Showing 321 - 330 of 512 annotations tagged with the keyword "Memory"

Death Defier

Bissell, Tom

Last Updated: Apr-28-2005
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

While driving away from a dangerous city in an area of north Afghanistan ravaged by war, three men must journey by foot when their car is damaged in an accident. Donk is an American combat photographer. Hassan is a young Afghan translator. Graves is a British journalist suffering from a severe case of malaria and in desperate need of medication.

They arrive at a remote village ruled by a warlord, General Ismail Mohammed. Medication is unavailable there and transportation to a larger city is not possible for at least another day. The local doctor recommends an herbal remedy for the treatment of malaria, and General Mohammed attests to its effectiveness. The medicinal grass grows only in a nearby mountain valley. Two soldiers escort Donk and Hassan to the vale. They encounter a convoy of transport vehicles that have been incinerated by a bomb blast.

When the grass is finally in sight, Donk and Hassan race towards it even as the two soldiers shout at them. Too late! Donk steps on a bomblet and the device detonates. Badly injured (and maybe even mortally wounded), Donk and Hassan lie on their backs and gaze at the sky. They are surrounded by the thick grass they hoped might save the life of their companion, Graves.

View full annotation

Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

A stern, old doctor (Victor Sjostrom) is preparing to travel by car to Lund to receive an honorary degree. He has a disquieting dream in which he perceives his own death as the frightening, lonely end to a hollow existence. In the morning, his gruff demeanor is considerably altered by the intimations of mortality. His daughter-in-law (Ingrid Thulin), who has inexplicably been visiting, decides to accompany him to Lund. En route they encounter a trio of mirthful teenagers, a bickering married couple, and grateful patients. They also visit the doctor's mother.

The dream and the journey unleash a recurring flood of memories of youthful summers at the family home among the wild strawberries and of his unrequited love for a beautiful cousin. He learns that his daughter-in-law is pregnant, but his only son is about to repeat his mistakes by rejecting an emotional bond with his wife and his future child in the empty pursuit of professional achievement. The pregnancy is the reason she left her husband to visit his father. At the end, the doctor establishes a small but real rapport with his son and achieves a degree of understanding about his own life.

View full annotation

To a Distant Island

McConkey, James

Last Updated: Jan-31-2005
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Biography

Summary:

During a sabbatical year in Florence, English professor and writer James McConkey immersed himself in reading Anton Chekhov’s works, as well as biographies of the Russian writer. He began to feel a particular affinity for Chekhov’s crisis of 1889-1890 and his resolution of that crisis by traveling alone to Sakhalin Island off the eastern coast of Siberia to investigate conditions in the penal colonies that the Russian government had established in that distant region. Perhaps because McConkey himself was recovering from a series of traumatic experiences in his own life, he felt a kinship to this depressed young Russian author and his search for a new direction in life.

McConkey responded to this feeling of kinship by writing To a Distant Island, which is partly biographical, in that it retells the story of Chekhov’s six month long journey to Sakhalin Island in 1890; and partly a memoir, in that McConkey relates Chekhov’s life events to the feelings and events of his own life at the time. McConkey establishes this perspective from the beginning, when he explains why he refers to Chekhov throughout the book as "T": "I honor the man too much to call him by name throughout an account, which. . . is bound to be a fiction of my own" (8).

To a Distant Island dwells especially on the motivation for Chekhov’s journey to Sakhalin, a question scholars have debated for a hundred years now. Of the many contributing reasons for the trip, McConkey chooses to highlight and fictionalize "the suicidal tendency that surfaced again a decade later in the marriage his health simply couldn’t afford" (26). McConkey refines this to "T. wants to escape--he wants out, at whatever the personal cost" (27). It is in this state of mind (or soul) that the brilliant and sensitive T. begins his journey to the end of the earth.

Perhaps as a metaphor that characterizes any human quest, McConkey devotes most of the writing and energy to T’s justification, preparation, and outward-bound journey. Only 37 pages remain for the story of what happens to his hero once the goal is achieved; and less than 6 pages for the homeward trek (or homeward "sail" in this case). [This is a technique, come to think of it, quite the opposite of Homer’s in "The Odyssey"!]

