Showing 61 - 70 of 141 annotations contributed by Willms, Janice

Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: History

Summary:

Dr. McKechnie begins his overview of the history of the practice of medicine in British Columbia with records of Coastal Native practices encountered by the first explorers of the Northwest Territory in the 18th century. This opening section of the work contains interesting folklore regarding some of the methodologies and medicinals utilized, and terminates in descriptions of the rites surrounding the initiation of a new Shaman.

Moving forward in time, the author explores the early naval medicine of the seamen and their captains, including the early intermingling of the explorers with the Coastal Indians. The plagues of smallpox, measles, syphilis, and tuberculosis attributed to the arrival on the western continent of organisms to which the natives were not immune are covered briefly.

The third portion of the book is devoted to the changes in medical practice on this particular frontier as the emerging science of the 19th century moved gradually westward. The final chapters cover the century of the great world wars and the progressive advances in medical science as they affected the residents and physicians of British Columbia.

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Tell Me a Riddle

Olsen, Tillie

Last Updated: Jun-14-2004
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

An older woman is diagnosed as having cancer. The story is of the progression of her symptoms and the effects of her illness and eventual death on her husband and grown children. The years of silent compliance with the expectations of children and spouse begin to erode as the woman becomes sicker. The relationship between the aging couple, and the place of the ill mother in the priorities of her children clarify. The tale ends with the death, and a tiny glimpse of resolution of decades of strife and unexpressed rage between man and wife.

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Summary:

Dr. Flaherty, a practicing neurologist, sets out to explore the act of writing and, more broadly, creativity, in the context of both neuroscience and emotion. She begins by describing several brain conditions that seem to enhance the need to write, even to the extent of obsessive hypergraphia. Next she turns to the opposite state, writer's block, looking at both psychological and neuroscientific perspectives.

Using some of the recent studies of the relationships between certain brain centers and language related phenomena, Flaherty further clarifies some of the cognitive bases for creating literature. Finally, the study turns specifically to the temporal lobe as the possible organic site of the perceived voice of the muse in religious and creative inspiration.

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Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Rosenberg, a surgeon and bench research scientist, has an epiphany fairly early in his clinical career: a patient with widespread cancer determined to be terminal, returns to the clinic sometime later, apparently disease-free without medical treatment. The scientist wonders if this patient's body could have tapped into some immunological or genetic healing pool. After having formulated the question, the author takes the reader through the trials and tribulations of framing, trying, failing, retrying and failing again to determine a way to test and prove how this phenomenon could have happened.

Over the many years of experimental work in the laboratory and on the wards of the National Cancer Institute, Dr. Rosenberg presents in a fashion largely accessible to the lay public a glimpse into this process. The work covers nearly three decades of the author's struggle to better understand and to develop new treatments for malignancies.

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Summary:

Physician, poet, artist, parent, astute observer of his environment, Dr. Schneiderman gives us a wide vision of the things that inform his personal world. This collection of poems and pen and ink sketches spans almost four decades of its creator's life and life experiences. The author has collated his work around nine key foci, roughly but not totally, temporal in sequence. Through his eyes we meet his history related to New York City, his profound love for and attachment to his beloved wife and son, his humbleness before the labors of his chosen profession and the persons he meets in this context, and, finally, his tributes to the bravery of the men and women who responded to the horrendous assault of 9/11/01 upon his birthplace, the Great City.

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Summary:

This tightly researched documentary opens with the tragic auto accident in which Ms. Kowalski is rendered comatose. During the early period of her prolonged hospitalization, tensions arise between Kowalski's domestic partner and the patient's parents, leading to a highly contentious battle for the rights not only to visit, but also to assume long term care responsibilities. As the patient regains consciousness and limited physical and cognitive skills, the drama moves from the hospital and nursing care facility to the courtroom.

For ten years, the battle for custody and the ultimate care of Ms. Kowalski rages. Drawing on trial transcripts, medical records, newspaper archives, and personal interviews, Casey Charles's work brings to life emotions and personalities that dominated the courtroom dramas and illuminates the highly contested judgments emerging from supposedly objective authorities in journalism, medicine, and the law.

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Bleak House

Dickens, Charles

Last Updated: Oct-21-2003
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

As Dickens does so well, the writer treats the reader to a wide spectrum of the society of London in the 19th Century. The central issue in this novel is the hopeless slowness with which the court of Chancery moves, and the persons who are involved, either as claimants, as attorneys, or as those at the edges of the Court who seek to profit by the proceedings. The author gives us examples of the consistent behaviors of the very good (Esther Summerson and her guardian John Jarndyce) and the profoundly evil (Mr. Smallweed and Mr. Tulkinghorn) and a vast spread between these extremes.

The story is constructed somewhat as a mystery, as multiple connections among the myriad of characters are slowly revealed as the plot advances. The reader is allowed a view of the most poverty-stricken, as well as the most wealthy of the levels of society presented. The complexity of the characterizations and their intertwined lives, along with Dickens’s amazing descriptions, keep the reader moving through the tangle to its final resolution.

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Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Biography

Summary:

This biography, written by a second party in conjunction with the person whose story is portrayed, is the tale of a black lay-midwife working in the southern United States during the mid to latter part of the 20th century. Gladys Milton, mother of seven children herself, is called to midwifery training by the Health Department in a rural county in Florida.

After an introductory chapter that sets the stage for the ultimate challenge to Gladys, the following few chapters follow her through some of the high points of her childhood and early years of motherhood. The remainder of the work describes broadly the career--with its ups and downs--of Gladys as midwife, doing home deliveries and working in the birthing center she has established in her own home. The final chapters deal with the legal efforts and ultimately the hearing in which the Health Department attempts to revoke Gladys's license to deliver babies.

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Summary:

In this tightly organized study of the relationship between creativity and manic-depressive disease and its variants, the author asks and attempts to address some interesting questions. Is there sufficient evidence in the histories of well-known artists and their families to demonstrate a genetic linking of creativity and depressive disorders? Are there phases in classic bipolar cycles that are particularly conducive to bursts of, or sustained, creative productivity? Does treatment (be it chemical or psychotherapeutic) of his or her psychiatric symptoms blunt the ability of the artist to work successfully?

In an attempt to answer these and other intriguing questions, Jamison explores in some detail the personal, family and creative histories of writers long suspected of being depressed with or without alcohol or having periods of mania. She opens by defining for the novice the parameters of the disorders in question, examines some of her subjects' family history of "madness," and discusses evidence for relationships among the waxing and waning of depressive disorders and creative productivity.

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The Topic of Cancer

Fromm, Pete

Last Updated: May-12-2003
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Mickey, widowed but one year, and his young son, Duncan, drive East from their home in Wyoming, to vacation with Mickey's family on the Jersey shore. As the story develops, the reader learns that Carol, who died from ovarian cancer, was a westerner, and that Mickey is being tempted to return to the east coast with Duncan and reestablish life there.

The two arrive at the vacation cottage very early in the morning; Mickey needs to be with the ocean and what it means to him; Duncan, who has never seen an ocean, rushes to the experience. The child becomes fearful, as he looks at the vast expanse, calls up the idea of sharks, asks if his Mom waits at the "topic" of Cancer for them. The tension develops when Mickey chooses to swim to assuage his own grief, not realizing that his venture terrifies Duncan. The reunion of father and son points to a new understanding of what it means and will mean to each to go forward without Carol.

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