Showing 481 - 490 of 582 annotations tagged with the keyword "Individuality"

Prozac Diary

Slater, Lauren

Last Updated: Dec-15-2000
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

In 1988, having suffered for years from major depression and borderline personality disorder, and now also showing symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder, the twenty-six-year-old Lauren Slater is prescribed a new drug: Prozac. In this "diary," a series of meditations and progress reports on her experience, Slater traces ten years on Prozac, providing a remarkable before-and-after picture of the drug's effects.

She is "hobbled" by her illness: has dropped out of college, has been fired from most jobs, has been hospitalized five times. By the end of the book, she has received a doctorate from Harvard, has a successful career as writer, teacher, and psychologist, and is in a happy marriage.

Despite these unquestionable positives, Slater is ambivalent about the drug, describing the shock of becoming "normal," of being assaulted by health. She describes the sexual dysfunction, her anxiety about losing the need and ability to write the kind of poetry she had written before, and the terrifying moment when the drug suddenly stops working, and she must confront the possibility that it may not be a reliable and permanent solution.

She comes to fear that, healthy, she is no longer herself but something the drug has created. At the same time, though, it is only because of the drug that she is even able to ask these questions. Finally, she thanks her doctor for his ambiguous gift: she has become like a beautiful fish, her "skin all silver," her "mouth pierced" on Prozac, "this precious hook."

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The Unseemly Old Lady

Brecht, Bertolt

Last Updated: Nov-29-2000
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Much to the disapproval of her children, a newly-widowed seventy-two year old woman decides to continue living independently and spends her time in disreputable behavior like going to the cinema alone, visiting insalubrious parts of town, eating at inns, and going to the races. She befriends a middle-aged cobbler (who is also, scandalously, a Social Democrat) and a young "feeble-minded" kitchen maid, and she stops visiting her husband's grave. One of her sons assumes she must be sick and wants to call the doctor. Without consulting her children, she mortgages her large house and apparently gives the money to her cobbler.

The narrator (her grandchild) observes that she has lived two lives: the first as dutiful daughter, wife, and mother, and the second "as Mrs. B, an unattached person without responsibilities." She dies suddenly, without illness, and the grandchild describes a photograph taken of her corpse after death: she has the face of one who "had savoured to the full the long years of servitude and the short years of freedom and consumed the bread of life to the last crumb."

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The Last Angry Man

Green, Gerald

Last Updated: Oct-16-2000
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

By most accounts Dr. Sam Abelman is a failure in life, an irascible old general practitioner who lives in the same grimy Brooklyn neighborhood he has always lived in. He is truculent and tactless, an easy mark for the young specialists who steal his patients. One night a bunch of hoodlums drop a battered young woman on his doorstep. Abelman's nephew, a reporter, publishes a news item about the incident, "Doctor Saves Raped Girl."

Meanwhile, Woody Thrasher, vice president of an advertising agency, is looking for a new type of television show to sell to one of his clients. He comes up with Americans USA, a candid look at "ordinary" Americans who are just doing their jobs, but in an extraordinary way. He decides that Sam Abelman would be the ideal first subject.

Thrasher, a young, high-powered executive, meets Abelman, the last angry man, who summarizes his view on life by saying, "The bastards just won't let you live." The doctor's practice is declining, he can't afford to retire or move away, and the local people certainly don't seem to love him. They don't show gratitude for his services. They don't pay their bills. Many of them consider him a racist, and incompetent to boot. Abelman is clearly not a good candidate for "doctor of the year."

Yet, Thrasher soon finds himself intrigued. Abelman spends hours working in his miniature vegetable garden and reading Henry David Thoreau. He is a brilliant diagnostician, a devoted husband, and an endless campaigner against the "galoots" who think the world owes them a living. Abelman takes aim at "galoots" wherever he finds them, and he finds them everywhere.

The novel interweaves these two men's developing relationship, as Abelman agrees to do the show and Thrasher works to sell it to his bosses, with incidents from Abelman's earlier life. When it turns out that Americans USA will award its subjects their "heart's desire" (in Sam Abelman's case a new house), the doctor declines to go on, refusing to accept "charity" and claiming that Thrasher "tried to crap me up." In the end he agrees to do the show, but suffers a massive heart attack and dies.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay

Summary:

After a stressful trip to cold-war Russia in 1964, Saturday Review editor Norman Cousins tells how he developed a debilitating illness which confines him to bed. He is admitted to hospital for tests and treatments, and is diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, but his condition deteriorates and he is given a gloomy prognosis. He notices that the depressing routine of hospital life tends to produce side effects that aggravate his condition.

