Showing 411 - 420 of 514 annotations tagged with the keyword "Memory"

Old People

Goncz, Arpad

Last Updated: Nov-01-2001
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

An elderly woman prepares for an announced visit from "officials" to honor the 90th birthday of her demented and bedridden husband, Bernat, once a major force in the scientific community of Communist controlled Hungary. As she flutters about the apartment, preparing to serve cakes and drinks to the anticipated visitors, the reader becomes acquainted with the unnamed protagonist's own concentration difficulty. She repeatedly lapses into remote recall, speaking fondly of an apparent former lover and occasionally sighing for Mommie or Daddy.

During the brief period of waiting, she unfolds bits and pieces of the life of the intellectually privileged and those not so lucky during the Communist regime, and her own regrets for dreams not realized. The reader does not meet the guests, but learns of the visit only through the eyes of Bernat's wife. The visits serves only to enhance her fears that the apartment may be taken, the little pension upon which the couple lives may be rescinded.

As the little vignette draws to a close, the wife enters the room of Bernat, who is obviously profoundly demented, but for whom she cares as one would care for a baby. The sadness of her lonely life dissolves into tears of resigned hopelessness.

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Janet Frame: Autobiography

Frame, Janet

Last Updated: Nov-01-2001
Annotated by:
Sirridge, Marjorie

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Autobiography

Summary:

This autobiography by Janet Frame, a preeminent New Zealand writer, was originally published in three volumes in 1982, 1984, and 1985. The first volume is titled To the Is-land. In it the author tells the story of her early life "with its mixture of fact and truths and memories of truths." She describes her mother as a rememberer and a talker, partly exiled from her family through a marriage outside the family's faith and her father as having a strong sense of formal behavior that did not allow him the luxury of reminiscence. Her siblings (4 sisters and 1 brother) are described in equally perceptive language. The brother suffered from epilepsy which was poorly controlled and this had a strong influence on family dynamics.

Frame's writing is so descriptive and personal that it is easy to envision oneself as a family member. She was very early attracted to words and became a voracious reader. The family was poor and moved often but there was a firm family kinship. One older and one younger sister drowned when swimming which had a large impact and drew Janet much closer to the remaining younger sister. Janet was a good student and won many prizes; she writes that she "identified most easily with the stoical, solitary heroine suffering in silence."

The second volume, An Angel at My Table, concerns itself with Janet's experience as a student at Dunedin (Teacher)Training College and her subsequent breakdown and commitment to mental institutions. She was very lonely in college and retreated more and more into her own world of literature. At the end of her year of probationary teaching she walked out of the room during the visit of the school's inspector and disappeared.

After a suicide attempt she was eventually committed to Seacliff, a mental hospital. Her stay there, she writes, and later in another facility which eventually lasted most of seven years, was in a world she'd never known among people whose existences she never thought possible. She describes it as an intensive course in the horrors of insanity. She received multiple electric shock treatments and was scheduled for a lobotomy when it was learned that she had won a prestigious award for a book she had written.

Frame was discharged on probation and lived for a while in a small cottage owned by a well known writer who befriended her. After her book of prose and poems was accepted for publication she was awarded a grant that allowed her to travel abroad.

The third volume, The Envoy from Mirror City, is quite mystical and concerns itself with her life as a writer in England, Spain, and New Zealand after her return. She describes Mirror City as the saving world which sustains writers. She has continued writing and eventually learned that the diagnosis of schizophrenia, with which she had been burdened, was incorrect. With some life experience and wise psychotherapy she was able to write about her life in the mental institutions, among other things.

In all she has published eleven novels, four collections of short stories, a volume of poetry and a children's book.

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Summary:

This varied collection of short stories and poems is unified not so much by theme as by their appropriateness to the intended listening audience--the bedridden or homebound elderly. In a brief but moving preface editor Carolyn Banks recalls her work in an adult day care center where she was expected to entertain those who were recovering from strokes or suffering from Alzheimer's disease.

