Showing 31 - 40 of 141 annotations contributed by Willms, Janice

'night, mother

Norman, Marsha

Last Updated: Sep-01-2006
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

A daughter and her mother play out a psychological drama that is the culmination of a lifetime of poor communication and limited understanding. Laced with humor and a bit of the macabre, the scenes in this short, two-act play work inexorably toward the climax--suicide of the daughter and incomplete resolution of the mother’s confusion.

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The Murderer

Bulgakov, Mikhail

Last Updated: Sep-01-2006
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Doctor Yashvin sits with his colleagues and admits, "I have killed a man." The story of his resistance activity during the Bolshevik revolution ensues. The young doctor was called to serve as the personal physician of an enemy colonel. In this command the doctor witnesses horrible atrocities against common people as well as resistance fighters, the last straw being the brutal beating of a woman who comes demanding to know why her husband has been shot. Called upon to attend to a knife wound sustained by the colonel and finding the latter in a vulnerable position, Yashvin takes advantage of the moment, shoots the colonel dead, and escapes.

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Montana 1948

Watson, Larry

Last Updated: Sep-01-2006
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This little novel is the retrospective tale of a childhood event told by the protagonist 40 years later. Family relationships and bonds in conflict with professional and community obligations vie with the shadow of racism and sexual abuse in the doctor/patient relationship for the core tensions in the book. The setting is a small rural community where the pioneer family about which the tale evolves controls the law and the medicine. The boy narrator relates his view of the breakdown of family as its secret--a physician uncle who is suspected of sexually abusing his native-American women patients--becomes a force that demands action from the doctor’s brother who serves as the sheriff.

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Nightwood

Barnes, Djuna

Last Updated: Sep-01-2006
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This strange little tale, set in western Europe, revolves around the shifting relationships among an Irish doctor, a would-be Austrian baron, a circus performer, and the American woman, Robin, who is to become the nemesis of them all. The plot is unfolded in a long series of conversations, many convoluted by their stream-of-consciousness style, rather than in observed action.

The physician (it is never clearly stated that he is a fully trained physician but the point is probably moot, since he assumes the role), the most consistently present and verbal character, is a study in contradictions. He is essentially never portrayed in a classic physician role, but much is made of his profession. This may be explained by the fact that it is his profession that justifies his central position--he knows and is in the confidence of all other characters. The reader follows, by means of the long and complex dialogues, Robin’s systematic destruction of a chain of male and female lovers in what appears to be an obsessive desire for self-destruction.

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Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

This collection of poetry evolves from one woman’s experience with the discovery of a lump in her breast, the removal of the breast, the assault of follow-up treatment and its impact on her sense of self as well as the relationship with her husband and her environment. The poems are brief, pointed, and deeply reflective of the author’s relationship with her surroundings and her history.

Among the issues the poems most effectively address is that of loss: "I dream of losing / my car, my purse, my period" (from "On First Learning of the Lump"); and "The world’s not keeping things safe / The world’s taking away what I want" (from "What I Want"); and "You believed your dead body / would have all its fingers / all its knowledge" (from "Apologia").

The author also speaks to the importance of breasts ("Terrain") as an integral part of who she is, and the memories of times past in which she was whole as one with nature ("Bird Feeder," "Pine Forest," "Peonies").

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Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

This troubling narrative opens with, "They say you see your whole life pass in review the instant before you die. How would they know? If you die after the instant replay, you aren’t around to tell anyone anything" (120). The narrator, a newborn girl on her way down the garbage chute from the 10th floor of an apartment building, reflects on what might have been had she lived long enough to have experienced life.

The structure of the piece moves the reader from floors ten, nine, into the game of chance played with dice, to "The Floor of Facts." At this juncture, the newspaper account of the newborn dead in the trash is iterated in its cold truths. The narrator laments, "As grateful as I am to have my story made public you should be able to understand why I feel cheated, why the newspaper account is not enough, why I want my voice to be part of the record" (123). The narrator shifts gears and begins to explore what her life might have been had she lived beyond these few hours.

She enters a "Floor of Opinions," where her own beliefs must be voiced and for which there must be room on the "Floor of Facts." She speculates, based on the experiences of her socioeconomic--and possibly racial--situation, whether her death will serve any purpose. On the "Floor Of Wishes" she imagines things she would have likely loved, such as Christmas. From this point, the narrative, in quick and painful anecdotes, draws the reality of the powerlessness, the limitations of love, and the brutality suffered by those in the clutches of urban poverty. Then the narrator enters the garbage compactor at the bottom of the chute, inviting us all to join her "where the heart stops."

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Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Dr. Slocum leads his readers through some of the high (and low) points of his 34 years of general medical practice in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan. The work opens as he and his wife and nurse of as many years close the office they have shared for the last time. Then moving backward for a few chapters, the author discusses briefly his training, including a critical four-month period in Vienna in the year 1932. Slocum was awaiting the results of his Medical board examination and while doing some advance study, experienced first hand the early stages of Nazi activity against Jews in Austria.

After their return to the states and the doctor’s completion of his internship, the young couple located office and home in Manhattan. The remainder of the book is devoted to descriptions of critical events and important professional encounters in more than three decades, organized by chapter, most of which encapsulate a patient and, when present, his or her family.

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Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

A theatre classic about a dysfunctional family, whose summer on the shore is flawed by alcohol, tuberculosis, drug addiction, and denial of all of the above. Considered by biographers to be highly autobiographical, the plot of the play centers about the progressive retreat by wife and mother into drugs as her husband and sons pretend they do not see. Alcohol abuse among the men of the family contributes to the rising tension in the work, as does increasing concern about one son’s tuberculosis. The action and psychological power of the play accelerate steadily through the first three acts, then climax with recognition of the brutal realities in the final act.

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A Leg to Stand On

Sacks, Oliver

Last Updated: Aug-30-2006
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Autobiography

Summary:

This is a story of injury in the midst of exuberant good health, followed by a progressively darkening journey. The writer experiences a period of isolation from normal life by his hospitalization, isolation from a part of his body by neurosensory damage to the injured leg, isolation from the security of medical colleagues by their insensitivity to his anguish. Sacks reaches a psychological nadir before beginning his return. He chronicles, retrospectively, the stages of this trip. As in the classical journey myths, the traveler returns with new insight and an altered vision of the meaning of disease.

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Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

This short play is set in rural Spain at the turn of this century. The characters, all women, exist in a cloistered household managed by a newly widowed mother of five daughters. Under the shadow of the church and the tyranny bred from a need to protect the reputation of the family, the matron (Bernarda Alba) represses her daughters by enforcing an eight year mourning period. The tensions build rapidly among the imprisoned women, with a demented grandmother playing a role resembling that of a Greek chorus. Eventually, the natural spirits of the daughters circumvent Bernarda, but the result is violence and a suicide.

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