Showing 321 - 330 of 517 annotations tagged with the keyword "Ordinary Life"

Summary:

What will the members of an isolated community do to attract a doctor? What won't they do? Ste-Marie-la-Mauderne is a microscopic fishing village on the rocky north shore of Quebec, just where it meets Labrador.

The fishery is declining, people are leaving, and the welfare payments, doled out by the pretty postmistress, Eve (Lucie Laurier), are humiliating. Ste Marie wants to diversify. All it needs to attract a plastic-bottle factory is a bribe of $50,000 and a doctor. They get a lucky break when a Montreal cop, who hails from Ste-Marie-la-Mauderne, stops the speeding plastic surgeon, Dr. Christopher Lewis (David Boutin), on his way home from a cricket match.

Now, the village has one month to convince the worldly young man that he wants to stay forever. The mayor, Germain (Raymond Bouchard), and several friends set out to make Dr. Lewis feel as welcome as possible. They embark on a collective effort to teach the francophone fishers how to play cricket. They flood the clinic with bogus ailments, they take Lewis fishing, they charm him with five dollar bills left nightly by a garden gnome, they force themselves to listen to incomprehensible jazz, and they bug the doctor's telephone to ascertain his tastes and commitments, broadcasting the intimate details of his faltering relationship with sultry Brigitte back in Montreal.

Eventually, Dr Lewis splits up with Brigitte, because she has been "dishonest" and he chooses to stay in Ste Marie because they are "genuine." The crisis arises near the end, when the townspeople realize that in order to keep Dr. Lewis for any time at all, they must own up to the charade of deception and offer to let him go.

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Forever

Blume, Judy

Last Updated: Jul-26-2004
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Katherine, heading for her senior year in high school, finds herself strongly attracted to Michael, a friend's friend, after a party. As their relationship unfolds, the issue of sex comes up early on, more as an emotional and health issue than as a moral one. Both of them are aware that physical intimacy is both common and complicating. Michael has been sexually active, Katherine hasn't. Their relationship progresses slowly; they are accompanied on various meetings by her friend, Erica, a grounded, practical, wit who has known Katherine all her life, and Michael's friend, Artie, who, with Erica's help, explores and acknowledges some uncertainty about his own sexual orientation.

When they do, by mutual consent, have sex on a ski weekend with Michael's sister, they are sure it seals a love that will be "forever." However, separated for the summer by work that takes them to two different states, Katherine finds herself aware of the limitations of the relationship and ultimately attracted to a tennis instructor, older, more experienced, and interesting in new ways. She takes responsibility for breaking the news to Michael when he comes on a surprise visit and, the summer over, recognizes the loss as a stage in movement toward more complex, probably more satisfying relationships in the future.

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The Uses of Imperfection

McMahon, Ted

Last Updated: Jul-26-2004
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

In "Breakdown" the narrator watches the bikers ahead of him glide effortlessly up the long hill. Halfway up, he downshifts, cranks hard, and eventually--stops. "Then dismount / and walk. At the crest / the road stretches flat, narrows out of sight. No bikes, no cars, no sound." (p. 18) This lonely moment embodies two aspects of Ted McMahon's poetry.

First, he acknowledges his (our) limited ability to live up to expectation, achieve the sought-after goal, or understand what is really happening in life. As in "Amniocentesis" (p. 15), we may convince ourselves that we are "prepared to embrace a life of sacrifice," but when finally confronted with the reality (e.g. a Down's syndrome baby), we lose our bearings and grow silent. What seems a sure ticket to happiness--for example, the "snug white Levis" woman who shares her heart with you at a "Writers' Conference" (p. 33)--turns out to be a false alarm: "I stood alone, / controlled, on twilight grass, observed / a fly, quivering in a web."

