Showing 61 - 70 of 606 annotations contributed by Coulehan, Jack

The Appointment

Schneiderman, L.

Last Updated: Nov-30-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A Mexican-American woman has an appointment for her son Jorge to be seen at the Anglo clinic. She insists on keeping the appointment, even though her relatives think she is crazy. She reflects on events in her life--Jorge's congenital heart disease, the fact that she had a tubal ligation after his birth, and that the heart disease might have been a punishment from God. She reflects upon the fact that often people go for clinic appointments, only to find that the Anglo doctors aren't there and another appointment must be made. She carefully selects Jorge's clothes. She takes the crowded bus.

Finally, at the clinic two doctors enter after a long wait. One is a psychiatrist. In this last scene it becomes evident that Jorge has already died. His mother has brought a bundle of Jorge's clothes to the clinic for "his" appointment, still hoping for a miracle. Referring to the psychiatrist, the woman doctor tells the mother, "He will make you better."

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Seeing Voices

Sacks, Oliver

Last Updated: Nov-30-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

In this book Sacks takes the reader into the world of the prelingually deaf, a world in which spoken language is incomprehensible. He describes the visual language, Sign, and considers the development and culture of American Sign Language. Sacks evokes the conflict between those who seek to teach the deaf to communicate via voice and lip-reading and those who affirm Sign, the native culture of the deaf.

In the latter part of the book, Sacks re-creates the student rebellion at Gallaudet University in 1988 when a "hearing" president was chosen from among three finalists, two of whom were deaf. The back cover summarizes this book as "a provocative meditation on communication, biology, and culture."

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Imago

Butler, Octavia

Last Updated: Nov-30-2006

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Imago is set in the future, after a nuclear war has decimated most of the earth. A foreign species, the Oankali, has made Earth a colony. The Oankali are male and female but also have a third sex, the Ooloi. Ooloi are necessary to Oankali reproduction; they lie between partners, gather and recombine genetic material, and inseminate the female to produce offspring. The main Ooloi organ, the yashi, contains genetic information about every living thing. Ooloi can cure anything with a single touch. Also, of course, an evil Ooloi could start diseases no one has ever seen before.

The Ooloi and Oankali breed with earthlings who are willing and cure them of the tumors, infertility and other effects of the war. Unwilling humans are also repaired and sent to a colony on Mars where they can live autonomously. The Oankali have little hope for these humans, as their biological aggression will eventually cause another war. The Oankali do learn one thing from the humans, cancer. While for humans the fast reproduction of cells is a dreaded disease, the Ooloi control it and use it to recreate lost limbs and repair other damage.

Imago focuses on one particular Ooloi, Judahs. He is an anomaly because he has human parents. Judahs searches for human mates, finally finding two rebels. This pair tell him of a hidden community of humans unknown to the invaders. This area too becomes a colony, but with a more human aspect.

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The Sand Child

Ben Jelloun, Tahar

Last Updated: Nov-30-2006

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Hajii Ahmed has seven daughters. He wants a son so that his name will live on and he will be respected by the community. When his wife becomes pregnant again, he decides that the child, even if physically a girl, will be presented and raised as a boy. She/he is.

The novel is the tale of a storyteller who claims to have found the child's journals. The child lives her life trying to understand her sexuality without ever revealing the secret forced upon her by her father. She spends her adolescence totally alone, trying to recover the girl-child within. The end of the story is ambiguous, as the storyteller leaves off and his audience offers several possible conclusions.

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Albert Schweitzer. The Enigma

Bentley, James

Last Updated: Nov-30-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Biography

Summary:

This book sketches the development of Schweitzer's ideas and accomplishments in theology, philosophy, musicology, and medicine. The author tends to pick up a theme at one time and then follow further developments on that theme at later points in Schweitzer's life. Thus, the book is not a comprehensive biography and it often departs from a strict chronological approach.

While there is some discussion of Schweitzer's "tortured" childhood and his later world-renown as the "jungle doctor," of Gabon, Bentley focuses on four intellectual and spiritual developments in Schweitzer's life. The first is his theological career, which led to the groundbreaking Quest for the Historical Jesus (1906) and subsequent theological books such as The Mysticism of Paul the Apostle (1930).

The second is his philosophy of "reverence for life, "which was first fully articulated in Civilization and Ethics (1923). The third is Schweitzer's career as a musician, musicologist, and organ designer. Finally, Bentley traces the development of Schweitzer's ministry as a medical missionary in Central Africa.

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Remembering Babylon

Malouf, David

Last Updated: Nov-30-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The story takes place in the mid-19th century in a remote settlement of Queensland, Australia. One day as a group of children are playing at the edge of the village, a remarkable figure stumbles out of the bush. This dark, unkempt person (Gemmy) turns out to be a white man who fell from a ship 16 years earlier (when he was a 19 year old sailor) and has lived with an aboriginal tribe ever since. He hardly remembers English, and his culture and sensibility have become those of his adopted people.

At first Gemmy creates a sensation in the settlement and people want to help him, despite his obvious savage mentality (after all, he isn't even embarrassed by nakedness!). He goes to live with the McIvor family, whose daughter, Janet, and nephew, Lachlan Beattie, were among the children who found him. While Mrs. McIvor accepts Gemmy with Christian love, her husband Jock is skeptical.

In fact, it soon becomes clear that there are major tensions in the village regarding Gemmy. Has he really become "one of them" (a black)? Can he be trusted? He seems harmless enough--almost a pleasant imbecile--but perhaps it is all a subterfuge. Perhaps he is in contact with THEM.