With the blessing of one of his doctors, he checks out of hospital and into a comfortable (yet less expensive) hotel where the food is better and he can watch funny movies while he medicates himself with high doses of Vitamin C. He is convinced that the slow improvement in his condition is owing to his individualized methods of therapy and his having taken charge of his own situation.

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Summary:

American Beauty, a story about Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey), his family, and his neighbors, is both comic and tragic. In addition to a loveless marriage, an unhappy teen-age daughter, and an unimaginative, routine job, Lester is worried about aging. Nothing has turned out as expected. From the outside, all seems ideal: the white-framed house, the well-tended red roses, and the white picket fence. As illustrated by meal time settings, a highly-charged cold war atmosphere prevails inside the house. Lester and his wife Carolyn (Annette Bening), a realtor, cannot stand each other and their daughter, Jane (Thora Birch), has no desire to be with either of them.

From the onset, Lester’s narrating voice tells us that he will be dead in a year. He has no illusions about the repressive nature of his life and decides, unilaterally, that abrupt changes are in order. His scripted family role is cast aside as he quits his job, lusts after his daughter’s sexy friend, Angela (Mena Suvari), and smokes an illegal substance with Ricky (Wes Bentley), a teen-ager who has moved in next door.

Uncharacteristic of his customary, go-along behavior, the new, rebellious Lester throws a plate of asparagus against the wall during dinner, drinks beer while lounging on the expensive off-limits couch, works as a cook and waiter at a local fast food restaurant, and begins a body building program so as to impress and seduce Angela. Meanwhile, Carolyn has an affair with a competing realtor and Jane falls in love with Ricky.

Two gay men, who are thoughtful and kind, live on one side of the Burnhams; on the other side, Ricky lives with another version of disturbed parents: an abused and deeply depressed mother and a retired, Marine father (Chris Cooper) who bullies his son, is expressively homophobic, and collects guns and Nazi era memorabilia.

The lives of these characters, many of them familiar to viewers, gain in intensity as various threads cross to produce an unresolvable knot.

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Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Children's Literature

Summary:

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is the fourth book in a planned series of seven (see annotation of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone for an introductory summary). Unlike previous books, this one opens with the murder of a Muggle, Frank Bryce, the elderly gardener for the Riddle estate--a home where Tom Riddle Sr. and his elderly parents had been found dead many years before. Voldemort, although still weak and requiring much assistance from his simpering servant Wormtail and his snake Nagini, is positioning himself for a return to full power.

Harry's distinctive scar is burning with pain as he awakes from a dream of the previous scene. This scar had hurt once before, in book one, when Voldemort was on Hogwarts property. Harry alerts his godfather via owl post and joins the Dursleys for breakfast. Breakfast is meager because Dudley, always obese and obnoxious, has now grown to outrageous proportions and is on the diet ordered by his school nurse. His mother, to make him feel better, puts everyone on the same diet. Harry is once again saved from the Dursleys by the Weasley family, although Dudley and his appetite are the objects of a prank by the Weasley twins.

Arthur Weasley (the father) who works for the Ministry of Magic in the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office has secured top notch tickets for all to attend the World Quidditch Cup. This fantastic event is marred by the appearance of signs of support for Voldemort by his followers, the Death Eaters, and Arthur hurries home with his charges in tow via Portkey transit.

Harry, now fourteen, enters Hogwarts for his fourth year. This year is different for all of the students due to the resurrection of the Triwizard Tournament, a dangerous international competition for a selected champion from each of three schools, Durmstrang, Beauxbatons, and Hogwarts. Although underage, Harry is selected by the Goblet as an extra competitor from Hogwarts. Everyone is concerned for the competitors' safety (the famous Viktor Krum, the enticing Fleur Delacour, and the decent Cedric Diggory). In particular, Harry's life is in danger from suspected foul play.

Adolescent love, the nastiness of poison-pen reporter Rita Skeeter, the ever-vigilant nature of Mad-Eye Moody (an Auror who caught Death Eaters in the past and who now teaches Defense Against the Dark Arts), spells that cause loss of control, excruciating pain or death, enslavement of house-elves, money, and variable degrees of professionalism by members of the Ministry of Magic, such as Cornelius Fudge, Bartemius Crouch, officious Percy Weasley, and Ludo Bagman are some of the themes and subplots in the novel. The traumatic end to the competition and follow-up lead Harry to witness and participate in some horrific events. Dumbledore, however, refuses to allow Harry to bottle-up the experience--Dumbledore understands that talk, openness, support, and rest are the first steps towards healing.

