Showing 651 - 660 of 667 Nonfiction annotations

Recovering

Sarton, May

Last Updated: Jan-30-1997
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Journal

Summary:

In this journal of her 66th year (one of several volumes of her widely-read journals) May Sarton reflects on the depression of losing a long, intimate friend to acute senility, on living with waves of loneliness in a life of chosen and beneficent solitude, and on a mastectomy which followed quickly upon diagnosis. She weaves together themes of friendship, especially friendship among women, mental and physical health, speculating on psychosomatic dimensions of illness, living with an aging body, and the ongoing issues of self-esteem that aging and solitary women confront in a particular way. Each of the 2-3 page entries is a complete and complex reflection, beautifully developed, and often pithy and poetic.

View full annotation

Summary:

Jordanova posits that medicine and science "contain implications about matters beyond their explicit content." Namely, they have historically made assumptions about women and their relation to science/medicine. Jordanova explores this relation through seven chapters.

Particularly interesting is Chapter Three, "Body Image and Sex Roles." Here Jordanova discusses the wax models used by medical students in the nineteenth century to learn about anatomy. These models were almost always female and sometimes even had flowing hair, pearl necklaces, and other realistic details. Jordanova argues that this gendering was no accident. The route to knowledge is historically associated with looking deep into the bodies of women.

Chapter Five pursues this theme, commenting on how nature is often configured as a female whose secrets will be revealed by masculine science. The final two chapters address twentieth century representations, including the gendered nature of drug advertisements in in-house medical magazines.

View full annotation

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Autobiography

Summary:

Laqueur writes about his experiences as a volunteer at the Home for Jewish Parents. The elderly he meets there have lived fantastically broad lives, many having fled from eastern Europe in front of the German armies of World Wars I and II. Laqueur explains how different their impressions of world events are from his.

He notes the variety of responses the residents have to their own aging process and that of others. Those who are still mobile and mentally alert avoid those who are not. Some residents cling to life and self-respect, others abandon it. Over all, Laqueur is reassured by his visits. If these people have made it this far through such a crazy century, certainly he, too, can go on.

View full annotation

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.

View full annotation

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.

View full annotation

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.

View full annotation

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.

View full annotation

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.

View full annotation

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.

View full annotation

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.

View full annotation