Showing 311 - 320 of 466 annotations tagged with the keyword "Time"

Equal Affections

Leavitt, David

Last Updated: Nov-17-2003
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The first part of this novel presents a detailed picture of the Jewish Californian Cooper family, centering on the sixty-year-old Louise, who is dying of breast cancer. Her husband, Nat, is unfaithful, and, she suspects, only loves her when she is at her weakest and most sick. Her daughter, April, is a lesbian folk singer who becomes pregnant with the help of a gay male friend and a turkey baster. Danny, the son, is also gay, living in New York with Walter, his lover, who is becoming increasingly detached and obsessed with internet sex groups.

Louise considers herself lucky, though, compared with her younger sister Eleanor, partially disabled by childhood polio, disorganized and ill-groomed and married to Sid, whom Louise finds deeply unattractive. Eleanor's son is a sociopathic drug addict, and her daughter has ovarian cancer caused by Eleanor's taking DES (diethylstilbesterol) in pregnancy. She sends Louise newspaper cuttings about the causes of homosexuality and the dangers of AIDS.

The first part having established the complex dynamics and histories of the family's relationships, the second brings the entire family together in the crisis of Louise's final illness and death (a reaction to chemotherapy drugs causes severe chemical burns and she dies in a burn unit in a San Francisco hospital). After her death, the new dynamics of the family are established, and Louise's son and daughter conclude that their mother had "a terrible life" (p. 261).

The short third part shows that no such conclusion is possible, that even those closest to us remain terribly but fascinatingly unknowable. A flashback to a point just before Louise's final illness describes her attempt to convert to Catholicism and a brief moment in which she experiences a marvelous sense of complete harmony.

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Plot

Rankine, Claudia

Last Updated: Nov-16-2003
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

Liv is pregnant. She is an artist, and married to Erland. She names the fetus, a boy, Ersatz (a replacement, a copy, a person not yet real?). This book-long poem, divided into short segments making up nine (month-like) chapters, reconstructs her pregnancy in words, often literally, using words-within-words (for instance in a section called "Proximity of Posed to Exposed"), echoing people-within-(pregnant)-people, ideas emerging from words, and life (and death) emerging from bodies.

The poem does not offer a simple coherent narrative, although it does follow the biological narrative form of gestation. Instead it circles around the experience of containing another person, and the dissonance Liv seems to find between biological and verbal or cultural creating. Liv's ambivalence about this tension is captured throughout the work, perhaps most notably in her exploration of a painting of the dead Virginia Woolf, the drowned body of a childless woman writer, now become "beached debris." The final part of the poem captures powerfully the experience of childbirth, and the afterword is in a new voice, that of Liv's son.

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Bleak House

Dickens, Charles

Last Updated: Oct-21-2003
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

As Dickens does so well, the writer treats the reader to a wide spectrum of the society of London in the 19th Century. The central issue in this novel is the hopeless slowness with which the court of Chancery moves, and the persons who are involved, either as claimants, as attorneys, or as those at the edges of the Court who seek to profit by the proceedings. The author gives us examples of the consistent behaviors of the very good (Esther Summerson and her guardian John Jarndyce) and the profoundly evil (Mr. Smallweed and Mr. Tulkinghorn) and a vast spread between these extremes.

The story is constructed somewhat as a mystery, as multiple connections among the myriad of characters are slowly revealed as the plot advances. The reader is allowed a view of the most poverty-stricken, as well as the most wealthy of the levels of society presented. The complexity of the characterizations and their intertwined lives, along with Dickens’s amazing descriptions, keep the reader moving through the tangle to its final resolution.

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Lucky

Sebold, Alice

Last Updated: Oct-21-2003
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

When Alice Sebold, author of the best-selling novel, The Lovely Bones (see this database), was completing her freshmen year at Syracuse University, she was assaulted and raped. Years after the fact, Sebold wrote this memoir about the rape and its aftermath. The book's title, "Lucky," is explained in the prologue: the police told Sebold that she was lucky to have escaped the fate of another girl who had been murdered and dismembered in the same spot. In point of fact, Sebold, a virgin before the rape, was in a sense murdered, since life as she had known it would never be the same: "My life was over; my life had just begun" (33).

In crisp, lively prose the author takes us relentlessly through the details of her rape and the police inquiry that followed. We learn also that the narrator had suffered from a poor body self-image, loved to spend her time reading, had day-dreams of becoming a poet. We learn about her family--a mother prone to severe panic attacks and a professorial father who hid behind his books, an older sister who helped Alice take care of their mother. The family was considered by neighbors to be "weird."

After the rape, Sebold felt even more isolated and "Other." She could not bring herself to tell her family, who tip-toed around her, all of the horrendous details of the assault. She realized that all who knew her were aware she had been raped and were uneasy in her presence. Her father could not understand how she could have been raped if the assailant's knife had dropped out of reach.

In spite of everything, Alice returns to Syracuse, taking poetry workshops with Tess Gallagher and a writing workshop with Tobias Wolff. Incredibly, she spots her assailant one day on the street near the college. The author notifies the police, the assailant is later arrested, and Alice agrees to press charges and to be a witness at the trial. Neither her father nor her mother have the stomach to come to the trial, but Tess Gallagher accompanies her. The account of the trial is detailed, agonizing, and fascinating.

