Showing 521 - 530 of 695 Nonfiction annotations

Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Collection (Essays)

Summary:

Spencer Nadler, a surgical pathologist for over 25 years in southern California, offers 8 essays, as well as an introduction, epilogue and 9 full color histopathology plates in this collection. As he explains in the introduction, Nadler began his training in surgery, but, during a required year of surgical pathology, he finds his true vocation: "I realized a flair for surgical pathology that I had never demonstrated in surgery." (p. xix) However, over the years, he realizes he misses patient contact--these essays, written over 10 years, are forays into an unusual relationship: the pathologist-patient relationship.

Each essay is about a different patient (or other contact) and tissue. One of the most compelling is the first, "Working Through the Images," in which a woman (Hanna Baylan) with metastatic breast cancer seeks Nadler out so that she may view her cancer cells. She arrives in his office unannounced at 6 p.m. and he proceeds to not only show her the slides, but to listen to her. He becomes a witness to her pain, loneliness, sorrow and hope.

"For years I have processed thousands of such cases, determined the manifold forms of disease, but I've never been an intimate part of anyone's illness, never felt the connections of cells to a larger self." (p. 12) During later visits, Baylan cries in his arms and even brings her youngest son in to meet Nadler and view her cells. By this time, Nadler is completely connected to her: "This is heartrending to me, for I have come to love her . . . I can no longer think of Hanna in terms of the cells I see on her slides." (p. 21)

Other chapters highlight fat and bariatric surgery; neurologic disorders such as brain tumor, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and paraplegia; heart disease; sickle cell disease; and palliative care. Each chapter conveys Nadler's visual sophistication and ability to graphically describe cells. For instance, within a fat cell "a large fat globule steamrolls other cell contents flat against the outer membrane until it bulges like a mozzarella." (p. 32) More importantly, Nadler ably extends his cellular acuity to the larger human dimension.

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Annotated by:
Sirridge, Marjorie

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Autobiography

Summary:

Dr. Sacks was growing up in London during World War II and had a very traumatic experience when he was sent away from his home for protection from the bombing. He and his brother were sent to a boarding school, where they were beaten and underfed. Sack's home had been filled with a wonderful extended family of physicists, mathematicians, teachers, and chemists, in addition to his parents who were both practicing physicians. Being unusually bright and talented, Sacks responded to a wide variety of stimuli when he returned to this environment.

He became fascinated with the chemistry of metals and with the periodic table of elements. An uncle, for whom the book is named, was a manufacturer of light bulbs with tungsten filaments and encouraged him in setting up his own chemistry laboratory in the family laundry room, to do experiments. The family allowed him a great deal of freedom, which encouraged his creativity.

In writing about these experiences Sacks includes the history of the development of chemistry concepts that fascinated him. It was only much later that his interests moved on to the natural sciences and medicine. He says that his parents had been tolerant and even pleased with his early interests in chemistry but by the time he was fourteen they felt that the time for play was over. He kept a journal from the age of fourteen and took advantage of every opportunity to read broadly and experience nature, music and art.

In retrospect, however, Sacks felt that life was shallower after he left behind his passion for chemistry. He says that he dreams of chemistry at night. This description of such intense interest in the world around him and the people he read about or knew explains a great deal about his great success as a neurologist and as a remarkable story teller.

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Walt Whitman's Civil War

Whitman, Walt

Last Updated: Feb-07-2002
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

This book presents the "War of Attempted Secession" through the eyes of America's great poet. It consists of letters, dispatches, articles, and prose selections from Specimen Days (1882), Whitman's quasi-autobiography. In addition, all of Whitman's Civil War poems are included, some interspersed through the text and others collected in an Appendix.

The editor has arranged this material into 14 thematic chapters, beginning with "an introductory section in which Whitman discusses the general character of the Civil War" and including chapters containing material on his visits to the front, life in Washington during the War, letters to his mother, his admiration for Lincoln, and other topics.

Of particular interest is "The Great Army of the Wounded," a chapter composed of dispatches to the New York Times and Brooklyn Eagle, in which Whitman describes the military hospitals surrounding Washington and his own work as a volunteer nurse, scribe, and friendly visitor. In "Dear Love of Comrades," he presents a number of "specimen" cases of sick or wounded soldiers. "O My Soldiers, My Veterans" consists of letters written to soldiers, or for soldiers to their families. Another chapter, "Ethiopia Saluting the Colors," presents Whitman's positive assessment of black regiments serving in the Union Army.

Many of the war poems appear in topically appropriate chapters; among the most effective of these are "A Twilight Song," "Over the Carnage Rose Prophetic a Voice," "Pensive on Her Dead Gazing," "Dirge for Two Veterans," "Ethiopia Saluting the Colors," "O Captain! My Captain," and The Wound Dresser (see annotation in this database).

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Annotated by:
Fefferman, Stanley

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Case Study

Summary:

P., a music teacher, whose associates have questioned his perception, is referred by his ophthalmologist to the neurologist Oliver Sacks. During the first office visit, Sacks notices that P. faces him with his ears, not his eyes. His gaze seems unnatural, darting and fixating on the doctor's features one at a time. At the end of the interview, at which his wife is present, P. appears to grasp his wife's head and try to lift it off and put it on his own head. "He had . . . mistaken his wife for a hat!" She gave no sign that anything odd had happened.

