Showing 51 - 60 of 142 annotations contributed by Miksanek, Tony

The Road

McCarthy, Cormac

Last Updated: Oct-25-2006
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The world as everyone knew it ended years earlier when "the clocks stopped at 1:17" [p 45] and power was lost. Not many people are still alive. The landscape is charred and hostile with "cauterized terrain" [p 12], "ashen scabland" [p 13], and "the mummied dead everywhere" [p 20]. A father and his young son travel south towards the coast. The boy's mother has committed suicide. Papa and the child wear masks and tote knapsacks. The father pushes a shopping cart filled with potentially useful items that he has collected during the journey. The man keeps his pistol close. It only contains two bullets - one reserved for him and one for the boy.

The father and son follow a road towards the ocean, but they scurry and hide like two animals. Papa's biggest worries are marauders, food, and shoes. The world is cold. Rape and cannibalism are common occurrences. Although their goal is to remain alive and reach the coast, father and son wonder if the destination is any more hospitable than the rest of the dying world. Often hungry and freezing, both of them become sick. The boy contracts a febrile illness. The man frequently coughs blood and is wounded in the leg by an arrow.

Father and child ultimately reach the ocean, but it too is cold and dead. Not long after arriving at the coast, Papa dies. A stranger finds the grieving boy and invites the child to join his family - wife, son, and daughter. He assures the boy that he is a good man. He tells the child that his family does not eat other people. He advises the boy to hold onto his father's pistol.

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Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The 25-year-old narrator returns to his hometown after a five-year absence. He accompanies his 14-year-old cousin to the hospital. The cousin's right ear is damaged, and his hearing is ruined. Although previous treatments have been unsuccessful, a new ear specialist is going to perform a procedure on the boy's ear.

The narrator recalls another trip he took to a hospital eight years earlier. At that time, he and a high school friend visited a girl who was having an operation on her rib. The girl had composed a poem based on a dream she had. She told the story to her two visitors and illustrated it by drawing a picture on a napkin. Her tale involved miniscule flies that crept into a woman's ear causing her to fall asleep. While she slept, the insects eventually devoured her flesh. A man attempted to awake (and save) her, but it was too late. The narrator remembers that his high school friend died not long afterwards.

The cousin's appointment with the ear doctor ends with a sack of medication and little likelihood that the day's treatment will restore his hearing. The narrator and his cousin eat in the hospital cafeteria. The boy asks the narrator to gaze inside his ears, and the narrator marvels at the structure and mystery of the human ear. He decides his cousin's ear appears normal. Soon, the narrator's mind once again drifts back to a summer eight years ago and memories of his lost friend.

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If I'm Spared

Simpson, Helen

Last Updated: Oct-03-2006
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A foreign correspondent accustomed to global calamities now finds himself entangled in a personal disaster. Tom is a middle-aged man with a weakness for cigarettes and women but not much interest in his wife, Barbara, and their young daughter. Tom develops a nagging cough. Night sweats, bloody sputum, and weight loss soon follow. He visits multiple physicians. A chest X-ray demonstrates a suspicious "shadow." Even before further testing is performed, a distinguished pulmonary specialist tells Tom that the diagnosis is lung cancer.

Tom and his wife search the Internet and worry even more when they learn about the harsh side effects of treatment and the dismal prognosis of the disease. Although he has smoked cigarettes since he was a teenager, Tom suddenly has little trouble quitting. He develops a greater appreciation of his wife and fondness for his daughter. If only he could have another chance at life, he would mend his ways and become a new man. The results of Tom's additional tests reveal a different diagnosis - tuberculosis. Tom and Barbara are ecstatic that he can be cured with a combination of five different medications. With the threat of cancer eliminated, Tom resumes all his old habits: smoking cigarettes, ignoring his wife, and flirting with women.

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ICU

Lehane, Dennis

Last Updated: Sep-29-2006
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Daniel has plenty of problems. He is already divorced. He loses his job. He is stalked by a mysterious group of well-dressed men (maybe federal agents) for an unknown reason. They follow him around in a blue Toyota SUV and show up at his ex-wife's house asking questions. On his way to an interview for an assistant manager's job at Dunkin' Donuts, Daniel drives through a medical district containing six hospitals. His mother died in one of these buildings. When he spots the blue SUV trailing him, he takes evasive action. After parking his car in a hospital lot, he wanders into the hallway outside the intensive care unit.

Eventually he settles into the ICU waiting room where he meets many family members of critically ill patients. Michael, a former Russian KGB agent whose elderly mother is a patient in the ICU, befriends him. Daniel remains in the medical complex for one month visiting the intensive care area of a different hospital each day. He sits with the relatives of ICU patients, and even though they are strangers, he listens to their tales of woe and empathizes with them.

Daniel becomes addicted to the humanity of the waiting room. Even when his car is finally towed from the parking lot, the threatening men in suits still wait for him outside the hospital. Daniel never learns the nature of his offense. Although he has nowhere to safely go, Daniel finds himself strangely comforted and at home in the ICU waiting room.

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Medical Ethics

Karnezis, Panos

Last Updated: Aug-31-2006
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Dr. Panteleon has practiced medicine for more than forty years in a town where his patients rarely became ill. One day, a girl arrives at his office requesting a gynecological examination. The doctor performs a silent and mechanical pelvic exam. The girl’s stepfather wants the physician to certify that the young woman is a virgin and able to have children. The stepfather has given her an ultimatum. She must marry either the town butcher or Dr. Panteleon. She hates the butcher and the doctor will not marry her.

