the man's family. He has the medical student tag along.

Members of the patient's family are upset and some are even out of control so he dispenses tranquilizers to them. The surgeon returns to the operating room (OR) and even now finds blood everywhere. The OR team is still working. The doctor showers and then goes back to the OR once more. The room is now dark and empty but clean. The surgeon imagines the dead man's body with a row of abdominal stitches that he likens to hieroglyphics. The unsuccessful operation and the surgeon's actions are thus both concealed and unforgettable.

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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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The Speckled Rash

Bulgakov, Mikhail

Last Updated: Jan-31-2005
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The narrator of the story, a former district doctor in Russia, reminisces about his frequent encounters with patients suffering from secondary syphilis ("the speckled rash"). The first case he diagnoses is a 40-year-old man seeking treatment for a sore throat. The doctor recommends the application of a bagful of mercury ointment once a day and a follow-up visit after 6 days, but the man never returns. The physician advises him that his wife needs to be examined also, but she is never seen in the clinic.

The doctor remembers many other cases of secondary syphilis in the community. Except for one young woman, patients seem to have little fear of the disease. Children and even entire families are infected. The physician decides to tackle the widespread venereal disease and to confront the rampant patient apathy in the district.

His weapons include mercury ointment, potassium iodide, Salvarsan (an arsenic compound) injections, harsh words, and warnings about the horrible effects of the disease if left untreated. He opens an inpatient unit to treat patients with syphilis. Now long-removed from that remote medical outpost, the narrator still wonders about the people living there.

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An Absence of Windows

Selzer, Richard

Last Updated: Jan-31-2005
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay

Summary:

Fifty-two year old Pete, the hospital mailman, suddenly experiences severe abdominal pain. He is evaluated and treated in the emergency room. His diagnosis is acute surgical abdomen, but the exact cause of his pain is still unknown. The surgeon-narrator determines that the severity of Pete's condition mandates exploratory surgery. During the operation, "an old enemy" (18) is encountered--pancreatitis.

Afterwards, the surgeon assures Pete that he will get better. One week later though, the mailman dies. His death has been painful. An autopsy is scheduled, but the surgeon deliberately arrives 20 minutes late. He does not want to view the intact body of his deceased patient. No matter, the pathologist has waited for him to arrive before beginning the post-mortem examination. The pathologist closes Pete's eyelids before starting the autopsy, mindful of how the mailman's "blue eyes used to twinkle" (21) when he delivered the mail everyday.

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The Vanishing Eye

Bulgakov, Mikhail

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

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Looking back on his first year of medical practice in an out-of-the-way section of Russia, a 25 year old physician reflects on how much he has changed both personally and professionally. He lists the year's accomplishments: performing a tracheostomy, successful intubations, amputations, many obstetrical deliveries, and setting several fractures and dislocations. With pride, the doctor calculates he has seen 15,613 patients in his first twelve months of practice.

He recalls some poignant moments. A pregnant woman has a baby while lying in the grass near a stream. The doctor pulls a soldier's carious tooth but is horrified when a piece of bone is attached to it. During a delivery, he inadvertently fractures a baby's arm and the infant is born dead.

Basking in his year's worth of experience and newfound clinical confidence, the physician quickly comprehends the limits of his knowledge on the first day of his second year in practice when a mother brings her baby to the doctor. The infant's left eye appears to be missing. In its place sits an egg-like nodule. Unsure of the diagnosis and worried about the possibility of a tumor, the physician recommends cutting the nodule out. The mother refuses. One week later she returns with her child whose left eye is now normal in appearance. The doctor deduces that the boy had an abscess of the eyelid that had spontaneously ruptured.

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Sacred Statues

Trevor, William

Last Updated: Jan-26-2005
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A husband and wife in Ireland struggle to make ends meet. Corry and Nuala, each 31 years old, have 3 children. Corry works at the joinery. He also carves religious statues on the side. A wealthy English woman is impressed by his artwork and encourages Corry to pursue his craft fulltime. His talent is undeniable, but there is no market for his wooden statues.

Now Nuala is pregnant and Corry is without a job. The English woman's wealth has vanished, and she can no longer help the couple financially. Nuala offers to sell her unborn baby to an infertile couple, Mr. and Mrs. Rynne, who long for a child of their own. Mrs. Rynne is shocked by Nuala's proposition and rejects it. Corry turns down work as an apprentice tombstone engraver but accepts a job working on the roads.

Nuala is angry about the way events have unfolded. She finds solace, however, in the concrete shed that functions as her husband's workshop. As she views the wooden figures of saints, Madonnas, and the Stations of the Cross created by her husband, Nuala concludes, "The world, not she, had failed" (152).

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