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Twelve contemporary stories set in Rhode Island and New York City. Major themes include the pain of cultural dislocation and cross-cultural experience ("Theng," "Shambalileh," "My German Problem"); human frailty and self-deception ("Sleep," "Juilliard"); and the personal and moral dimensions of medical practice. See the separate annotations for Laundry, The Good Doctor and Ambulance--three stories which are particularly relevant to Literature and Medicine.
Dr. Cassell examines the social and cultural forces that encourage the practice and teaching of a medicine that is governed by the disease theory. This theory discounts the impact of illness on the patient and ignores the suffering that the patient is experiencing. Cassell does not debunk science and technology, rather he encompasses them within the moral enterprise of medicine as tools for helping patients.
The ability to provide compassionate attention to the patient as individual (i.e., with unique values, life experiences, family interactions, etc.), trustworthiness and self-discipline are required characteristics of a "good physician." Cassell illustrates and personalizes the philosophical shift towards focusing on the sick person with stories and anecdotes.
This is the first person narrative of Maarten, a seventy-one year old man who is experiencing a rapidly progressive loss of intellectual function. It is a harrowing yet poetic account of mental deterioration, revealed in an on-going chronicle of daily life and disjointed memories. The reader experiences what Maarten experiences, not only through descriptions of what life is like, but through the sequencing of thoughts and actions.
At first Maarten is just aware of being uneasy and anxious, "this feeling of being absent while being fully conscious" and he knows, from the comments of his wife, that he must be behaving absent-mindedly. His hold on familiar certainties becomes shaky--he’s not sure of how the rooms in his house are arranged. His wife, Vera, is his anchor and he realizes that his behavior has become deeply disturbing to her, as well as incomprehensible to himself. As Maarten becomes increasingly forgetful and unable to function, Vera is alternately worried, exasperated, and profoundly understanding.
Finally, Maarten is institutionalized--his thoughts disintegrate--yet we know from his observations of "the utterly moronic community" that he still has some awareness of what is happening. Although he no longer recognizes his wife, he listens to "a woman" whisper that "the spring is almost beginning . . . ."
Summary:A young doctor, just graduated, arrives at the country hospital to which he is assigned. He is fraught with anxiety because of his inexperience, especially when he meets the seasoned feldsher and midwives, who sing the praises of his predecessor. During the night his first patient arrives: a girl who was caught in a brake (a machine for threshing flax) and is now mangled and near death. No one expects her to live. The feldsher whispers, “She'll die now.” Yet the doctor feels compelled to try to save her, despite his ignorance. He amputates a leg, he continues treatment, the girl hangs on. Eventually she recovers. The new doctor has established his reputation in the district.
This novel is set on San Pedro Island off the coast of Washington in 1954. Kabuo Miyamoto, a member of the island's Japanese-American community, is on trial for the murder of Carl Heine, a fellow fisherman. Heine's boat was found drifting one morning, with his body entangled in a net. While the death initially appeared accidental, bits of circumstantial evidence accumulate that seem to implicate Miyamoto.
Miyamoto's family was unjustly cheated out of some land by Heine's mother during the time the island's Japanese community was incarcerated in a "relocation camp" in California during the War. The dead man's traumatic head wound appeared suggestive of a Japanese "kendo" blow. Carl Heine's blood type was found on a wooden gaff on Kabuo Miyamoto's boat.
As the trial proceeds, the story of Carl, Kabuo, and what happened that night gradually evolves, as does the tale of Ishmael Chambers, the local newspaper reporter, who had a "charmed love affair" with Kabuo's wife when they were both adolescents, just before the Japanese families were sent away in 1942. It is clear, however, that this is more than a story of one man's guilt or innocence; it is a story of a community's fear and prejudice against the Japanese-Americans in its midst.
This short story opens with an irritated and sometimes hostile narrator whose wife has invited a blind friend to spend the night. The narrator tells us immediately that his visitor's blindness bothers him and that he is not looking forward to having a blind man in his house. The vehemence of his prejudice is surprising. His initial anger and anxiety seem way out of proportion to the situation, as if this blind man were threatening him somehow.
Gradually, as the evening wears on, the narrator begins to relax with the blind man, though he still challenges him in all sorts of ways, such as drinking, smoking cigarettes and dope, and turning on the TV (which, of course, the blind man cannot see). A documentary about cathedrals is showing. The narrator tries to describe a cathedral in words. When that doesn't succeed, the blind man holds the narrator's hand as he draws a cathedral on a paper bag. The experience of this successful communication transforms the narrator.
As the blind man says, "Terrific. You're doing fine. Never thought anything like this could happen in your lifetime?" The narrator closes his eyes and draws blind, saying, "So we kept on with it. His fingers rode my fingers as my hand went over the paper. It was like nothing in my life up to now." The ending leaves us pondering about how much more the narrator is learning about himself and about human communication than the blind man is learning about cathedrals.
Shelley compares man's ability to stay alive to the flickering light of a passing meteor. Our light of life is wavering and brief. He urges man to strive on and live life fully nevertheless.
In the third stanza, he compares earth to a mother and a nurse; it is that which comforts and sustains us and we are afraid to leave it. Again, however, Shelley argues that life must be lived anyway. Indeed, he argues that life (and poetry) is enhanced by its close relationship with death. The hopes of what will be after death must be united with the love for the here and now.
Summary:Sea Creatures is Dr. Vernon Rowe's first collection and contains forty-eight poems divided into two sections: "Creatures of the Inland Seas" and "Out Far and In Deep." The poems are succinct and focused. Much of the imagery is derived from nature, as in the title poem, where the poet-neurologist-helicopter pilot likens his descent through the sky to a dive into a deep and ancient ocean. Poems in the first section are directly related to the poet's life as a physician; works such as "Paralyzed" "Brahms' First, First Movement" and "Wasted" are empathic portrayals of patients.
Summary:The poem depicts a fiercely wild and free woman who meets an untimely death in a motorcycle accident. The anatomy student views the cadaver as more than just "thirty-one-year-old female flesh," and fantasizes about what her life (and death) must have been like.
Summary:A woman admitted to a hospital for cancer treatment describes her progressive loss of identity, from the trading of clothes for a hospital gown to her gradual hair loss. Feelings about the loss of hair (shame, embarrassment, nonchalance) reflect how she confronts the illness; in time, she is ready to face the world again.