Showing 411 - 420 of 519 annotations tagged with the keyword "Ordinary Life"

Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Nan Shin was an American woman living as a Zen Buddhist nun in France. She is diagnosed with advanced uterine cancer, undergoes surgery and chemotherapy and, by the end of the book, it appears, is dying. Her account does not, however, take the conventional form of the illness narrative; in fact its form might be called anti-narrative, for its focus is not on the story of Shin's illness and dying, but rather on the "every day living" that is at the center of her Zen beliefs.

The book consists of several strands that recur in alternating sections. One strand describes, in minute detail, the course of a single day's devotions and activities in the life of a Zen nun. Another traces the author's travels in the United States with her sensei, an astonishing man whose perspective on American culture is both detached and hilariously insightful.

A third tells of the author's frequent horseback rides through the French countryside, with beautifully focused and precise descriptions of the natural surroundings. Finally, there is the illness, presented matter-of-factly but conveying powerfully the author's (not always wholly successful) efforts to put into practice, in such trying circumstances, all she has learnt as a practitioner of Zen.

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Singing Boy

McFarland, Dennis

Last Updated: Dec-18-2001
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Malcolm Vaughan, an architect, his wife, Sarah, a biochemist, and their five-year-old son, Harry, are driving home one evening. The driver of the car in front of them is acting strangely. Malcolm goes to investigate and the driver shoots him dead. The novel traces the effects of Malcolm's death from the alternating points of view of his wife and his best friend, Deckard Jones, a black Vietnam vet. Following different and often conflicting trajectories but linked by their love for Harry, both Sarah and Deck begin to move from traumatized shock to the beginnings of recovery.

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The Talking Cure

Busch, Frederick

Last Updated: Nov-01-2001
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Narrated in the first person, the transforming events of Peter's life as a 15 year old are told years later. The opening paragraphs set the scene: "the older brother who went off to school" leaving "the brilliant . . . mother . . . bereft"; the father, "son of a bankrupt Hudson Valley apple grower"; "the darkening drift and dismay of my parents." Into this family unease steps the local veterinarian, Dr. Mason, whom Peter assists during after-school hours, and who is a sometime dinner guest in his parents' home.

Dr. Mason not only tries to persuade Peter to go into a medical profession, ignoring Peter's interests (writing poetry, reading about mountain climbing) but self-importantly insists on "offering [him] lessons in nothing less than all of life" (63). Dr. Mason, we learn, is singularly unqualified to dispense such lessons. He is, at least in Peter's eyes, overbearing and insensitive in his interactions with the owners of the pets he treats, and perhaps even unethical in his professional decisions. Then, Peter discovers, his mother is having an affair with Dr. Mason (who is also married). It is the burden of this knowledge that drives the narrative.

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Adam Bede

Eliot, George (Marian Evans)

Last Updated: Nov-01-2001
Annotated by:
Kennedy, Meegan

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Adam and Seth Bede work as carpenters in the little village of Hayslope. Seth proposes to Dinah Morris, a gifted Methodist preacher, but she wants to devote herself to God's work. However, neither Dinah's faith nor her aunt Mrs. Poyser's sharp country truths can deflate the vain fancies of her pretty Hetty Sorrel (Mrs. Poyser's other niece). Although good Adam woos Hetty, she is distracted by the idle attentions of Captain Arthur Donnithorne, and when Adam finds out, he fights Arthur, who leaves town.

But when Hetty realizes she is pregnant, she runs away to see Arthur, only to find, arriving destitute after a difficult journey, that his regiment has been called away. Hetty restrains herself from suicide and gives birth in a lodging-house, then runs off with the infant and buries it in the brush, where it dies. After she is convicted for child-murder, Arthur finally hears the news, and Hetty's commuted sentence (transportation) saves her from the gallows. Two years later, Adam and Dinah realize they love each other, and they marry.

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The Last Leaf

Henry, O.

Last Updated: Aug-29-2001
Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Living in early 20th century Greenwich Village are two young women artists, Sue and Johnsy (familiar for Joanna). They met in May, six months previously, and decided to share a studio apartment. Stalking their artist colony in November is "Mr. Pneumonia." The story begins as Johnsy, near death from pneumonia, lies in bed waiting for the last leaf of an ivy vine on the brick wall she spies through her window to fall.