The girl asks for help. The stepfather suffers from chronic constipation and hemorrhoids. Although critical of Dr. Panteleon’s treatment of his problem, the stepfather nevertheless requests additional medicated suppositories. Before embarking on a house call to meet with the lazy man and discuss the young woman’s plight, Dr. Panteleon prepares six special suppositories laced with a poison that will make constipation the least of the stepfather’s problems.

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The House of Sleep

Coe, Jonathan

Last Updated: Aug-29-2006
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Ashdown, a beautiful but bleak manor on the English coast, is the main setting of this story. Initially, a group of university students including Sarah Tudor, Gregory Dudden, Robert, and Terry reside at Ashdown. Some of these same students return there years later as either patients or staff when the building is converted into the Dudden Clinic where individuals with all sorts of sleep disorders are treated.

Sarah is a disturbed young woman suffering from narcolepsy. She is sometimes unable to differentiate her dreams from the experiences of real life. Robert is infatuated with her and will do literally anything to please her. Gregory is Sarah’s first lover, later a psychiatrist in charge of the sleep clinic, and finally a man gone mad who decides to self-experiment. Dr. Cleo Madison is a sleep psychologist whose true identity is a surprise. In this novel, reality appears more surrealistic than most dreams.

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Dead Ringers

Wilson, Jonathan

Last Updated: Aug-16-2006
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

When 47-year-old Henry Newman experiences testicular pain, he gets little pity from his wife, Arlene. His personal physician, Dr. Vikrami (a woman who has only reluctantly examined Henry’s "private parts" in the past) schedules him for an ultrasound study of the testicles rather than examining him first. A young nurse performs the test and a female radiologist apprises Henry of the findings-- epididymitis.

A urologist confirms the diagnosis, but Henry is more interested in learning that the doctor has a twin brother who is also a urologist. Henry goes to see his 80-year-old mother who resides in a convalescent home. She pesters him about checking on the condition of his brother’s grave. His brother, Aubrey, died as an infant, and Henry was born two years later.

Henry visits the cemetery and finds the small tombstone marking Aubrey’s grave covered by weeds and bird excrement. He tidies it up. When Henry returns to the convalescent home, his mother’s bed is empty. He fears she has died but then spots her exiting a bathroom. Henry tells her that he has finally spruced up Aubrey’s grave, but she seems oblivious to his announcement and just babbles on.

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Poison

Dahl, Roald

Last Updated: May-02-2006
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Harry Pope is afraid to move even a muscle. While lying in bed and reading a book, he notices a krait--Bungarus caeruleus, a deadly Asian snake--slithering on top of his pajamas. When his companion, Timber, arrives at the bungalow around midnight, Harry is still petrified with fright. Convinced the snake is asleep on his stomach beneath the bed sheet, Harry has been lying motionless for hours.

Timber telephones Dr. Ganderbai for help and despite the late hour, the Indian physician promptly makes a house call. He administers an injection of anti-venom just in case the snake bites Harry. Next, Dr. Ganderbai carefully infuses chloroform underneath the bed sheet in an attempt to anesthetize the krait. Timber and the doctor then remove the sheet but no snake is found. Dr. Ganderbai questions the validity of Harry's account and wonders if the man was merely dreaming. Harry becomes enraged and spews insults including racial slurs. The doctor remains composed and exits quietly, remarking only that Harry could use a vacation.

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Clock Without Hands

McCullers, Carson

Last Updated: May-02-2006
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In the early 1950's, Milan, Georgia is a racially divided town where secrets are plentiful and the meaning of justice is muddled. J. T. Malone, a 40-year-old pharmacist who failed his second year of medical school, is diagnosed with leukemia and told he has only 12-15 months to live. In some ways, Malone's last year of life parallels the declining fortunes of the town's leading citizen, Judge Fox Clane, an overweight and elderly former Congressman who suffers from diabetes and a previous stroke. Judge Clane's wife died of breast cancer, his only son committed suicide, and his daughter-in-law died during childbirth. He raises his grandson, John Jester Clane, and aspires to restore the grandeur of the South in conjunction with redeeming his personal hoard of Confederate currency.

Judge Clane hires Sherman Pew, a "colored boy" and orphan, as his personal assistant, but Sherman eventually resigns from the position when he can no longer tolerate the Judge or his prejudice. Sherman moves into a house located in a white neighborhood. A group of townspeople including the Judge plots to get rid of him. A local man bombs the building and Sherman dies. Shortly after his death, the United States Supreme Court announces its decision supporting school integration.

The Judge is infuriated and goes on the radio station to express his opinion, but he has not prepared a speech. Instead, he begins babbling Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. The radio station cuts him off. Malone has been listening to the Judge on the radio, but his wife turns it off. Integration no longer matters to Malone. Near the end of his life, Malone finds solace in the renewed love for his wife, Martha. He finally appreciates the order and simplicity of life. The pharmacist dies peacefully in his own bed.

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The Third Son

Platonov, Andrey Platonovich

Last Updated: Apr-13-2006
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

When an elderly woman dies, her husband telegraphs their six sons to come home. They are successful men between the ages of 20 and 40 who reside in different regions of Russia. The third son, a physicist, brings his 6-year-old daughter along. First, the brothers weep--slowly and silently. They experience a combination of apprehension and loneliness. Next, the siblings participate in a brief religious ceremony. As they surround their mother's coffin listening to the priest, the six men are uncomfortable and perhaps even ashamed. Finally, the brothers act cheerful--singing, telling stories, and roughhousing while preparing to go to sleep.

The third brother calms the others and then exits the bedroom. He stands over his mother's casket and passes out. His head hits the floor. His five brothers revive him and console him. Now all six men are able to fully mourn their deceased mother. They easily recall their childhood. The six brothers carry their mother's coffin and are followed by the father and granddaughter in the funeral procession. The old man is content that one day these same six sons will properly bury him too.

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