Showing 621 - 630 of 722 Nonfiction annotations

Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Collection (Essays)

Summary:

The book begins with a "Twenty Question Multiple Choice Self-Help Quiz." Each question is actually a short chapter. For example, the first chapter deals with the "amnesic self" and asks why amnesia is a favorite device in fiction and especially soap operas. Other chapters deal with the nowhere self, the fearful self, the promiscuous self, and so forth.

The second part of the book is an essay on the nature of the self, complete with numerous diagrams and arrows. The third section presents discussions of various manifestations of the self as transcendent, orbiting, exempted, lonely, and demoniac. The last part is called "A Space Odyssey" and is captioned "What to do if there is no man Friday out there and we really are alone?"

Obviously, this summary says virtually nothing about what the book is about. Suffice it to say that Percy brings his playful humor to the central existential question of human meaning and he presents it in the form of a self-help manual.

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A Journey to Sakhalin

Chekhov, Anton

Last Updated: May-11-1999
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

This book contains the complete text of "Sakhalin Island" [300 pages], Chekhov's treatise describing his visit in 1890 to the Russian penal colonies on Sakhalin Island, and "Across Siberia" [30 pages], a description of his journey across Siberia to Sakhalin. The book also includes a collection of letters that Chekhov wrote during the seven-month trip. A series of appendices provide information on the Tsarist penal system, books consulted by Chekhov in preparation for his journey, and related matters.

Chekhov begins by describing his trip across the Tatar Strait on the steamer Baikal and his arrival at Alexandrovsk, the largest settlement and administrative center of Sakhalin Island. In the first two-thirds of the book, the author describes his systematic survey of almost every Russian community on the island. The text combines a travel narrative, which includes bits of conversations and fine descriptive writing, with demographic data.

At the time of Chekhov's visit, there were approximately 10,000 convicts and exiles living on the island, along smaller numbers of indigenous Gilyak and Ainu. Chekhov indicates the number of households and population of each settlement, and its breakdown by penal status of residents.

There were three categories of residents: (1) prisoners (some, but not all of whom were confined to the prisons that existed in the larger settlements); (2) settled-exiles, who had completed their prison terms but had to remain for life on Sakhalin; and (3) peasants-in-exile, who were permitted to leave Sakhalin, but had to remain in Siberia. Army folk and the families who accompanied some convicts to Sakhalin constituted a fourth class--they were free to return to European Russia.

Chekhov eloquently describes the poverty and terrible living conditions in this inhospitable land, as well as providing snippets of local geography and history. The final one third of the book consists of chapters on social and economic conditions, daily life, morality, and the health status of the population.

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A Poet in the Family

Abse, Dannie

Last Updated: May-11-1999
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Autobiography

Summary:

This short, anecdotal autobiography begins with the author's birth in Cardiff in 1923 and ends in the mid-1960's when the author had become a successful writer and physician in London. Much of the story concerns Abse's childhood and youth. The theme is self-definition: how did it come about that, like Anton P. Chekhov, the young Dannie Abse chose to devote his life to "chasing two hares" (medicine and writing).

His lower middle-class Jewish parents, especially his father, found no redeeming social value in having a poet in the family. Influenced by his older brother Wilfred (who became a psychoanalyst), Dannie gravitated toward medicine as a career, although he almost fainted when he observed his first surgery.

When Dannie was a student in London, poetry energized his life. He published "After Every Green Thing," his first volume of poetry, while still in medical training (1949). He also met Joan, his future wife, in 1949 and they were married in 1951.

He was assigned to reading chest x-rays while serving his time in the Royal Air Force. Subsequently, Dannie took a part-time job as a civilian in the RAF chest clinic in London and began his dual career as chest physician and writer. Near the end of A Poet in the Family, Dannie describes the death of his father in Llandough Hospital in 1964.

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A History of the Breast

Yalom, Marilyn

Last Updated: Apr-07-1999
Annotated by:
Wear, Delese

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

Yalom begins her examination of the breast with the following statement: "I intend to make you think about women's breasts as you never have before." This she accomplishes by organizing the nine-chapter book around the following: (1) the sacred breast, (2) the erotic breast, (3) the domestic breast, (4) the political breast, (5) the psychological breast, (6) the commercialized breast, (7) the medical breast, (8) the liberated breast, and (9) the breast in crisis. Throughout the book, which covers twenty-five thousand years, she situates breasts' meanings as dependent on particular social, political, historical, and cultural phenomena.

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Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Collection (Essays)

Summary:

This remarkable collection of essays, both personal and scientific, is written by a remarkable man, Stephen Hawking, theoretical physicist and Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University (a chair once held by Isaac Newton). Unlike Hawking's earlier bestseller, A Brief History of Time, which was written for the lay public to explain current theories of the universe, this book is a mix of essays, speeches, and even a radio show transcript that were originally produced from 1976 to 1992 and whose intended audiences were varied, although none of the works are purely technical.

Hawking was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease in the USA, motor neuron disease in the UK) at the age of 21 during his first year of graduate school at Cambridge, though he had already noticed weakness the prior year at Oxford. As he describes in "My Experience with ALS," Hawking experienced a rapid deterioration of function and hence depression.

However, during his hospitalization, he also saw a boy die of leukemia, which made him realize that things could be worse. Hawking married, finished his dissertation, fathered children, and went on to develop innovative theories in physics, such as thermal emission by black holes.