Among the European settlers, there are two views of how to handle the blacks. One group believes they should simply be wiped out--every one of them killed--because they are savage, worthless, and couldn't possibly become (real) Christians. A second group has a more romantic view. They think the black people could be "tamed" and become their servants. They envision themselves as owners of large plantations (as in the southern United States) worked by multitudes of happy and harmless black servants.

Representatives of both groups try to win Gemmy's confidence and obtain information regarding the whereabouts and plans of the black tribes. He, however, remains silent about these matters, although pleasant and deferential toward everyone. An uneasy truce holds until one day two aboriginal people are observed visiting with Gemmy on McIvor's property. This creates an uproar, which eventually leads some of the God-fearing whites to commit acts of vandalism and to injure Gemmy.

To preserve the peace, the McIvors send Gemmy to live with Mrs. Hutchence, an eccentric woman who lives on the margin of the settlement. However, he soon disappears into the wilderness, but not until he retrieves--and destroys--what he thinks are the seven pieces of paper on which Mr. Frazier, the minister, had written Gemmy's life story soon after he had emerged from the bush.

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Ash on a Young Man's Sleeve

Abse, Dannie

Last Updated: Nov-30-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This autobiographical novel tells the story of Michael, a young Jewish boy growing up in South Wales in the 1930's. Michael and Keith, his best friend, make their way along the difficult interface between the worlds of childhood and adulthood during the years in which Europe is preparing for war. The structure of the book is a series of tales told years later: "Cariad, clean heart, listen to me, this is my beginning. Let me start again." (The identity of "Cariad, clean heart" is left to the reader to imagine.)

The tales are humorous (e.g. the boys' first aborted attempt to purchase condoms) and touching (e.g. the death of Keith's mother). The novel ends with childhood's end: Keith is killed in a German air raid. Michael, now a medical student, stands by helplessly as the body of his friend is carried away.

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The year is 1954, the place a construction camp in the interior of Tasmania. One evening Maria Buloh, a young immigrant from Slovenia, walks out of her home and into the snowy forest, disappearing forever. She leaves behind her husband, Bojan, and Sonja, their three-year-old daughter. Sonja's childhood evolves into a harsh series of foster homes, followed by adolescence taking care of her drunken, abusive father. She escapes at the age of 16. Flash forward to 1989, when Sonja Buloh pays her first visit to Tasmania and to her father in more than 20 years.

What is Sonja looking for? What does she expect to find? She and her father are both damaged people. Their spirits are scarred and deeply hidden--his in alcohol and an obstinate lack of ambition, hers in wariness and distance. We soon learn that Sonja is pregnant and plans to have an abortion as soon as she returns to Sydney. While staying with some old friends, she has an epiphany--she decides to remain in Tasmania and carry the pregnancy to term.

During the months of her pregnancy, Sonja and her father gradually grow closer. Sonja finally learns the truth about what happened to her mother. Father and daughter are transformed. To quote the book's blurb, "the shadows of the past begin to intrude ever more forcefully into the present-- changing forever his living death and her ordered life."

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Mr. Darwin's Shooter

MacDonald, Roger

Last Updated: Nov-30-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This novel recounts the fictional life of Syms Covington, an historical character who was Charles Darwin's servant during the voyage of the Beagle (1831-1836) and for two years thereafter in England. Covington then moved to New South Wales, but remained in correspondence with Darwin for the rest of his life. (He died in February 1861.)

MacDonald expands on these facts to create the engrossing story of an "elderly" Covington--he would have been in his mid-40's at the time--who befriends a young American physician in New South Wales. Covington develops appendicitis and MacCracken, the young doctor, saves his life. They become friends and during the next two years Covington gradually reveals his story.

The book flashes back to the voyage of the Beagle and reveals the development of Covington's prickly but worshipful relationship with Darwin. In 1860 Covington, who has become a wealthy landowner in New South Wales, anxiously awaits his copy of The Origin of Species. After enduring the agony and adventure, after studying thousands and thousands of specimens, how will Darwin bring it all together? The theory of evolution rocks Covington to the core. Has his work played a part in helping Darwin to develop this godless theory?

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The story takes place in Jakarta during the last year of Sukarno's presidency. Despite the near collapse of the Indonesian economy, President Sukarno continues to spend money on massive projects and mobilize the nation against foreign imperialists, especially the United States and Britain. The Great Leader has pronounced this "the Year of Living Dangerously."

The main protagonists of the novel are several foreign newsmen, in particular, Hamilton, a newly arrived representative of the Australian Broadcasting Service, and Billy Kwan, a free-lance cameraman, also from Australia. Billy is an achondroplastic dwarf, an intense man whose secret fantasy life includes a belief that dwarfs form a separate race.

Billy's onetime hero, Sukarno, has now led Indonesia to the brink of revolution. Billy befriends Hamilton, to whom he also attributes heroic qualities, and the two become inseparable for a while. However, both Hamilton and Sukarno prove that they have clay feet. Hamilton does this by co-opting Billy's fantasy girlfriend. In the climactic last weeks before the Indonesian coup d'etat, Billy is radicalized and decides to take direct action. Realizing that his course of action may be fatal, Billy tries to publicize Sukarno's misuse of power by unfurling an anti-Sukarno banner from a government building in Jakarta. He is killed in the attempt.

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