Showing 331 - 340 of 362 annotations tagged with the keyword "Catastrophe"

A Widow for One Year

Irving, John

Last Updated: Jun-25-1998
Annotated by:
Wear, Delese

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

A family's tragic event--the death of two teenage boys in a car accident--is both the stimulus for a mother's abandonment of her husband and daughter and an ongoing thread weaving its way throughout the rest of this immense story (537 pages) told in three major parts.

Part 1 (1958) is the story of Marion and Ted Cole and their four-year-old daughter Ruth. Struggling to keep afloat in her grief-filled life, Marion is a beautiful, 39-year-old woman who, with her husband Ted, a hugely successful children's author/illustrator, lives an elegant life on Long Island. The focus of Part 1 is Marion's affair with Eddie, a 17-year-old hired by Ted to be his personal assistant but who turns out to be part babysitter to Ruth, and "companion" to Marion. This part of the story is sexy and comic, even as it is full of relentless grief.

Part 2 (1990) finds Ruth as a hugely successful novelist in her thirties. Her life is one long unending string of "bad" boyfriends, and one long question regarding how her mother could abandon her and why she fails to reappear. While in Amsterdam on a book tour, she comes up with the idea for a new book that takes her to the storefront prostitution district of the city, where her authorial curiosity and adventure is met with violence. In this section of the book she marries her agent, has a baby, and seems to be finding contentment for the first time in her life.

Part 3 (1995) occurs four years later, when Ruth as a 41-year-old widow and mother, falls in love. The story comes together finally with the reappearance of Marion Cole, now in her seventies and herself a moderately successful author who had been living quietly alone in Canada.

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Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

The second film in Oliver Stone’s Vietnam trilogy, "Born on the Fourth of July" is based on the autobiography of Ron Kovic (played in the film by Tom Cruise), a good kid whose patriotism takes him to Vietnam in the late 1960s and brings him back home paralyzed from the chest down and burdened with the guilt of having accidentally killed a fellow soldier in combat. Living at home with his parents, Ron struggles fiercely with these challenges against the exacerbating background of his culture’s anti-war and anti-vet sentiments.

Things get bad for him, he gets very angry and leaves home for Mexico to forget it all with booze, drugs, and prostitutes. That false paradise eventually fails him, however, and he returns to the States and makes some positive moves, including visiting the parents of the soldier he had killed. He winds up being a spokesman for vets, anti-war ones in particular, and at the end he is wheeling himself out onto the stage of the Democratic Convention of 1976 to huge applause, feeling, as he has just said to a reporter offstage, "I’m home."

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Cold Mountain

Frazier, Charles

Last Updated: Mar-26-1998
Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This novel chronicles the long journey home of a Civil War soldier, Inman, to Cold Mountain in North Carolina. The story begins in a military hospital, and Inman's neck wound, a long difficult-to-heal horizontal slice received in battle, is drawing flies. Inman is a moral man, and the brutality and killing he has witnessed on the battlefield lead him to leave the hospital AWOL and journey secretively, by foot, back to Ada, his love.

The trip is perilous; Inman is subject not only to the difficulties of near starvation and a poorly healing wound, but also the cruelties of people he meets along the way. However, every so often, he is also succored by compassionate people, such as the goat woman who provides the cure for his neck wound, if not for the wounds inside. Intertwined with Inman's story is Ada's: her preacher father dies of tuberculosis, leaving her utterly unable to provide for her own basic needs on the farm. Fortunately, a self-reliant young woman, Ruby, joins Ada on the farm, and helps transform both the farm and Ada.

The book details the ways of nourishment: physical (precise descriptions of food, its paucity and preparation) and nonphysical (themes of love, generosity, intellectual curiosity, and spiritual questing underpin the book). Cold Mountain itself provides both types of nourishment by offering hope, goals, shelter, food and a place where love and forgiveness are possible despite the savagery of man.

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Annotated by:
Bertman, Sandra

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Watercolor on wood

Summary:

Blake's vigorous imagination is seen in this painting where he shows Adam and Eve discovering Abel's body as Cain prepares to bury it. Adam and Eve are kneeling in horror next to Abel's white and rigid body. Adam looks with shock at Cain, who runs away, tearing at his hair. Eve throws herself over Abel's body in a gesture of extreme grief. Her arms form a circle as she bends over Abel with her head thrown down and her hair falling in waves over his body. Although posed and awkward, Adam and Eve's gestures effectively express their emotions. The newly-dug, dark long horizontal grave, emphasized by the shovel laying parallel to it in the foreground, creates a deep gash that separates the fleeing son from his parents.

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Inter Ice Age 4

Abe, Kobo

Last Updated: Mar-05-1998
Annotated by:
Fefferman, Stanley

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The prelude describes a tidal wave approaching Japan. The story is a first-person narrative by Professor Katsumi, inventor of a self-programming computer which can predict the future. Katsumi and his assistant, Tanamogi, plan to predict the future of a private, individual destiny. They choose a subject from the street and follow him. The next day's paper announces his murder.

To solve the case and forestall suspicion, Katsumi downloads the contents of the man's brain, reconstructs his existence, and questions him/it. The victim did not see his murderer, but he tells the team his mistress had sold her aborted foetus for 7000 yen. Then the mistress is murdered. Katsumi's wife has a forced abortion and receives 7000 yen. Katsumi suspects an organization. His assistant Tanamogi volunteers the name of an organization experimenting with extra-utero development of foetuses, and arranges for Katsumi to visit their lab. Gradually Katsumi learns of a vast conspiracy to create an underwater nation, complete with genetically altered water-oxygenating humans and animals, bred in anticipation of the predicted destruction of Japan by a tidal wave.

