Showing 341 - 350 of 517 annotations tagged with the keyword "Ordinary Life"

The City

Updike, John

Last Updated: May-11-2004
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

While on an airplane, Carson experiences abdominal pain. He is a divorced man in his fifties and a sales representative for a computer and information technology firm. He spends much of his time traveling and fancies himself "a connoisseur of cities." The increasingly severe stomach pain forces Carson to reschedule his business meeting and retreat to his hotel room.

His suffering mounts and he decides to visit the emergency department of the city hospital. Carson is evaluated by two young male doctors and later a middle-aged female physician. Despite blood tests and X-rays, his diagnosis remains murky and a surgical consultation is obtained. The surgeon suspects appendicitis. He postulates that Carson may have a retrocecal appendix and explains that in such cases the anatomical location of the organ often confounds the diagnosis.

Carson undergoes surgery. His appendix is indeed retrocecal and rupturing. He spends five days convalescing from the operation. During that time he acquires an intimate knowledge of the city from his stay at the hospital. The experience revitalizes him. Carson reasons that the world is miraculous in part because it is so simple yet still spectacular.

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Petrushkin!

Charach, Ron

Last Updated: Apr-27-2004
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

Save me / from love affairs / with the pale-green neutral cast of money. / Give me the hue and cry / of words! ("Lime Green") In these poems Ron Charach's love affairs with words are warm, poignant, witty, and wise--none of them have that "neutral cast of money." The poet's topics range from childhood and adolescent experiences to poetry readings, and from "Freud's Face" to "Prostates Growing."

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Collection (Short Stories)

Summary:

This is a selection of very early Chekhov tales, dating from his years in medical school (1879-1884). These nine examples of the work Chekhov churned out during those years to support himself and his family have never previously been published in English. They are all quite short. Of most interest are "How I Came to Be Lawfully Wed," "A Hypnotic Seance," "Intrigues," "In Autumn," and "At the Pharmacy."

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Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Following a car accident that claims the life of her husband (a well-known European composer) and their only child, Julie de Courcy (Juliette Binoche) must find ways to survive emotionally and make a new life for herself. She determinedly simplifies her life, but several complications arise.

From the beginning, she is subject to occasional mysterious blackouts following bursts of music of the sort that her husband composed. There are also her feelings for an attractive collaborator of her husband’s (Olivier, played by Benoît Régent), who is hoping to complete an important composition her husband had left unfinished. Then, half way through the film she discovers that her husband had had a mistress for several years before his death and that the mistress is now pregnant with his child. And of course there is Julie’s grief, which she is trying hard not to show, and which we sense is expressed in her coolness and detachment.

Julie finally comes through these things and emerges from her self-imposed isolation after she makes some fundamental changes in her view of what belongs to her and what belongs to her husband, his mistress, and their child. We finally discover that a hint dropped early in the film is significant, that in fact Julie is the composer of the much-praised works that had been attributed to her husband. In the end, she decides to come out as the composer by finishing the big piece, which will bring her the credit she has long deserved. Having made that decision, she feels free to welcome Olivier’s fine attentions. The house she’d lived in with her husband she gives to her husband’s mistress and her unborn child.

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Ruth

Gaskell, Elizabeth

Last Updated: Jan-19-2004

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Ruth is an orphaned seamstress. One day, while repairing ladies' dresses at a ball, she meets Henry Bellingham, an aristocratic young man who accompanies his proud partner to the seamstress' room. Circumstances throw Henry and Ruth together and the two become close friends; innocent Ruth has no idea of the trouble into which this affair is leading.

Henry invites her one Sunday to walk with him out of town to her old family home. She is blissfully happy during the trip, but on their return, they are overtaken by Ruth's employer who jumps to conclusions about the couple and fires Ruth on the spot. Pressed by circumstances, Ruth accepts Henry's offer of help. She travels with him to Scotland and the two become lovers. While in Scotland, Henry becomes ill. His mother is called and as soon as her son is well he returns to London with her, leaving the disgraced Ruth behind.

Ruth is ready to kill herself but is stopped by Thurston Benson, an invalid who pities Ruth and finds her a place to stay as she falls ill in her despair. When Thurston and his sister Faith find out that Ruth is pregnant, they have her move in with them, presenting her to their friends as a widow. Ruth bears a son and everything goes well for many years. Ruth's piety and goodness win the respect of her very traditional neighbors.

About this time, Henry Bellingham is campaigning to represent the district in which Ruth lives. He recognizes Ruth and tries to win her again, even offering marriage, but she will not listen to him. Soon after, a jealous woman in the town discovers Ruth's secret. Ruth is fired from her position as governess and despised by the townspeople. All her goodness stands for nothing in the face of her early mistake.

Ruth struggles on for her child's sake, even helping in the hospital during a typhus epidemic. She learns that Bellingham is nearby, deathly ill from typhus. She helps cure him, but leaves his bedside before he can recognize her. She, however, contracts the disease and dies. Bellingham comes to see her body.

