Showing 371 - 380 of 515 annotations tagged with the keyword "Ordinary Life"

The Teacher of Literature

Chekhov, Anton

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

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The story begins with a group of young people on a riding party at the Shelestov estate. One of the guests is Nikitin, a young-looking man in his mid-20’s, who teachers literature at the local school, and loves Masha, the 18-year-old younger daughter of their host. Later, over dinner Varya, the older daughter, argues with Nikitin over some points of literature, and another guest scolds him for having never read the German writer, Lessing. But Nikitin glides through the evening on a cloud of love. A day later he returns and proposes to Masha.

In the second part of the story, the wedding occurs. Nikitin and Masha are deliriously happy--"’I am immensely happy with you, my joy,’ he used to say, playing with her fingers or plaiting and unplaiting her hair." But soon one of Nikitin’s friends and fellow teachers develops erysipelas and dies. After that, everything returns to normal, so much so that Nikitin has nothing to write in his diary.

Life seems to be closing in on him. He feels like trying to get away from his wife, "Where am I, my God? I am surrounded by vulgarity and vulgarity. Wearisome, insignificant people, pots of sour cream, jugs of milk, cockroaches, stupid women . . . There is nothing more terrible. I must escape from here, I must escape today . . . "

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What Girls Learn

Cook, Karin

Last Updated: May-12-2003
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Told from the perspective of a thirteen-year-old girl, this story about a single mother with two daughters who moves, marries, and dies of breast cancer handles a variety of difficult issues with sensitivity and spunk. A list of those issues--absent father, new stepfather, a thousand-mile move to a new social environment, first menstruation, sibling rivalry, an uncle with incestuous impulses, family secrets, sexual experimentation, cancer, and death--might make it sound like a catalogue of the trials of contemporary suburban young adulthood, but in fact the point of view of Tilden, the main character, keeps the story grounded in very believable, sometimes amusing, often poignant, recognizable truth about what it is to come into awareness of the hard terms of adult life.

The mother's cancer is narrated largely in terms of Tilden's experience of it: secrecy, eventual disclosure, partial information, losses of intimacy, feelings of betrayal, confusion about caregivers' roles, and in the midst of it all, the ordinary preoccupations of early adolescence. The generous and understanding stepfather and neighbors with limited but ready sympathies lighten some of the novel's darker themes.

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Fever 1793

Anderson, Laurie Halse

Last Updated: May-12-2003
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

This historical novel for young adults details the horrors of the Philadelphia Yellow Fever epidemic in 1793 from the point of view of a fourteen-year-old, Mattie, who runs a coffeehouse with her widowed mother and grandfather. In the course of the story, her mother is taken ill, she herself falls ill on the way to the safety of the countryside, and her grandfather dies of heart failure after nursing her. Separated from her mother who is also removed from the city, Mattie finds herself scrabbling for survival in a mostly deserted town after the death of her grandfather, but relocates the free black woman, Eliza, who had worked for her family and who essentially becomes part of her family.

Eventually the mother returns, an invalid but alive, and Eliza and Mattie undertake to run the reopened coffeehouse together and care for Eliza's nephews and an orphaned child Mattie has rescued. Hope reappears with the first frost in the forms of a reopened farmers' market, the return of George Washington to the town, and the reappearance from enforced isolation of Nathaniel Benson, a young painter who gives Mattie a vision of a future life with friendship and love.

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Graves at Elkhorn

Hugo, Richard

Last Updated: May-12-2003
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The poet contemplates the realities of life in the mining --now ghost--towns of Western America by exploring an old graveyard. "Eighty-nine was bad. At least a hundred / children died," the writer muses while walking among the grave markers. The reader recognizes that this settlement is no longer viable: "The last one buried here: 1938."

After describing the arrangement of the markers and the crude fence that defines the burial ground, he ponders why the graveyard is situated so far from the townsite. In an ironic reflection on the mothers' needs to get on with life after the frequent loss of young ones yet still striving to protect the little graves from greedy excavation, the poet says, " . . . a casual glance / would tell you there could be no silver here."

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Servants of the Map

Barrett, Andrea

Last Updated: May-06-2003
Annotated by:
Clark, Stephanie Brown

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Max Vigne, the most junior member of a survey group mapping the Himalayas in the 1860s, writes letters to his young wife Clara in England. She has prepared in advance of his journey a series of postdated letters which he keeps in his trunk. When these have been read, Clara sends numbered letter packets which arrive sporadically, out of sequence, if at all, over the months of the expedition. Max struggles to describe and to edit his daily experiences on the mountains which are extraordinary, often terrifying, and disorienting for him.