"I’m tired of thinking," says Johnsy. "I want to turn loose my hold on everything, and go sailing down, down, just like one of those poor, tired leaves"(16). However, an unexpected hero arrives to save Johnsy. It’s not the brusque doctor who gives her only one in ten chances to survive, raising them to one in five if Sue can get her to hope for something important like a man, not her true desire to "paint the Bay of Naples some day" (14).

Mr. Behrman, an old man who lives in the apartment below Sue and Johnsy, who enjoys drinking, works sometimes as an artist’s model, and as yet has made no progress over the past 40 years on painting his own masterpiece, becomes in typical O. Henry fashion the hero. The evidence of his heroics are found the day before he dies from pneumonia: outside Johnsy’s window are a ladder, a lantern still lighted "some scattered brushes, and a palette with green and yellow colors mixed on it . . . it’s Behrman’s masterpiece--he painted it [a leaf] there the night that the last leaf fell"(19), Sue informs Johnsy.

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The Tenth Circle

Zimmer, Paul

Last Updated: Aug-22-2001
Annotated by:
Nixon, Lois LaCivita

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

Zimmer's poem begins with policy guidelines for landlords whose elderly tenants may be calling the switchboard more than three times per month for health emergencies. According to the guidelines, such patterns suggest that the resident, no longer capable of independent living, can be moved to a health care center.

In response to the policy passage, an advisory poem is constructed by the narrator for his own father who, we can assume, values his independence. In essence the son advises silence about medical events such as a fall: "tell no one." If an ambulance should arrive, don't get in.

The strong warnings reflect contemporary health care systems in which the prevailing practices correspond to Dante's Inferno, particularly the tenth circle. At that level, everyone faces one direction and people are "piled like cordwood inside the cranium of Satan." Cries for help are unheard and unanswered.

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Otherwise

Kenyon, Jane

Last Updated: Aug-22-2001
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The speaker enumerates the pleasurable activities of daily life: getting out of bed "on two strong legs," walking the dog, lying down "with my mate," planning another day "just like this day." Counterpoised to these enumerations, however, is the recognition that "it might have been otherwise." Finally, the speaker acknowledges, "it will be otherwise."

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Uncle Vanya

Chekhov, Anton

Last Updated: Aug-20-2001
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

A retired professor has returned to his estate to live with his beautiful young wife, Yelena. The estate originally belonged to his first wife, now deceased; her mother and brother still live there and manage the farm. For many years the brother (Uncle Vanya) has sent the farm’s proceeds to the professor, while receiving only a small salary himself. Sonya, the professor’s daughter, who is about the same age as his new wife, also lives on the estate. The professor is pompous, vain, and irritable. He calls the doctor (Astrov) to treat his gout, only to send him away without seeing him. Astrov is an experienced physician who performs his job conscientiously, but has lost all idealism and spends much of his time drinking.

The presence of Yelena introduces a bit of sexual tension into the household. Astrov and Uncle Vanya both fall in love with Yelena; she spurns them both. Meanwhile, Sonya is in love with Astrov, who fails even to notice her. Finally, when the professor announces he wants to sell the estate, Vanya, whose admiration for the man died with his sister, tries to kill him. But the professor survives and he and Yelena leave the estate.

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Annotated by:
Stanford, Ann Folwell

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Anthology (Poems)

Summary:

This is a collection of poems by members of an AIDS workshop run for Gay Men’s Health Crisis in New York by poet Rachel Hadas. The poetry is framed by an introductory essay by Hadas, "The Lights Must Never Go Out," and a long concluding chapter that includes Hadas’s reflections on the poetry collection, her own experiences with illness, and many of her own poems.

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Fine?

Haddix, Margaret Peterson

Last Updated: Aug-13-2001
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story for Young Adults

Summary:

The story begins as an MRI technician assures Baily that "Contrary to popular opinion, . . . this is not a torture device." The test was ordered because her arm suddenly went numb and she suddenly lost most of her vision during algebra class. With no idea what's wrong, Baily speculates about the possibility of a brain tumor, about how disease will change her life, about early death. She is uncomfortable with her mother's cheery reassurances, which consist mostly of simple theories like the possibility that Baily was reacting to missing lunch, but wants them, nonetheless.

Since the pediatric wing is full, she is put in a room with an old woman for observation overnight. The nurse runs her through a series of highly irrelevant questions about her physical health from drug use to dentures. Then her mother is required to leave for the night. In the morning they take her for an EKG before her mother can get there; Baily returns to her room in a state of morbid conviction that she's dying, which is finally overturned when the doctor comes in to explain to her that she had a classic case of severe migraine.

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