Showing 501 - 510 of 606 annotations contributed by Coulehan, Jack

Medicine Circle

Bascom, George

Last Updated: May-20-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

This is the fifth, and final, collection of poems by the surgeon-poet, George S. Bascom, who practiced for over 35 years in Manhattan, Kansas. The poems cover a wide range of topics in a variety of forms, ranging from free verse to sonnet. Many of them are concerned with the poet's medical experiences, both as physician and as patient. The poems arising from Bascom's own illness with prostate cancer are among the most effective in the book; these include, among others, "Operation," "Carpe Diem," "I With My Death," "Notice," "Metastatic Disease," "Progression," and "Medicine Circle." "Gloris," "Post Op," "7-2-59," and "Lydia" are fine evocations of patients and patient care.

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

The poems in this collection celebrate many of the patients Dr. Schiedermayer has encountered in his practice, and what they have taught him. Most of the poems are vignettes of patients or narratives of medical encounters. The poet begins by "rummaging / with my hand / at the bottom" of his medical bag ("Black Bag"); he needs something more than the usual instruments. He writes wryly about Ricky ("Skin for Ricky"), a 30 year old man with cerebral palsy, who has normal human desires and aspirations; and compassionately about "A Poet Benefactor," who is suffering from breast cancer.

As Dr. Schiedermayer notes in "Amputation," his first serious lesson in medicine is "what you must lose." You must certainly lose a sense of invulnerability--but by becoming vulnerable to your patients' stories, you may also become a source of healing. In the end he gives thanks "for more love than I deserve."

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The Progress of the Soul

Ray, David

Last Updated: May-18-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The poet has "grown quite good at ignoring" the suffering people who beg in the streets of India. "The beautiful legless girl," "the spider man," the babies with swollen bellies--he has learned to be almost blind to the poverty, disease and deformity that surrounds him. Or, at least, he pretends not to see, and then tries to sneak a photograph. He knows that if he tried to help these people, "next time / they would claw me to shreds."

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

This short dramatic monologue is in the form of a public lecture by Ivan Ivanovich Nyukhin, the "husband of a wife who keeps a music school and a boarding school for girls." Nyukhin begins by indicating that his wife has insisted that he lecture today on the harmful effects of tobacco, though he himself smokes. He invites those who are not prepared for a dry, scientific lecture to leave, but then keeps postponing the topic while he talks about how forceful and dominant his wife is.

He longs "to take off this vile old frock that I wore to my wedding thirty years ago" and assert himself. Yet, he can't; his wife is waiting in the wings. At the end of the monologue, Nyukhin begs the audience not to "tell" on him: "tell her that the lecture was... that the booby, that is me, behaved with dignity."

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Hydrophobia

Chekhov, Anton

Last Updated: Apr-23-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Nilov and Kuprianov are returning from a hunting trip and stop for a meal at the mill. An old man tells them about the mad wolf that has been terrorizing the village. They make light of the tale that there is a man in the village who can cure hydrophobia (rabies). Later, Nilov goes out for an evening walk. Suddenly, he sees a suspicious shadow--the wolf!

Nilov doesn't have a weapon with him. When the wolf gets close, the hunter grabs him by the neck. Ultimately, Nilov's cries for help are answered and the wolf killed, but not before he inflicts a deep bite on Nilov's shoulder. Nilov is terrified of contracting hydrophobia and goes first to the folk healer and then to a local physician, Dr. Ovchinnikov. Ovchinnikov reassures him that he almost certainly won't get rabies; after all, the wolf bit him through his clothing and he bled a lot, so the poison "probably flowed out with the blood."

In the first version of this story (1886), Nilov was so delighted that he paid Ovchinnikov 500 rubles, went merrily along his way, and a year later had not contracted the disease. In the later version (1899-1901), Chekhov changed the ending: Nilov embraces Ovchinnikov and leaves in his carriage, thinking about what a great tale his encounter with the wolf will be.

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Spinoza's Mouse

Young, George

Last Updated: Apr-23-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

Many of the poems in this volume bring historical figures to life; these include figures as varied as "Wallace Stevens, Walking," "The Death of Shelley," "Rembrandt's Head," "Immanuel Kant," and "David Hume and the Butterfly." Some, such as "The Miracle," "Dr. Beaumont's Miraculous Hole," and "The Corpse in the White House," focus on specifically "medical" aspects of history. Dr. Young also includes a number of poems that arise from his own experience as a practitioner; e.g. "The Rodeo Queen," "The Medusa," and "Night Call."

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

This collection includes a number of poems that speak directly to healing and the medical experience; for example, "The Wound Man," "Blood of a Poet," "Carmelita," and "Alzheimer's Disease." Others bring the author's medical sensibility to totally different topics and experiences; for example, "Freud's London House," "Square One," "The Path Through the Irises," "To Anne Sexton's Analyst," and "Orienteering."

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The Moviegoer

Percy, Walker

Last Updated: Mar-25-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

John Binkerson ("Binx") Bolling is a young man from a "good" New Orleans family who for some years has devoted himself to money, sex, and watching movies. During Mardi Gras, when the novel begins, he wakes up to the vague feeling that something more is needed in his life.

We meet his Aunt Emily, a Southern noblewoman, and his cousin Kate, who is said to be somewhat unstable since her fiance's death some years earlier; she is currently engaged to the virtually invisible Walter. The action also takes us to the bayous, where Binx visits his remarried (Catholic) mother and her family, including his sickly adolescent stepbrother, Lonnie. (Binx's father died in World War II; Binx, himself, has survived service in the Korean Conflict.)

Subsequently, Binx takes a trip to Chicago with Kate; on the train she offers to have sex with him, but he refuses. Binx and Kate must then respond to Lonnie's unexpected death. In the end Binx decides to give up his business as a bond dealer and go to medical school, and he and Kate decide to marry.

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In the Penal Colony

Kafka, Franz

Last Updated: Mar-24-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

An explorer visits the penal colony, where an officer demonstrates to him the Harrow, an instrument used to inflict capital punishment. The Harrow is an extraordinarily elegant instrument: the condemned man lies face-down on a Bed, while a complex system of needles inscribes the commandment he has broken (e.g. HONOR THY SUPERIORS) on his back. The needles pierce deeper and deeper until the prisoner dies. In the process of dying, however, the condemned man finally understands the nature of justice and his punishment. His face is transfigured, a sight edifying to all those who watch. The officer begins to demonstrate the Harrow on a prisoner condemned to die because he was sleeping on duty.

The machine was conceived and developed by the former Commandant. It soon becomes clear that the explorer does not approve of the death-machine and that he feels morally bound to express this disapproval to the new Commandant, who is already known to have serious questions about using the Harrow as a method of punishment. Suddenly, the officer removes the condemned man from the Bed and takes his place. Before doing so, he adjusts the machine to inscribe "BE JUST." The Harrow begins its grisly work on the officer's back, but malfunctions and goes to pieces--but not before the self-condemned officer has died.

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This Red Oozing

Bryner, Jeanne

Last Updated: Mar-24-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The hostess at Benny's Lounge comes to the Emergency Room after being raped at gunpoint by "a friend of a friend." The doctor makes her tell the story of the rape again: "How tight he holds the muzzle to your neck, / jerks your dark hair like a mane and rips / you until you bleed . . . . " But the poet knows that "this red oozing" will not fill the rapist. It never does. She knows "how he rapes you / endlessly . . . How his boots climb the back stairs / of your mind year after year / as he comes and comes and comes."

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