Showing 481 - 490 of 515 annotations tagged with the keyword "Ordinary Life"

Fitting Ends

Chaon, Dan

Last Updated: Nov-23-1997
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The narrator, now a grown man, relates the story of his brother Del's troubled life and early death. The real story, however, concerns the narrator himself, as he reflects on his relationship with Del, his father's behavior toward both of them, and on the possibility that he (the narrator) played a role in Del's death.

When the narrator was fourteen, older brother Del--drunk at the time--was struck and killed by a train as he walked along the tracks. But the central event in the story is the narrator's betrayal of Del. Although Del had saved him from falling off a grain elevator roof, the narrator had falsely blamed Del for the near-fatal accident, out of fear of the father's fury, and because "After years of being on the receiving end, it wasn't in my nature to see Del as someone who could be wronged . . . ." [p. 57]

"My father had good reason to believe this lie . . . . " [p. 55] The incident occurred shortly after Del had been released from a juvenile detention facility--detained there for trying to strangle the narrator and threatening their father with a shotgun.

The narrator (later) finds in Del's notebook an essay revealing Del's intention to reform. But with the passage of time after the grain elevator episode, Del reverts to delinquent behavior; a year later he is dead. The narrator never reveals to his father the truth and the family never discusses Del's death.

At times, over the years, as the narrator searches for meaning and closure he believes he can "take all the loose ends of my life and fit them together perfectly . . . where all the details add up . . . ." [p. 68] In the end, however, we are left wondering whether this is possible--for the narrator--or for anyone.

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Kitchen Table Wisdom

Remen, Rachel Naomi

Last Updated: Sep-15-1997
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Collection (Essays)

Summary:

The author, a pediatrician by training who has gradually moved into psycho-oncology and training others in relationship centered care, writes about life in this collection of short vignettes and analyses. She blends stories of her own experiences as patient and as woman with those she has gathered from a long history of patient encounters. There is no temporal sequence, but the work is grouped into thematic segments. The author shares selected, carefully garnered and assessed narratives of life events intended to be spiritually healing to those who are ill or who care for the sick.

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A Litany in the Time of Plague

Nashe, Thomas

Last Updated: Jul-02-1997
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

Despite its provocative title, this lyric never refers directly to a plague or epidemic, unless both the inevitability and the social indifference of death could be deemed "plagues" in themselves.

The litany of the title is a catalogue of the inability to escape death--the rich, the beautiful, the strong, the witty-- have no extraordinary claim to immunity. Like the poet whose refrain reads, "I am sick, I must die. / Lord, have mercy on us, " the reader is encouraged to "welcome destiny," as he mounts to Heaven, his heritage.

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Summary:

The title refers to the lineage of women who form the unusual community surrounding the central character’s life in the decades following World War II. When we first meet Antonia (Willeke Van Ammelrooy), she is an elderly Dutch woman announcing to herself that today is the day she will die, and when the film concludes, indeed, she does. However, what transpires in-between presents a rich story of birth, death, disability, love, hatred, and, above all, a tenacious sense of nurturing regeneration in spite of harsh and difficult obstacles.

Audiences are swept into a pastoral epic filled with the pathos and joy of human life. In the unfolding flashback, Antonia and her teen-aged daughter, Danielle (El Dottermans), return to her rural birth setting on the day her own mother dies, and where she will become the life force for her daughter and, eventually, for the entire village.

Two women running a large farm seems at first daunting, but we discover that Antonia is a farmer in what might be called a feminist sense: she cares for everything that grows. Not only do her crops thrive under prudent management, but so do the vulnerable, infirm and damaged figures who are brought into her garden and house for recovery.

For example, Loony Lips, an awkward Ichabod Crane of a boy, tortured as the village idiot, is rescued by Antonia to become a productive member of the farm; later, he and DeeDee, Farmer Daan’s sexually abused and mentally limited daughter, who has similarly been rescued by Antonia and Danielle, fall in love and are married. For all of their shortcomings, the couple’s shy approach to one another, and joys for the simple provenance offered by Antonia as their protector, provide an emblem of the nurturing powers in the female household. Audiences squirm with delight as they watch these discarded members of society flourish with embarrassing innocence.

We watch Danielle’s transformation from adolescence to womanhood and find nothing alarming or disconcerting about her lesbianism and her decision to become pregnant without benefit of marriage. Antonia, always acceptant of life’s realities, continues to care for Danielle’s needs by providing emotional and intellectual support in the search for an appropriate man to father the child.

Much later, Danielle’s child is raped by DeeDee’s brother, who had also been raping DeeDee, prior to her rescue from her father’s malevolent and abusive household. Justice is swift. Antonia, magnificent in her outrage, sweeps across the farm and into the village pub where the males are gathered. With rifle pointed at the rapist’s head, she orders him out of town. [Her form of justice is less brutal than that of Danielle, who, having witnessed the rape of DeeDee by the same man, thrusts a pitchfork into his groin.]

