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Summary:Kenan Oak returns from World War I to a small Ontario town. He is virtually unable to speak and dares not venture from his home. Adopted by a reclusive uncle at an early age, he has no immediate family but his wife, Tressa, who loves him and accepts his disability with good grace. They have been trying to have a child without success, and the glimmers of Kenan’s recovery are dauntingly few and faint. Slowly with the help of his uncle Am, he begins to go out at night for walks in the woods and skating on the ice of the lake.
Summary:The speaker of this dramatic monologue in prose is an archangel. He attempts to tell his listeners—mortals, presumably—of the beauty to be treasured in the extraordinary ordinary of the everyday world. The Archangel speaks in nothing less than glorious diction, baroque syntax, and enchanting rhythm: he labors, rhetorically, to communicate in a language congruent with the complex, extravagant beauty of the world he describes. He pleads with his audience to listen to him and share in the profound aesthetic experience so readily available—but he pleads to no avail: his audience will not listen. In response to his audience's attempted departure, the Archangel implores, “Wait. Listen. I will begin again.”
Summary:The therapeutic benefits of music are well known, but the theory that music might be harmful to our health, unless it is so obviously loud it injures our eardrums, comes as a surprise. In this volume, historian of medicine James Kennaway traces the idea of pathological music from antiquity to the present. The book’s introduction considers whether music really can create illness, whether it be of a physiological or a psychological nature. We learn, for example, of arrhythmias and seizure disorders that are set off by music, not to mention the so-called Stendhal Syndrome, a psychosomatic reaction to great works of art.
Summary:The narrator of this story is a lifeguard who contemplates his identity and life-roles as he lounges in his lifeguard chair, elevated above the crowd of beachgoers. In the winter months, he is a student of divinity; in the summer months, he ascends the throne marked with a red cross in the hopes of guarding the lives of those at play before him. While he remains vigilant for calls of help, those calls never come, and the lifeguard confronts the troubling insight of the limited contributions he’s devoting his life to make.
Summary:This short but complex book assesses the many, current risks to all life on earth and considers some avenues for repair that may provide hope for the future. E. O. Wilson, a distinguished scientist, describes how all life on earth is inter-related. With a long view to the past and a wide view of the present—from microscopic creatures to humans—Wilson praises our planet’s biodiversity and warns of the dangers that may cause it to collapse; these dangers are human-related. Humans are an apex predator, smarter than all other creatures, but we are also too numerous, using too many resources, and causing various pollutions, including global warming. The health of the world and the health of all its creatures—humans included— are, for better or worse, interlinked forever.
Summary:On February 7, 1649 –one week after the execution by decapitation of Charles I, his royal physician, William Harvey (1578-1657), discoverer of the circulation of the blood, writes to his cousin, Edward Francis, a lawyer, once his friend but now firmly in the camp of Cromwell. Harvey muses on how his responsibilities as physician to the king must place him in the royalist camp. But as a doctor he will tend to anybody – Every Body—because all bodies are governed by the same natural laws. He wonders what his place will be in the new political order. And he wonders if his cousin noticed him when he stood by the king in battle – and if they will ever meet again in friendship.
Summary:Approaching age 60 and childless, Fiona Maye is a family court judge who must decide if 17 year-old Adam has the right to refuse blood transfusions for his leukemia. He and his parents are Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Children Act does not allow a child to make this decision until age 18. Fiona is an atheist and her 35-year marriage to an academic is falling apart. She takes the extraordinary step of visiting Adam to know him and understand his conviction. He is beautiful and gifted, he writes poetry and plays violin. Why would he not want to try to live? She makes her decision having no idea if it will be morally, legally or medically right. To say more would spoil it.
Summary:Frank Drum, 13, and his younger brother Jake are catapulted into adulthood the summer of 1961 in their small Minnesota town as they become involved in investigation of a series of violent deaths. Their father, a Methodist minister, and their mother, a singer and musician, can’t protect them from knowing more than children perhaps should know about suicide, mental illness, and unprovoked violence. The story is Frank’s retrospective, 40 years later, on that summer and its lasting impact on their family, including what he and his brother learned about the complicated ways people are driven to violence and the equally complicated range of ways people respond to violence and loss—grief, anger, depression, and sometimes slow and discerning forgiveness.
Summary:In 1942, Beth Pierce was completing her internship in the new discipline of occupational therapy in a Baltimore hospital where she meets Jim, a conscientious objector who is training to become a medic. They share a love of poetry and the arts. He goes off to war and serves in the foxholes and trenches of the dreadful conditions at the front. She stays in North America serving in rehabilitation with the war wounded – young men damaged physically and mentally from the great trauma. Until 1945, they exchange a remarkable series of letters that describe the war, their parallel work with the war wounded, their hopes for the future, and gratitude for each other’s thoughts. The letters always close with “Please write.”
Summary:“Tithonus” is a dramatic monologue that imagines the once handsome, magnificent Trojan prince to be well-advanced in an unfortunate state brought about by negligent gods and his own lack of foresight. Exultant over the blessings of his youth, he’d asked Aurora, goddess of the dawn, for eternal life, and she had obtained Zeus’s permission to grant the request. But Tithonus had failed to ask for eternal youth with his immortality—and neither Aurora nor Zeus had managed to recognize that this feature of the request might be important—so that Tithonus spends eternity growing increasingly decrepit. In Tennyson’s poem, Tithonus addresses Aurora, hoping he might persuade her to reassign him his mortal status and allow him to die.