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The Cottage Hospital

Betjeman, John

Last Updated: Oct-05-2003
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

On a summer afternoon, the poet lies in a garden under a mulberry tree. The air is "swimming with insects" and children are playing in the street. He notices a housefly being caught in a spider’s web. The spider poisons and kills the fly, then wraps it in "lithe elastic," but everything else in the garden remains the same. Life goes on as usual. The poet then turns his attention to the future. One day in some cottage hospital he, too, will approach the end of his life. Will he groan in his bed and gasp for breath, while no one notices? [36 lines]

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On with the Story

Barth, John

Last Updated: May-30-2003
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

A man and woman, probably late middle-aged and married, check into a tropical holiday resort for their last annual vacation. One of them is dying. The man begins telling stories to the woman, as he has promised to, in the unspoken hope of postponing the ending that will separate them. The book consists of the twelve stories he tells, interspersed with her responses to the stories. Each story is in some way about the same two things: about being half of a couple--about love, partnership, and the prospect of loss--and about narrative--about communication, the construction of meaning, and about the way all stories (and lives), sooner or later, must end.

Like their teller, though, these stories do their best not to reach closure. An example is the second story, "Ad Infinitum," in which a woman receives some bad news by telephone--we deduce it concerns her husband's cancer diagnosis--and goes out to where he is working in the garden in order to tell him the news. She has to cross the space of the garden before giving him the information that will change everything for the worse, beginning the end of his life and their marriage.

It occurs to her that the space she must cross can be infinitely extended if, as Zeno's paradox has it, she can keep halving the distance that remains before she reaches her husband (and thus the end of their story). This would infinitely suspend time in their story. And yet, as she walks, she also knows she WILL reach him . . . until the narrator intervenes by breaking into her thoughts and beginning another story, effectively enacting Zeno's theory of the arrow that keeps re-beginning its flight towards the target. Just as stories stave off death in the frame narrative, they seem able to keep this man happily and innocently gardening, in suspended story-time at least, forever.

In the last story, the narrator returns to all the others, pulling together their interconnected patterns and allowing each a kind of closure that, while it reiterates the storyteller's resistance to endings, his act of "beguiling" himself, his wife, and perhaps death itself, "with narrative possibilities still unforeclosed" (224), also reminds us that stories need to end in order to mean.

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The Kiss

Chekhov, Anton

Last Updated: May-27-2003
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Lieutenant General von Rabbek hosts a party for members of the regiment in his magnificent home. Of all the attendees, the most awkward is Ryabovitch, "a little officer in spectacles, with sloping shoulders and whiskers like a lynx's." He considers himself the shyest, most undistinguished officer in the whole brigade. While wondering through the mansion, trying to avoid talking to people, he stumbles into a dark room, whereupon a woman rushes up to him, whispering, "At last!" She throws her arms around his neck and kisses him. At once, however, she realizes her mistake, runs from the room, and is lost in the crowd.

Ryabovitch's passion awakes! He feels that his life is beginning anew. For the rest of the evening, he searches in vain for the woman who kissed him. The next day his regiment departs for another area, but some time later, when he returns to the same town, Ryabovitch continues his obsession with the kiss he experienced that night, and still hopes to discover who the woman in the dark room was.

If only he could communicate with General von Rabbek--but no, Rabbek doesn't respond. In the end he stands on the riverbank: "Now that he expected nothing, the incident of the kiss, his impatience, his vague hopes and disappointment, presented themselves in a clear light . . . And the whole world, the whole of life, seemed to Ryabovitch an unintelligible, aimless jest . . . "

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Hot Springs

Hugo, Richard

Last Updated: May-12-2003
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The poem tells the story of one who travels to the hot springs seeking a cure for his chronic illness/disability. For 25 years the subject faithfully visits what remains of the opulent dream of spa-builders--a bubble that burst for both the entrepreneurs and their visitants. In the nearly deserted town, the poet's character continues to seek relief without success, yet he remains. The writer seems to be asking if it has become the search itself that keeps the sufferer alive; if he were to suddenly be made well perhaps he would lose everything in losing his familiar identity.

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Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The 58 year old plastic surgeon who narrates this story has plenty of problems. He drinks too much and his surgical skills are deteriorating. His wife Maya, a neurosurgeon young enough to be his daughter, has a miscarriage not long after her father dies from a brain tumor. The narrator is plagued by an obsession with butterflies.

He seems to have inherited his unnatural interest in these insects from both his father and grandfather. Strangely, the pursuit of butterflies has brought only tragedy to these men. Maya believes her husband's butterfly collection is a curse so she destroys it. Her action seems insufficient to liberate the narrator from the burden of his ancestors. He is convinced that his destiny was dictated by his family years ago.

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Servants of the Map

Barrett, Andrea

Last Updated: May-06-2003
Annotated by:
Clark, Stephanie Brown

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Max Vigne, the most junior member of a survey group mapping the Himalayas in the 1860s, writes letters to his young wife Clara in England. She has prepared in advance of his journey a series of postdated letters which he keeps in his trunk. When these have been read, Clara sends numbered letter packets which arrive sporadically, out of sequence, if at all, over the months of the expedition. Max struggles to describe and to edit his daily experiences on the mountains which are extraordinary, often terrifying, and disorienting for him.

Separated by time, distance, and experiences, they are slowly and irrevocably estranged. Max discovers that his real scientific passion is alpine botany, and he must decide how to tell Clara that he will not be returning to England after the Survey ends. The exchange of letters ingeniously maps out the complexities between Max's love for his wife and his passion for scientific knowledge, and the wide expanse between them.

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