Showing 351 - 360 of 513 annotations tagged with the keyword "Ordinary Life"

Middlesex

Eugenides, Jeffrey

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

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The narrator of this fictional autobiography is Cal Stephanides, an American of Greek descent with a hereditary 5-alpha-reductase deficiency that gives her the prepubertal anatomy (and thus the social upbringing) of a girl, but at puberty begins her transformation into ambiguity, then maleness, and then, gradually, masculinity.

The novel is a kind of biography, not just of Cal, but also of the mutant gene that causes her/his condition. It is transmitted from a small village in Smyrna, through his grandparents, who were also brother and sister and who married on the ship to America, apparently leaving behind family as well as national identity. Their Greekness and the gene come with them, and the consequences of their incest haunts Cal's grandmother, Desdemona, until the very end of the novel.

The family settles in Detroit, and a third biographical strand is the story of the Greek immigrant community in 20th century America, from Ford's assembly lines to bootlegging during the prohibition, through Detroit race riots and then to affluent suburbia.

Cal's family settles in the suburb of Middlesex, and the focus narrows to the individual. Calliope is raised as a girl, but in adolescence, Callie learns about hermaphroditism, narrowly escapes sex-assignment surgery, becomes a performer in a seventies sex show in San Francisco, and finally returns home to Middlesex, Grosse Point, Michigan, as a male. The story is framed by Cal's much later adult life as a man in Berlin, and his successful romance with a woman he meets there.

View full annotation

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.

View full annotation

Three Sisters

Chekhov, Anton

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

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

The play takes place over a several-year period in the provincial town in which the Prozorov sisters and their brother Andrei live. Olga, the oldest, is a high school teacher; Masha is unhappily married to a teacher in the same school; and Irina and Andrei have dreams of moving back to Moscow. Vershinin, the new Army commander, joins the group of military hangers-on around the Prozorov home, a group that also includes the ineffectual doctor, Chebutykin, who lets everyone know that he has forgotten all the medicine he ever knew.

As time passes, Andrei marries Natalya and devotes himself to gambling, while Natalya has babies and takes over the household. Masha has a romantic affair with Vershinin; Natalya commits adultery with the school administrator. A fire rages through the town, but Chebutykin is drunk and unable to help the victims. In the end, just before the Army contingent moves to another post, Irina's fiancee is killed in a duel.

View full annotation

The Seagull

Chekhov, Anton

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

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

At Madame Treplev's estate, her son, Konstantin, presents an outdoor performance of his new play, in which the single character (actually just a voice) is played by Nina, a neighbor's daughter, with whom Konstantin is hopelessly in love. When Madame Treplev, a famous actress, makes light of the angst-filled play, Konstantin angrily stops the performance

Later, Nina becomes infatuated with Trigorin, a literary man and Madame Treplev's current lover. When Madame Treplev and Trigorin move back to Moscow, Nina follows, hoping to become an actress. There, she has an affair with Trigorin. Masha, the daughter of the family steward, is in love with Konstantin (who couldn't care less for her), but marries Medvedenko, the local schoolmaster.

Two years later, Nina has returned to the country, where Konstantin continues to live and work on his writing. Konstantin believes that he and Nina might make a fresh start together, but she rejects him. In the end, he goes out and shoots himself.

View full annotation

Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

The Longhettis are an Italian-American working class family. Nick (Peter Falk) is a construction worker. He and his wife Mabel (Gena Rowlands) have three children. Mabel is unusual, perhaps mentally ill, maybe with a bipolar or borderline disorder, but diagnosis is not really the point. She is warm, spontaneous, beautiful, and an affectionate if inconsistent mother. Because Mabel is so eccentric and unpredictable, the Longhetti family seems to function at a kind of delicate equilibrium.

This stability is disrupted when Nick fails to get away from work on a night he and Mabel had planned to spend alone together. The children are with her mother, and Mabel finds it intolerable to be alone, so she gets drunk, goes out, and picks up someone in a bar. The next morning Nick brings a crowd of work mates home with him after the night shift and Mabel copes with the invasion by cooking up a spectacular spaghetti breakfast and flirting outrageously with one of Nick's friends.

Later when a neighbour brings his children to play, Mabel again behaves inappropriately. Nick, under pressure from his mother and Mabel's physician, is persuaded to have his wife institutionalized. She is taken away. Nick angrily rejects the concern of his friends, but struggles terribly to manage the children.

The film ends with the evening of Mabel's return from hospital. Nick and his mother have arranged a dinner party to celebrate her recovery, but it is quickly clear that, despite electroconvulsive therapy, Mabel is unchanged. It also becomes more evident than ever that her "madness" is rooted as much in the family's social network, her uncomprehending parents, judgmental mother-in-law, and volatile husband, as it is in her own brain or personality. But, after an appalling evening, Mabel and Nick put the children to bed and then go about cleaning up the house as usual, their fragile normality restored for now.

View full annotation

Blue Shoe

Lamott, Anne

Last Updated: Jun-02-2003
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Mattie, recently divorced from Nick, the father of her two children, is coping with the aftermath of divorce, functioning as a single parent, feeling ambivalence toward Nick who still shows up and sometimes stays the night, and becoming aware of her own attraction to other men. Her mother, an aging social activist, lives nearby with her lover and companion who copes with the mother’s insistent personality and mood swings better than Mattie. Her brother, Al, also lives nearby and fills in some of the father functions for Mattie’s children.

