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Spinoza's Mouse

Young, George

Last Updated: Apr-23-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

Many of the poems in this volume bring historical figures to life; these include figures as varied as "Wallace Stevens, Walking," "The Death of Shelley," "Rembrandt's Head," "Immanuel Kant," and "David Hume and the Butterfly." Some, such as "The Miracle," "Dr. Beaumont's Miraculous Hole," and "The Corpse in the White House," focus on specifically "medical" aspects of history. Dr. Young also includes a number of poems that arise from his own experience as a practitioner; e.g. "The Rodeo Queen," "The Medusa," and "Night Call."

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

This collection includes a number of poems that speak directly to healing and the medical experience; for example, "The Wound Man," "Blood of a Poet," "Carmelita," and "Alzheimer's Disease." Others bring the author's medical sensibility to totally different topics and experiences; for example, "Freud's London House," "Square One," "The Path Through the Irises," "To Anne Sexton's Analyst," and "Orienteering."

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Hospital Time

Hoffman, Amy

Last Updated: Apr-03-1997
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

The memoir is divided into roughly two halves: before Mike's death and after Mike's death. The narrator is one of the dying man's circle of gay and lesbian friends, and becomes, for unclear reason's, his most involved caregiver. She goes to his apartment on summons at any hour, flies to Memphis when Michael is hospitalized after collapsing, loans him money, and endures relentless psychological abuse as his cognitive powers fade.

In the second half of the book, the writer reflects. Her anger toward Mike's disease, AIDS, and Mike himself does not seem tempered by the passage of time. She is still struggling at the end of the tale, more than two years after Mike's death.

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Sister Gin

Arnold, June

Last Updated: Apr-03-1997
Annotated by:
Poirier, Suzanne

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Su, a highly regarded journalist in a southern city, is going through a rocky menopause. In addition, her longtime partnership with her lover, Bettina, is faltering; she is having trouble writing; and she finds herself falling in love with octogenarian Mamie Carter, whose bridge club also metes vigilante justice on perpetrators of domestic violence. Into Su's hectic life appears Sister Gin, a mysterious figure who leaves notes challenging Su's work and sense of herself.

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The Love Hunter

Hassler, Jon

Last Updated: Apr-03-1997
Annotated by:
Poirier, Suzanne

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Larry is dying of multiple sclerosis. He walks only with assistance, suffers severe depression, is beginning to be incontinent, and has attempted suicide. His best friend, Chris, decides to take him duck hunting, a sport that has been central to their close relationship. This, however, will be their last trip: Chris has decided to drown Larry in the marsh, as a last act of his love.

As this novel retraces the growth of their friendship, it also traces the growth of Chris's love for Larry's wife, Rachel. Rachel has been an almost saintly caregiver for her husband, weathering his increasing disability and despair, while struggling to maintain her own identity and peace of mind.

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Theatre of Pain

Spires, Elizabeth

Last Updated: Apr-03-1997
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The narrator of this 37-line poem describes childbirth and its immediate aftermath, when she is recuperating in the hospital with her baby. The first 14 lines focus on the "theatre of pain"--the actual and conceptual space in which the pain of childbirth is experienced. Childbirth is painful, all-absorbing, surreal: " a dream of world . . . wave after wave knocking me down" until, after the anesthetic, "I was on an island where no wind blew . . . ."

Then, suddenly, the poem shifts, when, "with a final push you were born," and we realize that it is the child whom the poet is addressing. As the baby is born, the new mother is no longer alone; she and the baby are part of the same process, "leaving the two of us half drowned and clinging to the shore . . . ." "We would meet," she says, "meet for the first time." While the baby’s birth is "engraved upon the world forever . . . " paradoxically, the outside world is "completely, most completely, unaware of you."

As the narrator/new mother recovers in her hospital room, the day’s routine impinges on this intense experience and she becomes aware once again of her surroundings. Life and death go on around them; the world is oblivious, even as her own life has been altered forever. And yet the nurses too seem to recognize the tremendous implications: "amazed, . . . lifting you high into the air," they cry, "Welcome to the World!"

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Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Miranda's narrative opens with a fretful dream foreshadowing death as the first hint that she is becoming ill during the course of the deadly influenza epidemic of 1917-18. The tightly woven story takes the reader through a month of Miranda's life as a newspaper theatre columnist, a young single woman struggling with a relationship with a soldier about to be "shipped over," and an observer of the World War I frenzy that engulfed America.

The final pages are made up of Miranda's intermittent delirious dreams and perceptions from the depth of her illness. She slowly recovers, only to learn that her Adam has succumbed to the same illness and that the war has ended.

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The Moviegoer

Percy, Walker

Last Updated: Mar-25-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

John Binkerson ("Binx") Bolling is a young man from a "good" New Orleans family who for some years has devoted himself to money, sex, and watching movies. During Mardi Gras, when the novel begins, he wakes up to the vague feeling that something more is needed in his life.

We meet his Aunt Emily, a Southern noblewoman, and his cousin Kate, who is said to be somewhat unstable since her fiance's death some years earlier; she is currently engaged to the virtually invisible Walter. The action also takes us to the bayous, where Binx visits his remarried (Catholic) mother and her family, including his sickly adolescent stepbrother, Lonnie. (Binx's father died in World War II; Binx, himself, has survived service in the Korean Conflict.)

Subsequently, Binx takes a trip to Chicago with Kate; on the train she offers to have sex with him, but he refuses. Binx and Kate must then respond to Lonnie's unexpected death. In the end Binx decides to give up his business as a bond dealer and go to medical school, and he and Kate decide to marry.

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In the Penal Colony

Kafka, Franz

Last Updated: Mar-24-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

An explorer visits the penal colony, where an officer demonstrates to him the Harrow, an instrument used to inflict capital punishment. The Harrow is an extraordinarily elegant instrument: the condemned man lies face-down on a Bed, while a complex system of needles inscribes the commandment he has broken (e.g. HONOR THY SUPERIORS) on his back. The needles pierce deeper and deeper until the prisoner dies. In the process of dying, however, the condemned man finally understands the nature of justice and his punishment. His face is transfigured, a sight edifying to all those who watch. The officer begins to demonstrate the Harrow on a prisoner condemned to die because he was sleeping on duty.

The machine was conceived and developed by the former Commandant. It soon becomes clear that the explorer does not approve of the death-machine and that he feels morally bound to express this disapproval to the new Commandant, who is already known to have serious questions about using the Harrow as a method of punishment. Suddenly, the officer removes the condemned man from the Bed and takes his place. Before doing so, he adjusts the machine to inscribe "BE JUST." The Harrow begins its grisly work on the officer's back, but malfunctions and goes to pieces--but not before the self-condemned officer has died.

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This Red Oozing

Bryner, Jeanne

Last Updated: Mar-24-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The hostess at Benny's Lounge comes to the Emergency Room after being raped at gunpoint by "a friend of a friend." The doctor makes her tell the story of the rape again: "How tight he holds the muzzle to your neck, / jerks your dark hair like a mane and rips / you until you bleed . . . . " But the poet knows that "this red oozing" will not fill the rapist. It never does. She knows "how he rapes you / endlessly . . . How his boots climb the back stairs / of your mind year after year / as he comes and comes and comes."

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