Showing 641 - 650 of 654 Nonfiction annotations

Annotated by:
Wear, Delese

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay

Summary:

Part of Patricia Foster's collection, Minding the Body: Women Writers on Body and Soul, Houston's essay is a cynical, self-deprecating, painfully honest, and wryly humorous observation of contemporary American women's obsession with their bodies, most notably thinness. Musing on her own lifelong fixation with weighing less, she admits that "for a good part of my life I would have quite literally given anything to be thin . . . a finger, three toes, the sight in one eye." Her essay is a collection of snapshots in her life, moments that bring into focus her displeasure with her body shape and size: walking down Fifth Avenue sizing up other women's bodies; the dinner habits of her family of origin that prohibited bread, dessert, or seconds; her husband's (thin) women employees who eyeball her body; her ongoing relationship with mirrors.

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Summary:

This book offers an insightful, well-reasoned interpretation of the nature of medicine. Hunter, an English professor who teaches and coordinates humanities programs at a medical school, observed first-hand how an academic medical center functions--she joined various teams during their multiple rounds and conferences for two years. In sum, she "behaved rather like an ethnographer among a white-coated tribe." The resultant book details the profound importance of narrative in medicine.

Narrative is integral to the medical encounter, to communications by and about the patient, and to the structure and transmission of medical knowledge. For example, the patient's story is told to and interpreted by the physician, who then tells another story of the patient, in case format to other physicians, and records that story in a formulaic chart entry. Hunter observes that most of the rituals and traditions of medicine and medical training are narrative in structure, and explains why narratives such as cautionary tales, anecdotes, case reports and clinical-pathological conferences are central, not peripheral, to medicine. The thesis is further developed to maintain that, if the narrative structure of medicine is fully recognized by physicians, they will attend to their patients better and acknowledge the details and importance of their patients' individual life stories.

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Raising the Dead

Selzer, Richard

Last Updated: Jan-28-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay

Summary:

Selzer developed Legionnaire's disease and was comatose for 23 days in 1991. In this short book, he describes his illness and prolonged convalescence. The time of his stay in the ICU is lost to him, so he invents the story of what (might have) happened when he was comatose and delirious. In fact, he invents his own death and resurrection.

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Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Terry Tempest Williams, a thirty-four year old Mormon woman and naturalist based in Salt Lake City, Utah, considers herself part of "The Clan of One-Breasted Women." Ten women of her family, including Williams, have been treated or have died from breast cancer. Is this just an example of the randomness of nature, or is it related to the fact that Williams and her family were residing in the "virtually uninhabited" plains downwind of the atomic bomb testing grounds from 1951 to 1962?

When her book begins, Williams' mother has just been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and the book follows the next five years of her life and death. At the same time, the Great Salt Lake is rising to record heights, flooding the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge and scattering the birds and animals with whom Williams has lived her life. The interplay of the uncontrollable elements of nature and the inevitability of life and death make this book an elegant study of "renewal and spiritual grace," and an excellent and unusual telling of a daughter learning how to grieve for her mother.

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Dibs: In Search of Self

Axline, Virginia

Last Updated: Jan-28-1997
Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Case Study

Summary:

This is the story of a successful use of play therapy with an emotionally disturbed five-year-old boy named Dibs. In nursery school Dibs is very withdrawn and resists his teachers' attempts to engage him. Dibs' parents and teachers had all but given him up as mentally retarded. Axline is brought in as a last resort, and in a series of play therapy sessions over a period of several months, cures him. (Dibs turns out to have an IQ of 168.) Axline takes an emotionally neutral approach to her patient, in spite of his obvious need for emotional support, in order not to interfere with his discovering of the self that had been severely repressed at home.

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Looking After: A Son's Memoir

Daniel, John

Last Updated: Jan-22-1997
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

In this reflective memoir, a son in his mid-forties recalls the final years of his mother's life, the mystery of her changed being as she succumbed to Alzheimer's disease, and the long weeks and months he spent as caretaker, confronting the mystery of his own life and the role of memory in it by witnessing at close range the closing down of both life and memory in her. The book is candid about the whole range of feelings--including the most unexpected and unwelcome--associated with the difficult decision to bring an aging and infirm parent into one's household, care for her, reconfigure family life, and consent to the disconcerting inversion of parent-child roles.

Each of its forty short chapters is a lyrical moment. Daniel weaves memories of his mother's life--musing about those parts he can only know second hand--and exquisite portraiture, with ongoing reflection about his purposes in writing; what gifts there may have been in the difficult process of seeing her through a difficult passage into death; and how some of those gifts unfold only in the aftermath. His speculations about the inner life of an Alzheimer's patient add nothing to medical understanding, but model a deeply edifying kind of compassion and will to imagine beyond the failures of mind and body to a silent, inarticulate self that still deserves to be honored.

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Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Autobiography

Summary:

De Quincey was a well-known 19th century English journalist and essayist. He was orphaned at a young age and sent away to school, where he was successful but bored and soon ran away. He then spent several years living as a vagrant in Wales, then London. In London, he was reunited with an old family friend who supported him financially and sent him to study at Oxford.

At age 28, De Quincey began to use opium (mixed with alcohol in the form of laudanum) regularly to treat his severe stomach pains. Though his intake was moderate at first, he soon became addicted. At first he rationalized the use of the drug. Later, he experienced opium-induced stupors in which he could not distinguish dream from reality nor note the passage of time.

He also developed memory loss and long periods of depression. He resolved to wean himself from the drug and did so, although in the final version (1856) of this memoir he admits to having slipped back into addiction a number of times.

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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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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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Of Experience

Montaigne, Michel de

Last Updated: Oct-17-1996
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay

Summary:

In Montaigne's final essay he expounds upon the results of his long search for self knowledge via life experience. He uses disease, health, medicine and doctors as prime arenas for demonstration of what he has learned from living. On physicians: to be a "right" physician, one must have experienced every illness, accident or mishap one seeks to treat. On going to stool: to have a right bowel movement, one must have peace, quiet, punctuality and privacy to avoid unruliness of the belly. On treatment: "I hate remedies that are more troublesome than the disease itself." On the most preferable ailments: here the essayist writes of the advantages of stone: that is, the agony always ends, the disease does not portend death or worse, the sufferer spends more time feeling well than hurting, and it has political advantages for allowing a show of stoicism. And there is more.

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