Reading aloud provided sometimes startling moments of contact with patients who were incapable of sustained conversation. Banks realized that while there are many story collections for children and general adult audiences, no one had done a collection for a group with these specific needs.

The collection includes 52 stories--one a week for a year--that cover a range of life situations. Not all focus on age or illness, though some do. In several a grandparent plays a crucial role in a grandchild's life. Some are set in the 1930's, 40's and 50's--periods likely to trigger memories for those now in their 70's and 80's.

Several stories focus on situations of widowhood and other losses, and some on death: Banks insists that death "is not a taboo topic." Many of the stories are comic, since, she comments, laughter is "an important response to court." All are short enough to read in a half hour or less, and "not insultingly simple."

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Pilgrim

Findley, Timothy

Last Updated: Sep-18-2001
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction — Secondary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The novel opens with a man known only as Pilgrim hanging himself in London in 1912. Despite being pronounced dead by two physicians, he somehow lives. Pilgrim has attempted suicide many times before but is seemingly unable to die. He claims to have endured life for thousands of years but has tired of living and only longs for death. He has crossed paths with many historical figures including Leonardo da Vinci, Saint Teresa, Oscar Wilde, and Auguste Rodin.

After his most recent suicide attempt, he is admitted to a psychiatric facility in Zurich as a patient of the famous Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung. Pilgrim eventually escapes from the institution and masterminds the successful theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre. Next, he sets the cathedral at Chartres on fire. The novel ends with Pilgrim driving a car into a river on the eve of World War I. His body is never found.

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Mnemonic

Lee, Li-Young

Last Updated: Aug-17-2001
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The speaker recalls his need to call forth a "slender memory" of his father. This memory from childhood is both "painful" and "sweet." In contrast to his father, who, as a political prisoner had devised complex mnemonics, the speaker has a haphazard memory. But is it his memory, or what he recalls that is "illogical"? "My father loved me. So he spanked me. / It hurt him to do so. He did it daily." The speaker remembers, also, how his father protectively wrapped him in his own sweater to shield him from cold. Years later, the speaker wears the sweater.

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The Iceman Cometh

O'Neill, Eugene

Last Updated: Aug-17-2001
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

This study of the anatomy of alcoholism, its spectrum and individual manifestations, is set in a skid row bar/hotel in 1912. The bar is peopled by a collection of society's failures: drifters, pimps, police informers, former anarchists, failed con-artists, ex-soldiers, and prostitutes. The patrons, in various stages of inebriation, await the annual arrival of the big-spending, happy-go-lucky salesman binge drinker, Hickey, whom the pipe-dreaming losers anticipate will treat them to hours of merriment and free-flowing liquor on the occasion of his birthday.

Hickey does, in fact, arrive, a bit late and very sober. He claims to have seen the light and to desire to help his old drinking buddies dump their pipe-dreams and return to productive lives. The reaction of the folks, the results of their attempts to buy into Hickey's sales-pitch, and an unanticipated homicide and surprise suicide, round out the drama.

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Out of the Bag

Heaney, Seamus

Last Updated: Aug-14-2001
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The poet conjures up the image of the doctor who delivered him and his siblings ("All of us came in Doctor Kerlin's bag"), the doctor who arrived at the house in his fur-lined coat and ascended to his mother's bedroom, and later came down and arranged the instruments in his bag (a "plump ark"), which by that point was otherwise empty. In the boy's fantasy, Doctor Kerlin's small eyes were "peepholes into a locked room," in which were strung "the little pendant infant parts / . . . neatly from a line up near the ceiling-- / a toe, a foot and shin, an arm, a cock."

On a visit to the ruined temple of Asclepius, the god of healing, the poet finds himself remembering Doctor Kerlin, and also the incident when, as an altar boy, he fainted during a procession at the healing shrine of Lourdes in 1956. Now many years later, he pulls up some tufts of grass from around the temple and sends them to friends suffering from cancer. He remembers entering the bedroom after Doctor Kerlin left, his mother on the bed asking, "And what do you think / Of the new wee baby the doctor brought for us all / When I was asleep?" [94 lines]

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Kaddish

Ginsberg, Allen

Last Updated: Aug-09-2001
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

Dedicated to the poet's mother, Naomi Ginsberg, the poem is a narration and a lament arising from Ginsberg's memories, three years after Naomi's death, of her life and of his life with her. This long poem is subdivided into 5 sections that address the dead woman directly.