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Souvenir

Phillips, Jayne Ann

Last Updated: Aug-04-2000
Annotated by:
Holmes, Martha Stoddard

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Kate, a doctoral student, has chosen to move far away from the small town in which she grew up and in which her widowed mother (a school superintendent) and brother (an insurance man) still live. Kate's life is solitary, punctuated by unsatisfactory and transitory sexual relationships with men; she has headaches and wonders if "there were an agent in her body, a secret in her blood making ready to work against her" (p. 180).

While her mother disagrees with Kate's life choices, their long-distance relationship is sisterly, playful, and intimate. Kate sends her mother Valentine's Day cards, "a gesture of compensatory remembrance" since her father's death six years earlier (177). One year Kate forgets to send the card; soon after, her mother is suddenly hospitalized for tests that reveal a brain tumor.

Kate's brother insists that if she wants to come home, she must keep quiet about the likelihood of the tumor's malignance and the risk that the upcoming surgery will result in paralysis. He argues that their mother is terrified and that there is no point in making her more afraid. Kate objects to the concealment of the truth but complies unwillingly with her brother's request.

She gains permission to take her mother for a ten-minute walk outside, just time enough to take a ferris wheel ride. As their car reaches the top of the wheel, Kate is clearly upset. Her mother comforts her, saying, "I know all about it . . . I know what you haven't told me" (196).

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Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Children's Literature

Summary:

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is the first in a planned series of seven books. Harry's wizard and witch parents, James and Lily, have just been killed by Voldemort, an evil wizard who was thwarted and severely weakened when he tried to kill one-year-old Harry. The murder attempt leaves Harry with a lightning-shaped scar on his forehead. Harry is whisked off to live with his Muggle (non-magical) suburban middle-class aunt and uncle (Petunia and Vernon Dursley) and their bullying overweight son, Dudley.

Fast-forward nearly ten years and chapter two begins when Harry is almost eleven and suffering a Dickensian childhood, forced to live in the cupboard under the stairs at 4 Privet Drive, the home of the Dursleys. Harry has not been told of his heritage, and is unaware of his own fame in the wizard world. He is punished when any hint of the out-of-ordinary appears, such as when he communicates with a snake at the zoo.

The narrative then follows our bespectacled young protagonist as Hagrid, the huge groundskeeper of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, informs Harry that he is invited to attend the school, takes him shopping for the necessary school equipment such as cauldron and wand, and offers the first sign of affection that Harry can remember. Uncle Vernon rants and tries to prevent Harry from attending the school.

But when Vernon ridicules the name of Albus Dumbledore, the wise and beloved headmaster of Hogwarts, Hagrid hexes Dudley who sprouts a pig's tail, necessitating a visit to a private hospital. The train for Hogwarts leaves from London's King's Cross station, where Harry befriends the wizard Weasley family, who show him how to enter the magical Platform Nine and Three-Quarters.

Hogwarts has four houses, and the new first year students are placed into the appropriate house (Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, and the sinister Slytherin) by a Sorting hat. Harry's life takes a definite upturn as he finds he is a natural broomstick flyer and is chosen for the Gryffindor Quidditch team. This high flying game with three kinds of balls and seven players per team does lead to injuries. Madam Pomfrey is the school nurse and runs the hospital wing. She cures with special spells and the magic of rest.

The year at Hogwarts is filled with adventure, friendship, and danger. There are characters who seem to detest Harry, such as Potions teacher Severus Snape and a Slytherin first year, Draco Malfoy, mysterious characters such as Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor Quirrell, as well as a colorful assortment of ghosts and magical creatures. Harry and his Gryffindor friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger enter a quest: to prevent the sorcerer's stone from falling into the hands of Voldemort and his allies. The stone offers eternal life and hence would be key to Voldemort's plans to return to power.

During part of the adventure, Harry finds the Mirror of Erised, and mourns the loss of his parents anew as he sees them in the reflection. As the astute headmaster Dumbledore teaches Harry, however, love is more powerful than evil and death may not be the worst outcome: "After all, to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure." (p. 297)

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Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Children's Literature

Summary:

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is the second in a planned series of seven books (see annotation of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone for an introductory summary). Harry's summer with the Dursley family is initially more pleasant because the Dursleys are afraid of Harry's wizard powers and do not realize that he is forbidden to use magic outside of school. However, after a magic spell is performed by a visiting, self-flagellating house-elf, Dobby, Uncle Vernon is informed of this school rule and imprisons Harry in his bedroom.

