Showing 561 - 570 of 606 annotations contributed by Coulehan, Jack

Stroke

Smith, Dave

Last Updated: Dec-09-1996
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The patient lies in the hospital after having a stroke. The "word" is the patient's best friend, but suddenly it's become what "you can't say." "You lie flat / in the white yards of the clinic" unable to find the word. Like a dog, it "drags its chain over the emptied / bowl, barks," but the patient is unable to call it or command it. The stroke victim must simply wait and listen.

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

A man and woman walk through a cancer ward in which the man points out, "Here in this row are wombs that have decayed . . ." In other rows are "breasts" and "this great mass of fat . . . . " He instructs his companion to feel "rosary of small soft knots" on one woman's chest. The patients are dying. There is little to be done. "Here the grave rises up about each bed." Yet, "sap prepares to flow. Earth calls."

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A Trip into the Blue

Berczeller, Richard

Last Updated: Oct-25-1996

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Berczeller was a Hungarian doctor who was forced into exile by the Nazi occupation. He traveled to Paris, to Morocco and finally got a medical license in the United States. A Trip Into the Blue is a collection of ten short stories about his experiences originally written for the New Yorker.

In "The Morphinist" he writes about the first time he was left in charge of the small hospital where he first practiced. A corpse was brought in that turned out to be alive. The man had tried to kill himself with morphine and Berczeller spent all night keeping the man awake and preventing him from trying to suicide again.

"Paternity" recounts an experience Berczeller had while setting up a practice in his rural hometown. His patients wanted more from him than simply medical expertise; he had to become a moral judge and counselor. In "Sodom and Gomorrah" he recounts how he almost became a film star instead of a doctor.

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Cousin Pons

Balzac, Honore de

Last Updated: Oct-25-1996

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Sylvain Pons earns a meager living conducting at the ballet and giving private music lessons. He is very fond of fine food and fine art. Over the years, he has satisfied the latter craving by slowly accumulating pieces that now clutter the small apartment he shares with his friend Schmucke. Sylvain doesn’t know it, but the collection is worth a surprising amount of money. He satisfies his taste for fine food by frequently going to dinner at his cousin Marville’s house.

Marville’s wife dislikes having Sylvain at her table, for he is rustic and abrupt. He is finally kicked out completely when he tries to find a suitor for the Marville’s daughter, Cecile, and bungles the job. Shortly afterwards, Sylvain falls ill. His portress, Cibot, enters the rooms to nurse him, recognizes the value of his art collection and schemes to get it. She gets Remonencq, who runs a nearby pawn shop, and Elie Magus, a Jew with an eye for art, to help her.

The attack begins when Cibot convinces Schmucke to sell some of Sylvain’s paintings in order to pay for the doctor bills. The plot thickens as Sylvain’s doctor and an attorney get involved. The attorney goes to Madame de Marville and convinces her to fleece Sylvain or risk a smaller inheritance from Sylvain. Her husband regretfully agrees also.

Meanwhile, Sylvain has become suspicious of Cibot. He struggles out of his sick bed to find Magus studying the collectibles in his bedroom. The other rooms are empty. Sylvain realizes his friend Schmucke has been duped, and he plans a counter-attack. He writes a false will, leaving all his money to Cibot for her service at his final illness. He leaves it where she will see it. He then writes a second, true will that leaves his money to the crown on the condition that they grant Schmucke a lifetime annuity.

Sylvain then dies. Schmucke becomes the new target of the others’ greed. They nearly convince him to sign a paper forfeiting most of his inheritance, but when he realizes that the Marvilles are accusing him of having duped their cousin he falls ill and dies. The money passes on to the Marvilles. The attorney gets an important new job; the doctor gets a sinecure, and Magus gets the pictures. Even Cibot is rewarded; she gets an annuity and marries Remonencq after he kills her husband.

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Gunnar's Sword

Bly, Carol

Last Updated: Oct-25-1996
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Harriet White is an active, energetic 82 year old resident of the Lutheran Home. We follow her through a winter day: a birthday party for a staff member, the funeral of another resident, a visit from her son, and her daily visit to see her husband who had a severe stroke and lies, uncommunicative, in the hospital ward. Mrs. White's son asks her, as he has before, to come and live with him and his family. He also reveals that he has sold the family farm. She is devastated that he had not discussed it with her, but she puts up a good front, saying it was the only sensible thing to do.

Later, she decides to walk several miles to visit the old farm. She does so, and in the evening a search party from the Lutheran Home find her there. As they drive her back, she realizes that her status has changed: she is no longer a stalwart helper, but has turned into a difficult old woman who is liable to wonder away.

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Collection (Letters)

Summary:

This collection arranges Chekhov's letters into three periods, each introduced by a short biographical essay: 1885-1890, the years during which Chekhov established himself as a writer; 1890-1897, which begins with his trip to Sakhalin Island and includes the years he spent living at Melikhovo; and 1897-1904, the final years during which his health declined, he rose to prominence as a playwright, and he married Olga Knipper.