During the second interview, at P.'s home, P. is unable to recognize the rose in Sacks' lapel, describing it as "a convoluted red form with a linear green attachment." He is encouraged to speculate on what it might be, and guesses it could be a flower. When he smells it, he comes to life and knows it. The wife explains that P. functions by making little songs about what he is doing--dressing, washing or eating. If the song is interrupted he simply stops, till he finds in his sensorium a clue on how to proceed.

This cantatory method of compensating allows P. to function undetected in his professional and personal life. He remains unaware that he has a problem. Sacks chooses not to disturb his ignorant bliss with a diagnosis. Though his disease (never diagnosed but hypothesized as a tumor or degeneration of the visual cortex) advances, P. lives and works in apparent normalcy to the end of his days.

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Summary:

In this collection, twenty-two authors take up the subject of wanting a baby and what happens to one's self-image and marriage/relationship when difficulties arise. All the contributors are accomplished writers--e.g. Amy Hempel, Michael Bérubé, Tama Janowitz--who tell stories of the miracles, disapppointments and sometimes horrors of the various reproductive technologies; the experience of childlessness when one/a couple desperately wants one; the joys of "success" via technology or adoption; what happens when every method fails.

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Rebecca

Sacks, Oliver

Last Updated: Feb-05-2002
Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Case Study

Summary:

This is one of the two dozen studies of patients with right-brain disorders that make up Sacks's volume The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. The nineteen-year-old Rebecca has significant physical and mental defects (her IQ is 60 at best), and by conventional neurological standards she is severely impaired, but Sacks discovers that she has moments of being quite in touch and "together" (her word).

The essay tells of Sacks's discovery of Rebecca's poetic expression and spiritual qualities, and of her self-awareness, in planes unknown to standard neurological and psychiatric categories. Sacks is broadly critical of psychological and neurological testing as constituting a "defectology" that is blind to important human qualities. He warmly recommends music and story-telling, both as modes of understanding and also as narrative therapies that work by ignoring the defects and speaking to the soul.

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Summary:

The author provides a historical review of physicians who became famous practicing a profession other than medicine. Most of the article focuses on physician-writers, beginning with Francois Rabelais, and including both well-known and obscure figures. There are extensive comments on Louis-Ferdinand Celine, Gottfried Benn, Friedrich Wolf, Mikhail Bulgakov, Oliver Goldsmith, Anton P. Chekhov, Arthur Schnitzler, W. (William) Somerset Maugham, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Oliver Wendell Holmes, William Carlos Williams, among others. The most complete discussion (5 pages) is devoted to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

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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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Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Anthology (Essays)

Summary:

The editor, herself a writer and one who has suffered depressive episodes, collects a series of personal essays or illness narratives about experiences with depression. Her contributors are all artists, primarily writers, who generally but not exclusively speak to the relationship between their art and their mood disorders. Some of the essays included have been previously published, but most are original contributions to this collection. The collection is introduced by Kay Redfield Jamison whose academic work has examined the relationship between creativity and depression, including manic-depressive disease.

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Summary:

Kirklin, a physician and Lecturer in Medical Humanities at the Royal Free and University College Medical School, and Richardson, a historian and associate at the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine, are both educators in medical humanities in London. This well-written and concise volume focuses on "the role of the humanities in medical education" and is aimed at "those wishing to integrate medical humanities into their own teaching, and learning." (p. xv) The chapters are written by a variety of educators with a wide range of backgrounds, including artist, medical student, writer, nurse, surgeon and philosopher.

At least two stimuli are cited as reasons for the development of this book: (1) the 1993 publication by the General Medical Council of Tomorrow's Doctors which recommends the inclusion of medical humanities in the required curriculum for undergraduate medical education in the UK and (2) a national conference, "The healing arts: The role of the humanities in medical education" in London, March, 2000. The rationale for such a book is delineated in several prefatory statements including remarks by Professors Sir David Weatherall and Sir K. George M. M. Alberti (Alberti is the president of the Royal College of Physicians). The book concludes with recommendations for further reading, schemata for undergraduate and graduate degrees in medical humanities at University of Wales, Swansea, and an index.

The nine chapters in this volume combine pedagogic philosophy, citations for literature and art and how to encourage reflection about these selections, tools for encouraging student creativity, reproductions of art and literature generated by students or patients or used by teachers for discussion, and some practical advice about teaching medical humanities and its, at times, uneasy connection to the rest of the curriculum. Each chapter reflects the individual contributor's area of expertise and experience. For example, in "Fostering the creativity of medical students", the authors Heather Allan, Michele Petrone (who painted the striking cover art), and Deborah Kirklin provide useful guides for teaching creative writing and art production by students studying cancer and genetic disease.

In a particularly insightful chapter, "Medical humanities for postgraduates: an integrated approach and its implications for teaching," Martyn Evans describes the challenges of developing a full-fledged interdisciplinary program for graduate as well as undergraduate studies in Wales. He addresses concerns about "bolt-on" versus integration of medical humanities in the curriculum, risks of superficiality, and how such studies may transform the culture of modern medicine. Several chapters address a theme (such as "clinical detachment" or understanding the patient's perspective) and include topic-specific sources and guidelines.

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