Separated by time, distance, and experiences, they are slowly and irrevocably estranged. Max discovers that his real scientific passion is alpine botany, and he must decide how to tell Clara that he will not be returning to England after the Survey ends. The exchange of letters ingeniously maps out the complexities between Max's love for his wife and his passion for scientific knowledge, and the wide expanse between them.

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Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The narrator's father is in the hospital awaiting surgery that might be his last. She and her sister have been coming to the hospital regularly during his prolonged stay, and have become familiar with the cast of characters there, including an old man in a state of dementia who wanders the halls asking directions. The narrator reflects on her family, what can be spoken of and what can't, the different reactions they have to hospital regulations, crisis, impending loss.

She longs to tell her father she loves him, but is constrained by family reserve. As the family gathers at his bed before the surgery, she comes to realize some things will never be fully expressed, but must remain implicit. The unspoken is part of the loss she recognizes as she faces her father's death.

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Chocolates

Simpson, Louis

Last Updated: Mar-20-2003
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

One day some people were visiting Chekhov and they wanted to talk about him, about his genius. The author was embarrassed. He asked them, "Do you like chocolates?" Although the visitors were reticent at first, Anton P. Chekhov encouraged them to speak. Soon everyone was talking about his or her preference in chocolates, relishing the fine points of "almonds and Brazil nuts" and "the flavor of shredded coconut." Later, in the coach on the way home, the people felt that their conversation with Chekhov was very successful. [30 lines]

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Annotated by:
Bertman, Sandra

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Anthology (Poems)

Summary:

Beginning with an informative introduction on the form of lyric poetry known as elegy, this comprehensive anthology of English-language poems from the late middle ages to the present represents both what endures and what varies in modes of lamentation. The first section (pp. 35-147) is divided into four parts: watching the dying, viewing the dead, ceremonies of separation, and imagining the afterlife. The second, and much longer section (pp. 151-444), is composed of subsections lamenting the gamut of specific losses: dead family members, children, spouses and lovers, friends, those dead by violence, the great and beautiful, poets mourning other poets, self-elegies, and meditations on mortality.

Within each section poems are chronologically arranged "to show how historical and cultural differences have produced aesthetic changes" and to illuminate "the often strikingly transformed procedures for mourning devised by so many poets in our own era of mounting theological and social confusion." (p. 26) An index listing authors, poem titles, and first lines is another way of navigating this voluminous collection.

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Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Giovanni (Nanni Moretti) is a psychoanalyst. He has a beautiful wife, Paola (Laura Morante), and an adolescent son and daughter, Andrea and Irene. One Sunday morning, Giovanni gets a call from one of his patients, newly diagnosed with cancer and frantic. Instead of spending the day with his family, Giovanni attends to his patient. Andrea goes diving with friends, there is an accident, and he is killed.

The rest of the film examines the family’s bereavement. Giovanni finds his work increasingly difficult, and by the end of the film he has decided that he can no longer be a psychotherapist.

A love letter addressed to Andrea arrives from a girl called Arianna: it turns out Andrea had a secret girlfriend. Both parents become obsessed, in different ways, with contacting Arianna. Eventually she visits them, while hitchhiking with her new boyfriend, and the family drive all night along the Mediterranean coast, taking Arianna and the boy to France. Next morning, on the beach at Nice, in saying goodbye to Arianna, they seem to have made progress in continuing their life as a family without their lost son.

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Annotated by:
Bertman, Sandra

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

This book's title is from a Goethe poem, "The Holy Longing," translated from German in its entirety by Robert Bly: "And so long as you haven't experienced / this: to die and so to grow, / you are only a troubled guest / on the dark earth." Ten intensely personal essays tell of the suffering and everyday presence of pain of a severely disabled writer who has advancing multiple sclerosis, and of how, "in a very real sense, and entirely without design, death has become [her] life's work." (p. 13)

Beginning with her father's sudden death when she was a child, the essays describe her aging mother's expected death and the family's decision to take her off life support; her caretaker husband's diagnosis of metastatic cancer with uncertain prognosis; her own attempted suicide; death of friends, pets, including her beloved dog; and a young pen-pal executed on death row. If that weren't enough, a coda, her foster son's murder and again the decision to remove life-support, provides "[t]he end. For now." (p. 191)

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