However, McMahon touches these moments of imperfection, not with explanations or suggestions for improvement, but with profound compassion. In "Satchitananda" (p. 49) he discovers the attributes of the Hindu God (being, awareness, and bliss) residing in the most ordinary daily activities. He stops his truck on a windy plain and reflects: "I'll settle to have sparked / a single flash of joy, to have erased / a single line of sorrow." (p. 48)

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The Radiation Sonnets

Yolen, Jane

Last Updated: Jul-26-2004
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Sonnets)

Summary:

This is a collection of sonnets written by Jane Yolen, a well--known children’s book author, during her husband’s 43-day course of radiation therapy for an inoperable brain tumor. In an introductory note, she explains that "each evening after David was safely in bed" she composed a sonnet and "poured (her) feelings onto the page."

Day 1 begins, "Do not go, my love--oh, do not leave so soon . . . " She soon directs her anger at the limitations of technology (Day 4, "The damned machine has broken, cracked . . . ") as David develops side effects of treatment (Day 8, "Sucking candies"; Day 11, "Confusion"). The stakes rise (Day 12, "Today you did not want to eat. / We knew this day would come."), and eventually she succumbs to physical and emotional exhaustion (Day 18, "A friend drove you today, I did not go." and Day 20, "Off you go again, like a toddler to school . . . "). Family gathers; on Day 23 the youngest son arrives to visit his dozing father ("Your eyes flew open, your familiar smile / Told him his coming was worth each mile.")

Later in the course of treatment, the sonnets display the author’s uncertainty about what to believe. Should she listen to the doctor, who on Day 26 brings guardedly optimistic news ("I would not shut the gate quite yet")? Or should she believe what she sees and feels, as she cares for a man who appears to weakening and withering away? The food fights continue: "You who are sixty have just turned six: / You dissemble, deceive, eat half, call it whole." (Day 37) Patient, caretaker, family, and physician all avoid using the word death, even though it "is the one true word that lies within our reach" (Day 38).

In a postscript Jane Yolen reveals that a year after her husband’s "graduation" from radiation therapy he was doing well and, with regard to The Radiation Sonnets, he had promised to "be around for publication day."

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The Encyclopedia of the Dead

Kis, Danilo

Last Updated: Jul-26-2004
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The narrator is still grieving over the recent death of her father, D.M. He suffered from emphysema and died from a sarcoma of the intestine that metastasized to other organs. While visiting Sweden, the narrator explores the Royal Library. There she discovers the celebrated Encyclopedia of the Dead--a massive collection of thousands of volumes chronicling in detail the lives of ordinary people who have died.

She finds the biography of her father and takes notes while reading it throughout the night. Fifty years of his life in Belgrade are summarized in only 5 or 6 pages yet amazingly nothing seems to be left out. No detail is too small--the first day he ever smoked a cigarette, an episode of food poisoning, a love letter.

The text is illustrated with a picture of her father and an odd flower. Late in life, he began painting floral patterns like the one depicted in the book. According to the Encyclopedia, his interest in painting paralleled the onset and progression of his cancer. In fact, the narrator learns that the flower in the book closely resembles the appearance of the sarcoma that claimed his life.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Leo comes back to sell off the run-down family farm on the Italian coast of Tuscany, hoping for enough to finance his return to Chicago. He is plagued by memories. A tour bus is lured into Santo Fico--by ruse or by accident--and once the British visitors are safely ensconced in the hotel restaurant, Leo and his old friend Topo launch into the lucrative scam that they invented as boys: storytelling to "sell" a viewing of treasures inside the local church.

The "miracle" is the stump of an ancient fig tree that once sheltered St Francis; and the "mystery" a luminous fresco by an anonymous artist, possibly Giotto. Leo is encouraged by his dramatic success. But in the night, an earthquake severely damages the church. Yielding to temptation, Leo "saves" the fresco by stealing it in large chunks and hiding it under his bed. Surely now he will have enough money to escape.

The old priest is grievously saddened and goes on a hunger strike to expiate his own sins, on which he blames the desecration. The priest is cared for by his niece, Marta. Embittered by her late husband's infidelity and early death, she frets over her two daughters: one dutiful but blind; the other healthy but headstrong. Marta already resents Leo for some transgression in their past; rightly guessing his crime, she demands that he "make a miracle" for the priest.