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poetry and Art

Summary:

This book represents collaboration between neurologist-poet Jerome Freeman and potter Richard Bresnahan. Thirty-seven black-and-white photographs of ceramic pieces by Bresnahan from the Minneapolis Institute of Arts are interspersed with 56 of Freeman’s short poems. In his introduction Freeman writes, "Richard’s pottery (champions) both our environment and the need to nourish our humanity through cooperation and caring." Likewise, Freeman notes that much of his own poetry "attempts to focus upon caring." As he also points out, "the economy and simplicity of pottery can resemble the spare verbiage and subtlety of successful poetry."

Indeed, Freeman’s poems are simple, direct, and evocative. Many of them, such as "Carrying On" (p. 3), "Ten Year Old with Rheumatoid Arthritis" (p. 17), and "DTs" (p. 49), create images of patients. (However, the 88-year-old arthritis sufferer in "Carrying On" by no means considers himself a patient!) Others evoke more general human responses to severe illness ("Apocalypse," pp. 6-7), or to the threat of illness ("In Defense of the Hypochondriac," p. 15). In the former, Freeman writes of a comatose ICU patient, "All about keep mostly / thinking there’s a mistake / here somewhere." In the latter poem, Freeman concludes, "The worst might / happen. Keep crossing / bridges before you come / to them."

These poems also evoke the landscape and flora and fauna of the Great Plains: "Lake Superior in February" (p. 29), "The Prairie Gentian" (p. 79), and "When Wild Turkeys Come Out of the Woods" (p. 87). But the outside and inside worlds are closely connected. In "Coma Vigil" (p. 59), a poem about a woman in a persistent vegetative state, he begins, "Dawn’s bounty spills over / the rim of sky to spread / across darkened / prairie." Does the woman want to be kept alive in her "coma vigil"? The poem ends, "The time has / come. / Shadows still conceal / easy ways of letting / go."

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The Silent Boy

Lowry, Lois

Last Updated: Jan-19-2004
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

The story is told by Katy Thatcher, an old woman in 1987, about a critical period in her life from 1908 to 1911. Katy, whose father is a doctor, takes an interest in Jacob, a boy from a neighboring farm, who can't speak, who sings quietly to himself, but who seems able to communicate with animals. Jacob occasionally comes to the Thatcher home to be in the barn with the animals. Katy comes to feel she can communicate with him in a rudimentary but sympathetic way.

When the live-in housekeeper next door, sister to the Thatcher's housekeeper, has a baby out of wedlock, Jacob, aware of the trouble, abducts and brings the baby to the Thatcher's house on a stormy night, hoping, Katy believes, to save it the way he has saved orphaned lambs by bringing them to a substitute mother. But the baby dies of exposure and Jacob is taken to a mental institution. Katy becomes a doctor.

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Mom's Marijuana

Shapiro, Dan

Last Updated: Jan-19-2004
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

When Dan Shapiro was 20 years old and a junior in college, he was diagnosed with "nodular sclerosing Hodgkin's disease." Thus began a five-year ordeal of chemotherapy, radiation treatments, and a bone marrow transplant that failed. But this memoir, which recounts diagnosis, treatment, and two relapses, is more than a narrative of illness. Woven in and out of the subjective experience of physical and emotional trauma is the author's life as an adolescent, a family member, a young man who falls in love with the woman who eventually becomes his wife, a graduate student learning to be a clinical psychologist.

Sequences of ordinary life are carefully juxtaposed with sections on illness and treatment, emphasizing the author's determination to incorporate his illness into his life, all part of one continuous fabric. Even though disease was enormously disruptive, "[l]ife doesn't stop when something horrible happens" (158). Part of that life was a mother who decided to grow marijuana plants in her backyard ("Mom's Marijuana") so that her son would have an antidote for the terrible nausea that accompanied his chemotherapy. It is Mom who learns in a waiting room conversation that it might be advisable for Dan to bank his sperm for the future-- and who then proceeds to make the arrangements. As the memoir ends, Dan's mother finally disposes of the dry marijuana leaves that have been hanging in her attic for several years.

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The Tragedy

Picasso, Pablo

Last Updated: Nov-21-2003
Annotated by:
Bertman, Sandra

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Oil on wood

Summary:

In a bleak setting, at an ocean's edge, a family grouping of three poor people, barefoot, huddled and shivering, are lost in contemplation. The figures' proportions are elongated. Imposing in their size, they take up the entire canvas. Rendered entirely in shades of blue, all other details are eliminated from the composition adding to the mood of blue empty coldness of sand, sky, and sea.

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Annotated by:
Kennedy, Meegan

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay

Summary:

St. Luke’s Hospital was founded in 1750 to provide free care to the impoverished mentally ill. It mixed benevolence with "unconscious cruelty" in the treatments used by the "practitioners of old," from restraints and drugs to swings and a key to force-feed recalcitrant patients. Dickens describes this gloomy edifice as he saw it on December 26, 1851, although he notes a "seasonable garniture" of holly.

The inhabitants of St. Luke’s largely sit in solitude. Dickens decries the absence of "domestic articles to occupy . . . the mind" in one gallery holding several silent, melancholy women, and praises the comfortable furnishings--and the relative "earnestness and diligence" of the inmates--in another. He uses statistics to show the prevalence of female patients, "the general efficacy of the treatment" at St. Luke’s, and the unhealthy weight gain of the inhabitants due to inactivity. Dickens describes the behavior of various distinctive inhabitants during the usual fortnightly dance, the viewing of a Christmas tree, and the distribution of presents.

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