With this maneuver and others, Dobby tries to not only warn Harry that his life is in danger but also prevent Harry from returning to Hogwarts. Barred and sealed in his room, Harry is forced to live off meager portions of soup, which he shares with his owl, Hedwig, until he is rescued by several of the Weasley boys.

Though Harry (now age 12) and Ron miss the train to Hogwarts, they manage to arrive, meet the Whomping Willow (a violent magical tree that beats anything near it), and are nearly expelled by the strict but kind-hearted Transfiguration Professor Minerva McGonagall, head of Gryffindor House. Many of the students, teachers, assorted creatures and magical items (e.g., the invisibility cloak) return in this book, and again a dangerous adventure features Harry, Ron, and their brainy friend, Hermione.

Ron's younger sister, Ginny, is now an impressionable Gryffindor first year student. The adventure leads Harry to the past, a young but evil Voldemort, and more encounters with snakes, Snape, spiders, the Malfoys, and Moaning Myrtle, the ghost of the girls' bathroom.

Illness, particularly an altered, petrified state, plays a prominent role in this book, requiring the healing powers of Madame Pomfrey and the maturing of mandrakes nurtured by Herbology Professor Sprout. Famed author and narcissist Gilderoy Lockhart, the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, muffs the healing of Harry's broken arm, a Quidditch injury, and Harry must go to Madame Pomfrey in the hospital wing for the proper, though painful treatment. Madame Pomfrey is also helpful with a Polyjuice potion gone awry--the potion is supposed to transform the drinker into another person for an hour.

Fawkes, Dumbledore's phoenix, whose flaming death and rebirth is witnessed by Harry, helps in numerous ways, including the healing powers of its tears. But perhaps, as in the first book, Dumbledore's concern and wisdom are most soothing for Harry. Harry, worried about his strange capabilities that link him with Voldemort, such as their shared ability to talk with snakes (Parseltongue), and that the Sorting hat considered placing Harry in Slytherin House and only put him in Gryffindor due to Harry's request, is reassured by Dumbledore that Gryffindor was the right choice: "It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities." (p 333)

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Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is the third of a planned series of seven books (see annotation of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone for an introductory summary). Harry, forced to suffer another summer with the Dursleys, has just turned thirteen. When Uncle Vernon's sister arrives and proceeds to abuse Harry, he rebels, runs away with his heavy school trunk and is picked up by the Knight Bus, a wizard transportation vehicle. Meanwhile, the nine-member Weasley family, usually short of money, have won a wizard lottery and are using the money to visit the eldest son, Bill, in Egypt.

Sirius Black, whose motorcycle was featured in the first chapter of the first book, has escaped Azkaban and the prison guards known as Dementors. Sirius was imprisoned just after the death of Harry's parents when he was caught at the scene of another horrendous crime. Special precautions for Harry's safety are arranged by Dumbledore and the Ministry of Magic, led by Cornelius Fudge. When Harry meets a Dementor on the train to Hogwarts, he blacks out as he feels a rush of coldness, a complete lack of happiness or future, and relives his worst memories. Remus Lupin, the mysterious, gentle and periodically ill Defense of the Dark Arts Professor, provides the antidote: chocolate.

Thus begins Harry's third year at Hogwarts. Hermione signs up for an especially busy, seemingly impossible, schedule of classes. Ron's old pet rat, Scabbers, takes a turn for the worse, despite Ron's attention and care. The invisibility cloak again proves useful, as does a magical map. Hagrid, cleared of the cloud that had been hanging over him since his school days, is promoted to teacher: Care of Magical Creatures. However, an injury to Draco Malfoy by Buckbeak the hippogriff (a flying bird-horse) during the first class leads to another investigation.

Bizarre characters, such as the doom-predicting Divination teacher, Sibyll Trelawney, exciting Quidditch matches with a new broomstick for Harry, more run-ins with Snape, and a peek at Hogsmeade, an all magic village, round out the story. Ron, Hermione, and Harry's dangerous adventure leads to the exposure of Sirius Black, the truth of his connection to Harry's parents, and new discoveries for Harry about his father. Our heroes also discover who is the servant to Voldemort, the Dark Lord.

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