The conclusion? "Sakhalin, then, gave to T. nothing he hadn’t known all along. . . Perhaps despair--that absence of hope--is a requisite for any deepened understanding of a universal hope for something never to be found in the present time or place" (82).

View full annotation

Doctor Jazz: Poems 1996-2000

Carruth, Hayden

Last Updated: Jan-31-2005
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

Written while Carruth was approaching or had reached the age of 80 years, this collection understandably reflects the recognition of aging, loss, and of a changing world. Also, there are memories--of jazz and jazz players, relatives, pets, youth. And there is life in the present--with grown children, old friends, the Vermont countryside, writing, remembering, coping, not coping. Throughout, Carruth has a no-nonsense style; a mixture of straight talk, irony, irreverence, contemplation--and wonderful craft.

Carruth's adult daughter, Martha, died miserably of cancer in the late 1990s; in Part II, "Martha," Carruth describes himself as "blocked and almost silent / for two years. Titled "Dearest M --", this is a 15-page elegy that accomplishes "a release of some dire kind" (46) for Carruth, but he can't take pleasure in the release, feeling shame instead ("how shaming, how / offensive!"). Even in his mourning, Carruth raises questions about the ethics of writing such poems, and questions whom he is addressing ("not Martha. The absence / is like a hollow in my mind" [48]).

Section IV, "Faxes to William," is a series of 54 short poems addressed in "faxes" to a mysterious William: "William, do you know why / I like writing these faxes / to you? Because you / don't have a fax machine" (75). The poems instruct William about writing poetry ("some poets write blurbs, William, / and some do not. And it is by / a law of nature that the former / envy the latter desperately . . . They have unmade / their beds and they must schlepp in them" [67]); and life ("William, for the things / life didn't give us / we have no / compensation. None." [7]); and pose conversational questions ("You say I shouldn't write / so much about old age?) that have their own answers (I always / told my students to write / about what they know" [86]).

Section V, "Basho," is in dialogue with a 17th-century Japanese poet who is considered to be the best haiku poet during the time this form was being developed. Carruth's haiku-like poems in this section blend reflections on aging with reflections on writing poetry.

The final section, "Second Scrapbook," continues to explore memories ("Memory," in which Carruth learns of a former wife's death and can remember her--fondly--only as she was years ago. "My dear, / How could you have let this happen to you?" [116]); growing old ("Senility": "week after week, the mist gathering" [120]); representation ("Something for the Trade": Please note well, all you writers, editors, directors / out there: when a phone call is terminated / by the other person you do not, NOT, hear / a dial tone" [121]).

View full annotation

Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Two men who are not very fond of one another and opposites in almost every way are brought together by their affection for the same woman. Isabel is the 30-year-old wife of Maurice Pervin and the longtime friend of Bertie Reid. While fighting in Flanders during World War I, Maurice is blinded and sustains a disfiguring facial scar. He also has episodes of major depression. Maurice and Isabel have become socially isolated since his injury. Although their first child died in infancy, Isabel is pregnant again and due to deliver soon.

Bertie, a bachelor and barrister, pays a visit. The three of them enjoy dinner together. Afterwards, Maurice becomes restless and leaves the house. When Bertie goes out to check on him, he finds Maurice in the barn. The blind man asks Bertie for permission to touch him. With one hand, Maurice examines Bertie's skull, face, and arm.

He then asks Bertie to touch his useless eyes and awful scar. Without warning, Maurice places his hand on top of Bertie's fingers, which still rest upon the maimed face. The experience is a revelation for both men. Maurice suddenly understands the splendor of friendship while Bertie realizes how much he fears intimacy.

View full annotation

The Speckled Rash

Bulgakov, Mikhail

Last Updated: Jan-31-2005
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The narrator of the story, a former district doctor in Russia, reminisces about his frequent encounters with patients suffering from secondary syphilis ("the speckled rash"). The first case he diagnoses is a 40-year-old man seeking treatment for a sore throat. The doctor recommends the application of a bagful of mercury ointment once a day and a follow-up visit after 6 days, but the man never returns. The physician advises him that his wife needs to be examined also, but she is never seen in the clinic.

The doctor remembers many other cases of secondary syphilis in the community. Except for one young woman, patients seem to have little fear of the disease. Children and even entire families are infected. The physician decides to tackle the widespread venereal disease and to confront the rampant patient apathy in the district.

