Showing 361 - 370 of 517 annotations tagged with the keyword "Ordinary Life"

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.

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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)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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On with the Story

Barth, John

Last Updated: May-30-2003
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

A man and woman, probably late middle-aged and married, check into a tropical holiday resort for their last annual vacation. One of them is dying. The man begins telling stories to the woman, as he has promised to, in the unspoken hope of postponing the ending that will separate them. The book consists of the twelve stories he tells, interspersed with her responses to the stories. Each story is in some way about the same two things: about being half of a couple--about love, partnership, and the prospect of loss--and about narrative--about communication, the construction of meaning, and about the way all stories (and lives), sooner or later, must end.

Like their teller, though, these stories do their best not to reach closure. An example is the second story, "Ad Infinitum," in which a woman receives some bad news by telephone--we deduce it concerns her husband's cancer diagnosis--and goes out to where he is working in the garden in order to tell him the news. She has to cross the space of the garden before giving him the information that will change everything for the worse, beginning the end of his life and their marriage.

It occurs to her that the space she must cross can be infinitely extended if, as Zeno's paradox has it, she can keep halving the distance that remains before she reaches her husband (and thus the end of their story). This would infinitely suspend time in their story. And yet, as she walks, she also knows she WILL reach him . . . until the narrator intervenes by breaking into her thoughts and beginning another story, effectively enacting Zeno's theory of the arrow that keeps re-beginning its flight towards the target. Just as stories stave off death in the frame narrative, they seem able to keep this man happily and innocently gardening, in suspended story-time at least, forever.

In the last story, the narrator returns to all the others, pulling together their interconnected patterns and allowing each a kind of closure that, while it reiterates the storyteller's resistance to endings, his act of "beguiling" himself, his wife, and perhaps death itself, "with narrative possibilities still unforeclosed" (224), also reminds us that stories need to end in order to mean.

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The Schoolmaster

Chekhov, Anton

Last Updated: May-27-2003

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Fydor Lukitch Sysoev is dressing for his fourteenth annual dinner held in honor of the school teachers. Sysoev has long been considered the best teacher of all and is eager to grasp glory once again, though he thinks the examining inspector tried to sabotage him by asking his students unnecessarily difficult questions. He is very old and has to lie down before he can pull on his boots. He is applauded at the banquet, but is cantankerous to everyone.

In a toast to Sysoev's greatness, the host mentions that the managers have placed a sum of money in the bank for Sysoev's family after his death. Seeing that the faces around him show neither pity, nor respect, but a terrible truth, he leaps up, then bursts into tears. He is taken home where he tells himself that nothing is wrong with him, even as the doctor in the next room says he has less than a week to live.

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Ionych

Chekhov, Anton

Last Updated: May-27-2003
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Dmitry Ionych Startsev is a physician in a provincial town. He is frequently entertained by the Turkins, the town's most cultivated residents. He falls in love with their daughter, Yekaterina, who teases the doctor by asking him to meet her in the cemetery at 11 PM and then not showing up. Finally, she rejects his suit coldly, saying that she must go to Moscow and study at the conservatory.

Four years later, Startsev has gotten corpulent, built a big practice, become affluent, and lost all interest in romance. Yekaterina returns and tries to rekindle their affair, but Startsev becomes irritated and says to himself, "What a jolly good thing I didn't marry her!" In the end, he just becomes fatter and more irritable, and he shouts at his patients.

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Gooseberries

Chekhov, Anton

Last Updated: May-27-2003
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Burkin and Ivan Ivanovich seek shelter from the rain in Alehin's country home. As they sit having their tea, Ivan Ivanovich tells the story of his brother, Nikolay, who worked as a government functionary and always dreamed of saving enough money to buy his own country home with a garden and gooseberries. He skimped and saved and finally, after his wife's death, bought an estate.

When Ivan Ivanovich visited him many years later, Nikolay was no longer the self-doubting clerk he once was, but had become a confident (and corpulent) landowner, who was obviously happy with his life and with the delicious gooseberries from the bushes he had planted. Ivan Ivanovich realized then that he, too, was a happy man, despite all the pain and evil in the world.

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Happiness

Chekhov, Anton

Last Updated: May-27-2003
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

It is a summer night on the steppe and two shepherds are lying on the ground as their sheep sleep. A man on a horse stops to ask them for a light for his pipe, but stays to chat. They discuss the recent death of Yefim Zhmenya, an old man who had sold his soul to the Evil One. You could tell he was evil because people walking past his garden could hear his melons whistle. The older shepherd tells another story about Yefim, whom he had seen appear as a bullock one stormy night.

One of the men observes that there are many treasures buried in the local hills. "Yes," says the old shepherd, "but no one knows where to dig for them." But then he tells them about a map to the treasure and indicates that he knows precisely where to dig. However, when the horsemen asks him what he would do with the treasure if he finds it, the old shepherd can't answer.

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