The highly poetic Part I is a reflection on death, life ["all the accumulations of life, that wear us out" (p. 11)], mortality, the link between the dead and the living, the great unknown that lies beyond death--not in the abstract, but in the signs and symbols of Naomi's life/death and in the issues that remain for her son: "Now I've got to cut through--to talk to you / --as I didn't when you had a mouth." (p. 11)

Part II is a long narration of Naomi's life story, especially the history of her mental illness and of the role it imposed on Ginsberg himself. Ginsberg "was only 12" when he brought his mother to what was intended as a rest cure; instead, she became psychotic and was hospitalized, leaving Ginsberg with an everlasting sense of guilt. Separated from her husband, Naomi spent years of paranoia in chaos and institutionalization; son Allen vacillated between pity, disgust, escape in travel, and (homo)sexual exploration.

At the last meeting with his mother, in a mental hospital, she didn't recognize him. While living in San Francisco, two days after Naomi died, he received a letter from her: "Strange Prophesies anew! She wrote--'The key is in / the window, the key is in the sunlight at the window--I have / the key--Get married Allen don't take drugs . . . .' " (p. 31)

These passages give a vivid sense of mental disease and its impact on the family. Ginsberg is not self-pitying or self-indulgent in his description of the illness that laid siege to his mother's life and which so strongly influenced his own life for years. Modestly, he inserts: "I was in bughouse that year 8 months--my own visions unmentioned in this here Lament--" (p. 25)

The brief "Hymnn," is a blessing: "Blessed be you Naomi in Hospitals! Blessed be you Naomi in solitude! Blest be your triumph! . . . Blest be your last year's loneliness!" Part III (one page long) is a short recapitulation of Naomi's life, and uses her own cryptic words to try to make sense out of her life as well as of all life and death: "But that the key should be left behind--at the window . . . to the living . . . that can . . . look back see / Creation glistening backwards to the same grave . . . ." (p. 33)

Part IV, a chant, reaches beyond the personal to social history: "O mother / what have I left out"; (p. 34) "with your eyes of shock / with your eyes of lobotomy; " "farewell / with Communist party and a broken stocking"; "with your eyes of Czechoslovakia attacked by robots . . . ." (p. 35) Ending with the short part V, Ginsberg cries out to the shrieking crows circling in the sky above His mother's grave, "Lord Lord O Grinder of giant Beyonds my voice in a boundless / field in Sheol" (p.36) [Sheol is a Hebrew word meaning "the abode of death."]

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Being Dead

Crace, Jim

Last Updated: Aug-07-2001
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Joseph and Celice, a married couple in their fifties, both zoologists, return one day to the coastal dunes where, thirty years before, they had first made love. There they are attacked and beaten to death by a robber. From this starting point, the novel traces three trajectories: their married life, from their meeting as graduate students working at this beach; the course of their last day, traced backwards, or undone, until they are back in bed, asleep, that morning; and the first week of their death until they are found and taken away by the police. The changes that take place as their bodies decay are meticulously described. At the end of the novel, nine days after their death, the grass has recovered and there is no sign they were ever there.

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Candle, Lamp and Firefly

Gallagher, Tess

Last Updated: Jul-05-2001
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

What I remember most: you did not want / to go. The poet searches her memory for the scene--the dying man "like a cut rose / on the fifth day" turns into himself, drops, and deepens. She visualizes his weak arms embracing her, as she asks: "Is it good / where you are?" The word "daughter" echoes again and again, as she feels her father's body turn cold and pull away. In the end "I carry no proof that we met." Is the memory of this moment simply a dream? Or did this last embrace really happen? [42 lines]

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