His weapons include mercury ointment, potassium iodide, Salvarsan (an arsenic compound) injections, harsh words, and warnings about the horrible effects of the disease if left untreated. He opens an inpatient unit to treat patients with syphilis. Now long-removed from that remote medical outpost, the narrator still wonders about the people living there.

View full annotation

The Vanishing Eye

Bulgakov, Mikhail

Last Updated: Jan-28-2005
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Looking back on his first year of medical practice in an out-of-the-way section of Russia, a 25 year old physician reflects on how much he has changed both personally and professionally. He lists the year's accomplishments: performing a tracheostomy, successful intubations, amputations, many obstetrical deliveries, and setting several fractures and dislocations. With pride, the doctor calculates he has seen 15,613 patients in his first twelve months of practice.

He recalls some poignant moments. A pregnant woman has a baby while lying in the grass near a stream. The doctor pulls a soldier's carious tooth but is horrified when a piece of bone is attached to it. During a delivery, he inadvertently fractures a baby's arm and the infant is born dead.

Basking in his year's worth of experience and newfound clinical confidence, the physician quickly comprehends the limits of his knowledge on the first day of his second year in practice when a mother brings her baby to the doctor. The infant's left eye appears to be missing. In its place sits an egg-like nodule. Unsure of the diagnosis and worried about the possibility of a tumor, the physician recommends cutting the nodule out. The mother refuses. One week later she returns with her child whose left eye is now normal in appearance. The doctor deduces that the boy had an abscess of the eyelid that had spontaneously ruptured.

View full annotation

Sacred Statues

Trevor, William

Last Updated: Jan-26-2005
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A husband and wife in Ireland struggle to make ends meet. Corry and Nuala, each 31 years old, have 3 children. Corry works at the joinery. He also carves religious statues on the side. A wealthy English woman is impressed by his artwork and encourages Corry to pursue his craft fulltime. His talent is undeniable, but there is no market for his wooden statues.

Now Nuala is pregnant and Corry is without a job. The English woman's wealth has vanished, and she can no longer help the couple financially. Nuala offers to sell her unborn baby to an infertile couple, Mr. and Mrs. Rynne, who long for a child of their own. Mrs. Rynne is shocked by Nuala's proposition and rejects it. Corry turns down work as an apprentice tombstone engraver but accepts a job working on the roads.

Nuala is angry about the way events have unfolded. She finds solace, however, in the concrete shed that functions as her husband's workshop. As she views the wooden figures of saints, Madonnas, and the Stations of the Cross created by her husband, Nuala concludes, "The world, not she, had failed" (152).

View full annotation

Black as Egypt's Night

Bulgakov, Mikhail

Last Updated: Jan-26-2005
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The physician-narrator celebrates his 24th birthday in the company of two midwives and a feldsher (physician’s assistant). They toil in a remote area of Russia where conditions are harsh. The doctor tells the group about a peasant woman who requested a refill of belladonna (an atropine-like drug) that was prescribed for stomach pain the day before. Although the instructions were to take five drops as needed, the bottle was completely empty already. Since the woman had no signs of belladonna poisoning, the feldsher concludes she shared it or maybe even sold it to other villagers.

The group shares other stories about patient mistakes and misguided beliefs. That same night a man comes to the doctor’s house. He is a miller suffering from recurrent fevers. The physician diagnoses malaria and remarks how sensible and literate the patient is. Powdered quinine is prescribed to be taken once a day before the onset of fever. Soon the doctor receives word the miller is dying. The patient has defied the instructions and taken all 10 doses of quinine at one time to expedite his recovery. His stomach is pumped, and he survives the overdose.

View full annotation

25 Months: A Memoir

Stewart, Linda McK.

Last Updated: Jan-25-2005
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

This sensitive, but profoundly realistic narrative, of a journey from the lively, healthy marriage of two individuals deeply in love with life and with one another into the abyss of Alzheimer's dementia is told from the viewpoint of one partner. The author allows the reader to enter into her struggle with the month-to-month diminution of her beloved husband's world. The progression over the entitled "25 months" contains just the right amount of flashback to give the reader a sense of who Jack had once been and what life had held for both members of this partnership--the better to accentuate the sense of loss that this disease underscores.

View full annotation