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The Cobra Event

Preston, Richard

Last Updated: Feb-19-1998
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The threat of biotechnological warfare and/or terrorism is the focus of this carefully researched and riveting novel by the author of The Hot Zone. The term "science fiction" doesn't quite do justice to this tale which lies just to the other side of Preston's usual domain of literary nonfiction. Though the particulars of this story of a genetic engineer who designs lethal virus bombs to thin the population and the counterterrorist group of scientists who attempt to stop him are fictional, the possibilities of such threats are real.

The counterterrorists are a motley and sometimes contentious group of recruits from the FBI, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the U.S. military. Their agendas and methods differ, but the immediate death threat to the unsuspecting inhabitants of New York and Washington D.C. unifies them into an effective if not always efficient team. They discover the virus when five cases appear of what seems to be an acute and horrifying permutation of a rare neurological dysfunction that induces violent seizures and compulsive self-destruction by chewing on one's own flesh. The virus turns out to be a graft that could only have been produced by artificial means.

The search for the "mad scientist" with equipment capable of this sophisticated work takes weeks during which a handful of people have to live with the secret that a potential pandemic could literally explode in a local subway. The resolution, while in some ways satisfying, hardly dispels the uneasy implications which invite readers not only to serious reflection on our collective attitudes toward weapons research and development, but to activism.

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Theo's Story

Kovalchik, Michael

Last Updated: Jan-16-1998
Annotated by:
Squier, Harriet

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay

Summary:

A nephrologist is named in a lawsuit after serving as a consulting physician in a diabetes case. The diabetic patient had had a serious infection and later his leg was amputated; he apparently felt the doctors neglected the seriousness of his condition. When the dialysis unit treating this patient requests to transfer his care to the author, whose unit is in the patient's home town, the author is uncertain what to do.

The author is angry about the law suit, and his colleagues counsel him to refuse to take this patient. But after realizing that the lawsuit was merely a reflection of the patient's suffering, and that he needs the same compassion and care as any other human being, the author agrees to accept the patient. The author discovers that his patient is a meek, gentle man; over time, he helps him come to terms with his illness, his disability, and his approaching death. Eventually the patient drops his malpractice suit.

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Leaf Storm

Garcia Marquez, Gabriel

Last Updated: Dec-17-1997
Annotated by:
Fefferman, Stanley

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

In a South American town during the early years of this century, a retired doctor long known as an eccentric flatly refuses treatment to victims of a riot. Years later, the doctor hangs himself. For the vengeful town, the issue becomes whether he will receive a proper burial or be allowed to rot in the house where he had lately secluded himself.

This issue becomes the focal point of recollections, from many points of view, of fragments of the doctor's bizarre history. An old military man, who was originally the doctor's sponsor and host, braves the town's anger and forces his family members to help him carry out the burial. As it turns out, no one remembers the outrage apart from a few town officials, and the burial takes place without incident.

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Memory

Mahy, Margaret

Last Updated: Nov-23-1997
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Nineteen year-old Johnny Dart leaves home one night after arguing with his parents--to locate the best friend of his sister. He needs to talk with her as the only other witness to his sister's death, five years since, when she fell over a cliff on a picnic. Haunted by the thought that he might have saved her, Johnny is also convinced his parents and others think it should have been he, rather than his sister, who died.

He shows up drunk at the home of the friend's parents, only to find that she has moved out. In his nighttime wanderings he encounters a disoriented old woman on the streets and follows her home to a dilapidated and disheveled house which, it turns out, belongs to her, though since she suffers from Alzheimer's disease or a related syndrome, has lapsed into extreme disarray and disrepair. He ends up staying to care for her for several days, during which he also locates the old friend.

In caring for the old woman and conversing with the young woman, Johnny manages to come to terms with his own past, the pain of his own losses, and agrees to talk with his parents and a counselor and reorient himself to the present. In the process he learns a great deal about himself, about how he has projected his own fears and guilt, and how caring for another person can release him from crippling obsessions with his own past.

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The God of Small Things

Roy, Arundhati

Last Updated: Oct-16-1997
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This first novel is written in English by a native Indian who makes her home in India. It is the tale of Esthappen (Estha for short) and his fraternal twin sister, Rahel, and their divorced mother, Ammu, who live in the south Indian state of Kerala. Ammu, a Syrian Christian, has had no choice but to return to her parental home, following her divorce from the Hindu man she had married--the father of Estha and Rahel.

The story centers on events surrounding the visit and drowning death of the twins' half-English cousin, a nine year old girl named Sophie Mol. The visit overlaps with a love affair between Ammu and the family's carpenter, Velutha, a member of the Untouchable caste--"The God of Loss / The God of Small Things." (p. 274)

Told from the children's perspective, the novel moves backward from present-day India to the fateful drowning that took place twenty-three years earlier, in 1969. The consequences of these intertwined events--the drowning and the forbidden love affair--are dire. Estha at some point thereafter stops speaking; Ammu is banished from her home, dying miserably and alone at age 31; Rahel is expelled from school, drifts, marries an American, whom she later leaves. The narrative begins and ends as Rahel returns to her family home in India and to Estha, where there is some hope that their love for each other and memories recollected from a distance will heal their deep wounds.

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