Showing 531 - 540 of 606 annotations contributed by Coulehan, Jack

Snow Falling on Cedars

Guterson, David

Last Updated: Jan-31-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This novel is set on San Pedro Island off the coast of Washington in 1954. Kabuo Miyamoto, a member of the island's Japanese-American community, is on trial for the murder of Carl Heine, a fellow fisherman. Heine's boat was found drifting one morning, with his body entangled in a net. While the death initially appeared accidental, bits of circumstantial evidence accumulate that seem to implicate Miyamoto.

Miyamoto's family was unjustly cheated out of some land by Heine's mother during the time the island's Japanese community was incarcerated in a "relocation camp" in California during the War. The dead man's traumatic head wound appeared suggestive of a Japanese "kendo" blow. Carl Heine's blood type was found on a wooden gaff on Kabuo Miyamoto's boat.

As the trial proceeds, the story of Carl, Kabuo, and what happened that night gradually evolves, as does the tale of Ishmael Chambers, the local newspaper reporter, who had a "charmed love affair" with Kabuo's wife when they were both adolescents, just before the Japanese families were sent away in 1942. It is clear, however, that this is more than a story of one man's guilt or innocence; it is a story of a community's fear and prejudice against the Japanese-Americans in its midst.

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Sequel

Schneiderman, L.

Last Updated: Jan-30-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

This story is told by Tillie's grandfather. Tillie's parents were killed in a plane crash and she now lives with her paternal grandfather, a man who (in a sense) has never really grown up. "Retirement" has always been his natural lifestyle. He says that he never "amounted to anything." The grandfather enjoys story-telling and fantasy. In his stories for Tillie, he invents the character Joey Moxey, a clown whose life-events just happen to mirror the daily events in Tillie's life.

Joey Moxey always overcomes adversity. His story is full of hairbrained schemes, breathtaking escapes, and the loving support of friends, like Tina the cat, Oogak the jungle boy, and Sadie Donut the policewoman. These stories provide a way for Tillie to understand her own world.

Finally, the grandfather discovers that he has inoperable cancer. Shortly thereafter, Joey Moxey develops a terrible runny nose and "to everyone's disappointment" dies. However, his friends, led by Sadie Donut, gather and agree to continue their friendship and their adventures together.

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The Whisper of the River

Sams, Ferrol

Last Updated: Jan-30-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This bittersweet and very funny novel tells the tale of Porter Osborn, Jr. from the time he leaves his home in a small Georgia town to attend Willingham University, until he completes college and is about to begin medical school. Even though he has been "raised right" in the Baptist faith, young Porter confronts his new environment with energy, pride, skepticism, and mischievous delight.

This picaresque novel introduces us to Bob Cater, Michael Jurkiedyk, Vashti Clemmons, Clarence Spangler, and a host of other fascinating characters who populate Sambo's (Osborn's nickname) college years. This is the old story of a young man finding himself. "Full of outrageous pranks and ribald humor," as the endnote proclaims, yet "we sense a quiet constant flow toward maturity."

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A Country Doctor

Kafka, Franz

Last Updated: Jan-29-1997

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A hapless country doctor describes with breathless urgency a night-time summons to attend a young patient. Events soon take on a surreal aspect as "unearthly horses" transport him instantaneously to the bedside. The doctor, preoccupied with personal distractions and grievances against those he is employed to care for, fails to find what is revealed to be a vile, fatal wound (symbolizing the Crucifixion?). He is humiliated by the villagers, who are "always expecting the impossible from the doctor," and doomed to an endless return trip, losing everything.

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

This 14 line poem deals with a physician's compassion for a hopelessly ill patient ("An apparatus not for me to mend--") and his participation in active euthanasia. The patient, Annandale, was "a wreck . . . and I was there." The narrator asks the reader to view himself or herself "as I was, on the spot-- / with a slight kind of engine." (This "engine" is a hypodermic needle.) He concludes, "You wouldn't hang me? I thought not."

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The Excrement Poem

Kumin, Maxine

Last Updated: Jan-29-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The narrator observes that we all, from the worm to the brontosaurus, have excrement. As she cleans the horses' stalls of "risen brown buns," she contemplates that sparrows will come to pick "redelivered grain" from the manure, that mushrooms will "spring up in a downpour" from it, that "However much we stain the world," shit indicates that we go on.

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Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Autobiography

Summary:

Laqueur writes about his experiences as a volunteer at the Home for Jewish Parents. The elderly he meets there have lived fantastically broad lives, many having fled from eastern Europe in front of the German armies of World Wars I and II. Laqueur explains how different their impressions of world events are from his.

He notes the variety of responses the residents have to their own aging process and that of others. Those who are still mobile and mentally alert avoid those who are not. Some residents cling to life and self-respect, others abandon it. Over all, Laqueur is reassured by his visits. If these people have made it this far through such a crazy century, certainly he, too, can go on.

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A Report to an Academy

Kafka, Franz

Last Updated: Jan-29-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A former ape presents his report to a meeting of the scientific Academy. Less than five years ago, he was captured in the jungles of West Africa. While on the ship returning to Europe, the ape came to the realization that there was no way out: "I was pinned down." Even if he should escape from his cage, he knew there would be no way to go home.

However, the ape developed a profound inward calm, thanks in part to the kindness of the ship's crew. His close observation of the crew and other humans allowed him to imitate them. In general, they were easy to imitate, although some of the viler human habits like drinking schnapps were more difficult to get used to. Finally, he realized that the only way to stay out of the zoo was to become human enough to perform as an ape-turned-human on the vaudeville stage. That's what he did.

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A Hunger Artist

Kafka, Franz

Last Updated: Jan-29-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A 'hunger artist' explains the decline of interest in the art of fasting. In the old days people would enthusiastically observe the artist as he fasted, some of them watching carefully for surreptitious snacking. In those times 40 days was the limit of fasting; on the 40th day, the artist's cage was decked in flowers as he emerged to the ministrations of doctors and the crowd's applause.

But the public now has lost interest. The artist left his impresario and hired himself out to a circus where his cage is placed near the cages of animals. He dreads the onslaught of customers, some of whom stop and watch him, but others rush right past him to see the animals.

At the end, the overseer finds the hunger artist among the straw when he enters the cage. Just before he dies, the artist admits that there was no honor in his fasting; he just never found the food that he liked. Had he found it, he would have stopped fasting. He dies and is replaced by a panther.

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Annandale Again

Robinson, Edwin Arlington

Last Updated: Jan-29-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

In this long poem (47 quatrains), Annandale visits his doctor after years of absence and tells the doctor his story. When his wife Miriam died, he mourned her, "wept and said that all was done." Then he met Damaris, "who knows everything, / Knows how to find so much in me." Damaris, who became his second wife, comforts and accepts him. Even though sometimes "her complexities / Are restive" and she becomes angry, soon "She folds her paws and purrs again.

Annandale tells this story of late life happiness, then leaves the doctor's office. He never reaches home: "There was a sick crash in the street, / And after that there was no doubt, / Of what there was." In the last five quatrains, the doctor reflects on what he did for Annandale after the accident ("the one thing to do")--euthanasia.

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