In her general introduction, Lillian Hellman writes, "Chekhov was a pleasant man, witty and wise and tolerant and kind, with nothing wishywashy in his kindness, nor self-righteous in his tolerance, and his wit was not ill-humored. He would have seen right through you, of course, as he did through everybody, but being seen through doesn't hurt too much if it's done with affection." This image of Chekhov radiates from the letters collected in this volume.

Most of the letters are written to family members and a few close friends and associates, especially Alexei Suvorin, the editor of "New Times," a leading St. Petersburg newspaper; Maxim Gorki, the famous writer; and, later, the actress, Olga Knipper. The topics include family matters and business affairs; comments on his own writing and that of others; and his travels, especially the adventurous trip across Siberia to the penal colonies on Sakhalin Island in 1890.

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White-Jacket

Melville, Herman

Last Updated: Oct-17-1996

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

White-jacket is a sailor on the U.S. frigate Neversink. His nickname derives from a jacket stitched together from leftover scraps of rags. This jacket makes the other sailors superstitious and as the ship heads towards Antarctica his mess group kicks him out and he joins another group, serving under the much-liked petty officer, Jack Chase.

The journey is a dangerous one. A man falls overboard. There are constant floggings for the merest inkling of insurrection. All the crew members are forced to watch each flogging. A doctor stands by to stop the flogging if the victim's life is endangered, but he is so callous he doesn't stop a single one. The doctor also prescribes medications, but never attempts to change the conditions that cause the sailors' illnesses, like malnutrition and exposure.

When the ship lands in Rio de Janeiro, Dr. Cadwaller Cuticle boards. In order to show off to the ship's doctors, he amputates the healthy leg of a sailor, who is terribly frightened as the doctors discuss his impending fate in front of him. The man dies of shock. When the boat continues on its journey, White-jacket accidentally falls from the riggings. He barely escapes being speared when a ship-mate mistakes his jacket for a whale. He is fished out and sent up again to complete his task.

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The Scarlet Plague

London, Jack

Last Updated: Oct-17-1996

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

It is the year 2073. A boy and his grandfather, clad in animal skins, are walking through deep woods. Having fought off a bear, they come to a fire on the beach, where several other boys sit watching their sheep. Their grandfather asks for a crab and they tease him with empty shells until he cries. Finally, they relent and ask him to tell his story about the past and the scarlet plague.

The grandfather had been a literature professor at The University of California-San Francisco. In the summer of 2013, rumors began that a new plague was killing people in New York. Those infected developed a scarlet rash, had a few convulsions, then settled into a sleep-like state in which they became numb and died, their bodies decomposing almost immediately. The entire process took at most an hour, but sometimes as little as ten minutes. Bacteriologists died even as they tried to find a vaccine. People began dying by the millions. The plague finally reached San Francisco and mayhem broke out. The wealthy tried to flee the city and the poor murdered them and looted in revenge for their long oppression.

The professor survived. He lived alone in the Grand Canyon for three years, then set out to see if anyone else was alive, finding a workingman and his woman slave. He met others and began a family which included the boys to whom he is telling his story. There is no means of communicating across the country or to other nations, since the fires set by looters consumed nearly every structure. Society has been set back to a nomad existence. The boys do not believe most of their grandfather’s story. They fight amongst one another and with him in a language that is only partly English. Finally, they rise, leaving the grandfather to straggle along behind into the wilderness.

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Hospital View

Lux, Thomas

Last Updated: Oct-17-1996
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The narrator lies in a hospital room, across the hall from the entrance to the Intensive Care Unit. He imagines what goes on beyond that door--"beep-machines, a blur / of women and men in white frocks." He wishes that he had a better, less frightening view of the world. Staring at the door, however, he sends his wish to the Intensive Care patients "that your lives be again and again / limned by dawn."

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Dr. Rapallo

Menick, Stephen

Last Updated: Oct-17-1996
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The story begins with Dr. Frank Rapallo's son recalling his father's funeral and then progresses with a series of vignettes that show us who Dr. Rapallo was and how he died. Rapallo was an old time doctor who loved his work and whose patients told him "everything."

The boy was only seven when his father had radiation treatment for a cancer of his shoulder; subsequently, he had surgery to try to save the arm, but this left a hole "big enough to fit my hand." The hole never healed. He lost the arm anyway, but continued to perform operations with the assistance of Matthew, his young Japanese partner. The son reflects on his father's experiences in World War II--he was profoundly moved by the destruction in Japan and by the courage of Japanese physicians.

A strong, dedicated doctor, Rapallo was painstakingly honest, both with his patients and himself. In the end, he developed an incurable infection in his incurable wound. With characteristic dignity, Dr. Rapallo set about doing his last things--seeing patients for a few hours, visiting with his old friend Finch--and then in the evening took the contents of the vial he had prepared, and died.

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