Antonia’s farm grows and expands with new life. Seasons come and go, bringing death and rebirth. Happiness and tragedy exist side by side, as exemplified by the opposing viewpoints of Antonia’s positive spirit, and the pessimistic outlook held by Antonia’s life-long friend, Crooked Finger (Mil Seghers), the melancholic, Nietzche-quoting philosopher, who finds life impossible and unbearable. Whether we are watching Antonia’s mother die, or the Catholic Mad Madonna howling at the moon when she should be loving the Protestant man separated from her by the floor in the building they share, or feeling the appreciation of Farmer Daan’s wife’s for Antonia’s strengths--strengths that she herself does not possess--we are woven in the magic of a remarkably simple and yet complex fabric.

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Annotated by:
Moore, Pamela

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

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Doctor Richard Diver is a young neurologist already gaining great respect for his work. One day, he visits his friend Franz in Zurich. Franz is treating a young American girl, Nicole Warren, who was sexually abused by her father and has suffered a breakdown. Nicole is attracted to Diver and writes him letters after he leaves the clinic. When she is almost cured, Diver returns to the clinic and decides, rather haphazardly, to marry her. Nicole comes from a wealthy family and the couple begin to travel around Europe.

They settle briefly in a cabin by the French Riviera and aim to live quietly so that Dick can finish his great treatise. Nevertheless, Dick's easy-going, giving nature attracts a band of followers. When Rosemary, a budding American film star visits their town, she too is drawn to him. She tells him she loves him but Dick remains true to Nicole.

Several years pass during which Dick still does not finish his writing and indeed does very little towards that end. Nicole suffers several relapses. When Dick runs into Rosemary again, they have an affair. Nicole also takes a lover and finally leaves Dick who has become increasingly dissolute. He drinks most of the day and does nothing.

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Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novella

Summary:

Montilice, a tiny mountain village in post-World War II Italy, is the setting for this stunning novella. The narrator is a 60 year old priest who is haunted by the request of Zelinda, a woman new to his parish and slightly older than he. It takes the priest a while to get to the essence of Zelinda's request, for she initially approached him with seemingly odd concerns about marriage and divorce. But later he realizes that her inquiries about exceptions to church dogma have to do with the taking of one's life. Zelinda was tired of her existence (as a washerwoman her life was "a goat-life. A goat-life and nothing else . . . ") and she wanted to "finish up a little sooner."

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The Black Swan

Mann, Thomas

Last Updated: Feb-03-1997
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novella

Summary:

The setting is Germany in the late 1920s. Rosalie, the central character, is a "sociable," cheerful 50 year old widow who lives with her adult unmarried daughter and her adolescent son. Her manner is youthful but "her health had been affected by certain critical organic phenomena of her time of life." Rosalie is keenly aware of all that menopause implies: the loss of sexual allure and of a (biologic) purpose in life. She feels "superannuated."

Along comes a young man, well-built, who is the American-born tutor for her son. She is overwhelmed by physical attraction for him, becoming infatuated, much to the disapproval of her repressed, cerebral daughter. She feels young and attractive once more, believing that her heightened state of sensuality has resulted in the resumption of what appears to be menstrual bleeding.

Planning to declare her love to the tutor, Rosalie arranges a family excursion to the Rhine castle where the black swans swim. In the decaying alcoves of the castle, she does so; the pair will rendezvous that night. The rendezvous never takes place; Rosalie has hemorrhaged. She is found to have a large, metastatic uterine tumor.

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Little Things

Carver, Raymond

Last Updated: Jan-31-1997
Annotated by:
Chen, Irene
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The story opens with an angry quarrel as a man prepares to walk out on his woman. Their hatred for each other manifests itself as a physical struggle over their baby, with each parent pulling on an arm until the baby is apparently severely injured/dead.

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Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Doris Grumbach, novelist and critic, experienced the landmark of her seventieth birthday as a traumatic event. She resolved to keep a diary during the months surrounding this time, both to record her "despair" and to seek answers to "what has my life meant?" The result is a relentless reflection on the losses associated with growing old, and on the loss of civility associated with contemporary urban life. Yet there is the liberation which age allows, in setting priorities and discarding the trivial. Ever observant and informed, Grumbach’s commentary on the present and the past is both interesting and moving.

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Called Out

Mojtabai, A. G. (Ann Grace)

Last Updated: Jan-31-1997
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This short novel relates how a catastrophe involving strangers perturbs the lives of people who live in or near the site where the disaster occurs. The event is an airplane crash; the site, the small town of Bounds, Texas. Told as an inner monologue by each person who either witnessed the crash, or became directly involved in its aftermath, the well crafted narrative weaves back and forth among a widowed postmistress into whose field the plane falls; a priest who is questioning his calling and who administers last rites to all of the victims; a skeptical newspaper reporter; a reclusive young man who ghoulishly hunts souvenirs in the wreckage.

The postmistress hovers between dismay at the ruination of her field and curiosity and concern over the far-flung surviving relatives who come to visit the site long afterwards. Her thoughts are filled with memories of her husband and of the evolving relationship with her married son. She ponders that before the crash, ". . . seemed like I'd lived in a fishtank. "Then, "something shattered" and ". . . the whole world poured in."

The priest keeps the church doors open to strangers, including mourners from far away. This runs up the utility bill, drawing criticism from the parish council. So shaken is he by their small-mindedness and by his vocational doubts that he cannot say Mass. The reclusive souvenir hunter, who pocketed a body part, a hand, from the crash site, is haunted by ". . . that hand against my hand . . ." The newspaper reporter feels compelled to re-visit the scene months later.

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