In the background is the story of Mattie’s father, now dead, much loved by both Mattie and Al, who, as it turns out, fathered a child now living in the community by a young girl about Mattie’s age. The mother of the child lives in the squalor of near homelessness at the edge of town. This disclosure, Mattie’s blossoming friendship and eventual romance with the man who comes to repair her house, and Mattie’s mother’s descent into dementia are the three main threads of plot in this story of pain, forgiveness, and healing in family life.

View full annotation

Three Years

Chekhov, Anton

Last Updated: Jun-02-2003
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novella

Summary:

Alexei Laptev, the middle-aged son of a wealthy Moscow industrialist, is on a prolonged visit to a provincial town where he is helping to care for his sister Nina, who is recovering from a cancer operation. Nina’s husband has abandoned her and their two young daughters for another woman. Unexpectedly, Laptev falls in love with Yulia Sergeyevna, the doctor’s 22-year-old daughter. Laptev is an unattractive, but good-hearted man; Yulia, though beautiful, is bland and immature. She eventually accepts his offer of marriage, though she is somewhat repulsed by him as a person. Yulia is neither attracted by his money, nor by his social position; she just feels badly about disappointing him and, moreover, looks forward to living in Moscow, where life is more exciting.

Once married, both Yulia and Alexei suffer. She hates his family and friends, and feels no affection for him. Meanwhile, Alexei remains head over heels in love with her. Nina dies of her cancer, and the little girls come to live with them for a while. Eventually, Yulia finds her own group of friends, who consider her foolish for not taking on a lover. Yulia and Alexei have a baby, who becomes the center of Yulia’s life, until the child dies of diphtheria.

Time passes. The family business turns sour. Alexei’s bother Fyodor goes mad and has to be put into an asylum. And in the last scene, Yulia greets her depressed husband with tenderness: "You are precious to me. Here you’ve come. I see you, and I’m so happy I can’t tell you. Well, let’s talk." (p. 328)

View full annotation

To Brooklyn with Love

Green, Gerald

Last Updated: Jun-02-2003
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This is a story of a day in the life of 12-year-old Albert Abrams in Brownsville, Brooklyn, during the Depression summer of 1934. Albert’s father is an irascible middle-aged general practitioner whose practice is getting smaller and smaller. Most of his patients can’t pay; and many have left Dr. Abrams to go to younger doctors, or to specialists. Albert’s mother is a refined literary-type lady who never complains about their life in the deteriorating neighborhood, even though all of their middle-class friends have moved elsewhere.

Albert is a brilliant young man ("the highest IQ in the school"), but his greatest desire is to be "one of the boys." He is small, skinny, and poor at sports. The other kids make fun of him because of his "rich" father. The novel describes a long day of verbal and physical harassment; its highlights are a critical punchball game between the white kids, mostly Jewish, and black kids of Longview Avenue, and a fistfight in which Albert actually "beats" one of his perennial nemeses. In the evening there is a fire in which Yussel Melnick, an old Talmudic scholar, is burned to death.

Peeking out from behind his son’s story is the image of Dr. Abrams, a man who once was the star of his medical school class, but whose career long ago failed to "take off" because of his bluntness, bad-temper, and general difficulty getting along with other professionals. He is portrayed as a man truly committed to his patients, but also prone to yelling at them and hounding them for payment. As the day progresses, it becomes evident that Dr. Abrams has been losing his grip; he has episodes of confusion and appears to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown. In the end, stimulated by love for his son, he rouses himself from suicidal ruminations.

View full annotation

Sick

Silverstein, Shel (Sheldon Allan)

Last Updated: Jun-02-2003
Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Children's Literature

Summary:

In this verse for children, Silverstein plays with the idea of malingering: the protagonist, "little Peggy Ann McKay" invokes all kinds of alarming ailments from the common to the bizarre ("My hip hurts when I move my chin") in order to stay home from school. The poem swings with a couplet rhyme scheme until the dramatic turn, when little Peggy discovers it's Saturday. She is miraculously freed of all symptoms and one can imagine her puckishly skipping out the door to play.

View full annotation

A Boring Story

Chekhov, Anton

Last Updated: Jun-01-2003
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Nikolai Stepanovich, a famous professor of medicine, narrates his own story. An elderly man, he believes he will die in a few months, although he refuses to consult a doctor about his illness. He knows his wife to be a fat, old busybody, but he remembers her as a young beauty. His daughter Lisa is engaged to Gnekker, an ugly young man who seems to have neither talent nor employment. The professor's only enjoyment is to spend hours talking with Katya, his young ward, who once ran off to join the theater in Moscow, but later returned to become an indolent do-nothing.

Although he is not cynical, Nikolai Stepanovich decries the poverty of medical education and he seriously questions the ability of graduating physicians to care for their patients. He finds himself beset by negative thoughts: "Feelings I never felt before have built a nest in my heart. I hate, I despise, I am filled with indignation."

He encourages Katya to go back to Moscow and become an actress, but she admits that she has no talent. After much urging by his wife, Stepanovich agrees to go to Kharkov to investigate Gnekker's background. When he gets there, however, he receives a message that Lisa and Gnekker were secretly married on the day before.

View full annotation