Topo and Leo invent several, ambitious but preposterous scenarios, each of which flops spectacularly. The priest good-naturedly overlooks (or fails to see) their transparent ploys; yet he manages to perceive miracles everywhere else in the everyday atmosphere of his beloved village. Of course, Leo returns the fresco, of course he stays, and of course he finds love with Marta after all.

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Annotated by:
Ratzan, Richard M.

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

Written in 1896 and originally a collection of poems that seemed destined to go out of print forever, A Shropshire Lad comprises 63 individual poems of varying meter and length, all dealing with the themes of adolescence, the rustic countryside of Shropshire, and premature death, usually by violence, war, e.g., I, III, IV, XXXV, LVI; homicide, e.g., VIII, XXV?; suicide, e.g., XVI, XLIV, XLV, LIII, LXI; and state execution by hanging, e.g., IX, XLVII. There are the deaths of young lovers (XI, XXVII), young soldiers (see war and XXIII, perhaps), young revelers (XLIX) and young athletes (XIX). The living and dying and, most of all, the remembering occurs in the pastoral setting of Shropshire.

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Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

For those who have enjoyed his previous collections, this edition of new and collected poems (22 new, the rest culled from collections published from 1972-1998) will be a welcome and rich sampling of Stone's work, wide-ranging in style and subject. The three sections of new poems include a series about incidents in Serenity Gardens, his mother's nursing home; a series of "Reflections from the Middle East" that chronicle moments evocative of classical and biblical story and ethos as well as touching, comic incidents in the life of a 60-something tourist; and a short series of poems based on memories from childhood and young adulthood.

The poems tend toward narrative; many are little stories complete with plot in one to two pages of short lines; Stone's gifts for both chronicle and condensation give many of the poems a lively tension: what is told suggests how much isn't.

As a collection it is possible here to trace the stylistic development from the early poems in The Smell of Matches with their strong autobiographical focus and sense of intimate scene and situation to the recent ones, still strongly personal, but reflective, sometimes ironic, with lines that render the self-awareness of the older poet in sometimes comic flashes.

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Deaf Child Crossing

Matlin, Marlee

Last Updated: Jun-30-2004
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Megan is deaf, but has managed to make a comfortable niche for herself in her neighborhood as well as being a force to be reckoned with in a family where she wants no pity and insists on as much independence as possible. The summer Cindy moves in down the street is full of changes for her. Their friendship teaches both girls new skills in giving and receiving help, understanding, and loyalty.

Cindy needs to learn when and how to offer help. She also learns sign language. Megan needs to learn how to receive the concessions and help others offer without defensiveness. When the girls go to camp together they are taken under the wing of a counselor with a deaf sister who knows how to sign and who integrates them into camp life gracefully and protectively. Their friendship is challenged when Megan meets Lizzy who is also deaf, and who therefore shares common ground with Megan in ways Cindy can't.

The three girls form a bond, but not without rivalry and misunderstanding. After a period of estrangement during which both Megan and Cindy have to reevaluate their strategies of giving and receiving help and leadership, they reaffirm a friendship that involves a new maturity in understanding the demands of real inclusiveness.

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Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Steven is a gifted junior high school drummer with an imagination that takes him some distance from his writing assignments into musing on his own life. The book chronicles his experience of the year his five-year-old brother, Jeffrey, was diagnosed with leukemia. The shift from consuming preoccupation with preparation for a drumming contest and competition for a particular girl's attention to radical concern about a brother he has primarily regarded as a pest takes him through ruminations both profound and hilarious.

Jeffrey's illness oddly makes Steven an object of his friends' admiration and pity, neither of which he thinks he wants or deserves. His priorities and plans begin to take a back seat to working with his parents to get Jeffrey through treatments, in the course of which he meets a girl at the hospital who teaches him a new level of friendship before her own disease gets the better of her and she dies. The story ends with Jeffrey's return home, an uncertain future, and an altered perspective on life for Steven who finds himself able to love in ways he hadn't imagined.

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