The book begins and ends with personal topics-–the first two essays concern his childhood and education, and the last is a transcript of the BBC radio show, "Desert Island Discs," in which the celebrity is asked to name and describe 8 musical selections and one book he or she would choose to have if stranded on a desert island. Hawking describes how important communication is to him, and the computer program designed by Walt Woltosz, which enables him to have an artificial voice (albeit with an American accent), since he lost his natural ability to speak due to the tracheostomy that was required in 1985. Hawking's incredible will to live and his sense of humor come through in this broadcast, as they do in the scientific curiosity so evident in the essays about physics.

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Biography

Summary:

This is a study of the influence of medicine and medical practice on Chekhov's writing. While the material is presented in a roughly biographical manner, the chapters are thematically organized. In "University Years" the author discusses Chekhov's experience at Moscow University Medical School (1879-1884) and the influence of several of his professors. "Diseases of the Mind" focuses on the play "Ivanov" and several stories that demonstrate Chekhov's keen interest in and understanding of mental disorders, including endogenous depression (Ivanov), neurotic depression or dysthymia (Uncle Vanya), and reactive or exogenous depression(An Attack of Nerves (A Nervous Breakdown)).

The next chapter covers Chekhov's extended trip to Sakhalin Island in 1890. "Tolstoy Versus Science" describes Tolstoy's position that scientific and technical progress lead to moral regression. For several years Chekhov was sympathetic to Tolstoy's ethical position, although he never embraced the older man's opposition to science.

"The Country Doctor" deals with Chekhov's medical and public health work during the years he resided at Melikhovo (1892-1897). The last chapter describes Chekhov's own battle with pulmonary tuberculosis.

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A Likely Story

Mahoney, Rosemary

Last Updated: Feb-26-1999
Annotated by:
Poirier, Suzanne

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Autobiography

Summary:

In 1978, seventeen-year-old Rosemary Mahoney spent her summer as housekeeper for author Lillian Hellman. A great admirer of Hellman's life and writing, Mahoney had applied directly to Hellman for the job, and could hardly believe her good luck in being hired. By the end of her first week of work, however, her mother had to talk her into staying.

Hellman, in her early seventies, was demanding, exacting, infuriating--and frail, nearly blind, forgetful, and lame. As Mahoney tells Hellman's story, she also tells her own, the daughter of a physician father who committed suicide when Mahoney was a child and a schoolteacher mother who was crippled by polio and is an alcoholic.

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Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Perri Klass, who had already written of her medical school education (A Not Entirely Benign Procedure: Four Years as a Medical Student, see this database), took notes, made dashed journal entries, and saved sign-out sheets and other written memorabilia during her internship and residency in pediatrics at The Children’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. Because she is a writer, she looked at her experiences in medical training with an eye towards what stories were happening. This book then is a compendium of stories and essays (some previously published) about Klass’s pediatrics training.

Klass reflects on the difficulties of being a writer and physician: "I have been a double parasite, not only learning off patients, but also writing about them, turning the agonies of sick children into articles, using them to point little morals either about my own development as a doctor or about the dilemmas of modern medicine." (p. 297) But she also notes the benefits of writing during training: "between life at the hospital and with my family, it seemed that all my time was spoken for, and spoken for again. I needed some corner of my life which was all my own, and that corner was writing . . . I could describe the astonishing contacts with life and death which make up everyday routine in the hospital." (p. xvii)

Part of the book concerns issues of women in medicine; Klass debunks the mystique of the "superwoman"--the professional, wife and mother rolled up into one incredible ball of efficiency and perfection--with a month of laundry spilling over the floor. Klass, as a successful writer, struggles with this label and includes an essay on her experiences with a "crazy person" who anonymously and publicly accuses her of plagiarism in the midst of the stress and responsibilities of residency.

However, most of the book is about being a new doctor--the terror, the patients, the procedures, the other doctors and staff. She writes of first nights in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, delivery room crises, adolescents with chronic illnesses, and her struggles as a sleep and time deprived mother.

She addresses difficult issues: moral dilemmas, suffering, loss, the rape and abuse of children, children with AIDS. Throughout the book is a concern for the patient’s experience, as well as the doctor-in-training’s experience. After her first night on call caring for very premature infants she notes: "Maybe my first patient and I have more in common than I realized: we are both too immature to be out in the world, but with a lot of help, we may just make it." (p. 15)

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Annotated by:
Holmes, Martha Stoddard

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Anne Finger, a writer and disabled activist whose childhood polio left her with a disability, tells the story of her pregnancy, her birth experience at home and in the hospital, and the serious health problems her newborn son experienced.

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Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

This history of western medicine in the nineteenth century chronicles the lives of some men and women who were innovators in the field of medicine. Williams begins the book in the 1700s with the life of John Hunter and his influence on nineteenth century medical practice and research.

The book consists of 16 chapters, many of which, like the one on Hunter are biographic. For example, Williams writes of the contributions, education, and lives of Florence Nightingale, Hugh Owen Thomas (orthopedics), Marie Curie, Joseph Lister, Ignaz Semmelweis (maternal health), Patrick Manson (tropical medicine), Jean-Martin Charcot, and William Conrad Röntgen. Other chapters are more theme-oriented, such as body-snatchers, discovery of anesthesia, homeopathic medicine, blood transfusion, and medical use of spas.

Black and white illustrations, such as Mrs. Röntgen's hand in an X-ray photograph help the reader to appreciate the advances in medical knowledge in the nineteenth century.

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