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Written by a medical historian who is also a physician, The Breast Cancer Wars narrates how breast cancer diagnostic methods and treatments have developed from the early twentieth century. More significantly, the book describes the debates and controversies that permeated this evolution and the ways in which not only clinicians and researchers, but, increasingly, women patients/activists shaped how we view, diagnose, and treat breast cancer today.
Individual chapters explore the influential (and ultimately contested) radical mastectomy procedure of William Halsted, the development of the "war" against breast cancer as a full-blown campaign developed and conducted within the public media and consciousness of the United States as well as within medical practice and research, the intertwined development of feminism and breast cancer activism, the "fall" of the radical mastectomy, and the continuing controversies surrounding mammography and genetic testing as modes of early detection and risk assessment. Lerner draws on a range of primary sources including texts from the archives of the American Cancer Society, the papers of doctors and patients, and advertisements from popular and professional magazines throughout the century.
This collection of poems chronicles moments of felt experience in the writer's life before and after her diagnosis of ovarian cancer. Starting with a memory of a carefree childhood lived in an era when streets were sanitized with DDT, and a poem entitled "The Body is the Repository of Memory," the poems move freely from close-ups of moments in the hospital or grieving at the waterside to wide-angle views of a life that has been and still is normal, worth living, pulsing, albeit a bit more irregularly, with creative energies.
Cumulatively the poems explore the paradox that illness (and a terminal prognosis) changes everything and also, but for the shadow it casts, changes very little. "Still," she writes in a final line, "my wild heart beats." The poems are interspersed with prose-poems that shift the focus toward the writer's reflections upon the project and circumstances of creating this "memory board"--a term borrowed from the Luba people of Africa, who bead boards that represent memories to pass on as visible legacies of lives they believe worthy of being remembered.
Please note that in order to provide a useful analysis of this novel, it is necessary to reveal the novel's ending in the discussion below. It is England, 1935. Briony Tallis, 12 years old, decides to become a writer. Her first experiment in novelistic technique involves narrating from three different points of view an odd incident she witnesses from her bedroom window: her sister Cecilia undresses and steps into a fountain in the presence of Robbie Turner, the son of a family servant. Robbie has been educated at Cambridge under Mr. Tallis's patronage, and intends to become a physician. He and Cecilia are in love.
Briony's reconstruction of the incident is inaccurate, but she fails to recognize the lesson of her exercise in multiple perspectives: her version is sufficiently coherent for her to mistake it for reality. She jumps to further conclusions and causes Robbie's wrongful conviction and imprisonment for rape and Cecilia's permanent estrangement from her family.
The rest of the novel both elucidates and unravels the opening sequence. It is 1940 and Briony is becoming both a nurse and a novelist. Both roles represent her efforts to atone for her disastrous narrative misconstrual. As a nurse, she learns a new humility and cares for the appalling injuries of soldiers who, like Robbie, are suffering the war in France.
A more metaphysical atonement lies in her work as a novelist: we realize that we have been reading Briony's own rewriting of the initial events and her careful imaginative reconstruction of Robbie's experiences in the Dunkirk evacuation. She tells of her discovery of the actual rapist (if a rape it was), her decision to retract her accusations and her efforts to make amends with Robbie and Cecilia.
In a final section, set in 1999, the aging Briony, now a successful novelist, learns that she is developing progressive vascular dementia. Soon, her ability to remember and grasp reality will desert her. But she has finished writing her latest version of Robbie and Cecilia's story, the novel we have just read, and can rest.
Her atonement seems complete until we learn that Robbie died in France and Cecilia in the Blitz, and that the (relatively) happy ending we read was simply made up by Briony. Devastatingly, we learn that atonement for an error of fiction has been limited to fictional reparation. The lethal damage it has caused in the actual world is beyond mending . . . unless, of course, we accept the vertiginous truth that the damage described in this novel is itself also no more (or less) than a fiction.
The family in this story seems perfect: well-to-do, situated in a lovely home at the edge of Lake Tahoe, three children in the home, a retired military grandfather, and a caring, competent mother (Tilda Swinton). The absentee father, a military officer, is at sea. All appears as calm and still as the deep lake in their physical midst and at the story's center.
The story primarily concerns the mother and Beau, the oldest son (Jonathan Tucker), an extremely sensitive and gifted musician currently being considered for a scholarship at a major university. What viewers come to know is that the young man is exploring his sexuality with an inappropriate male opportunist in the nearby city.
When the mother suspects that her son is meeting someone, she confronts the amused man, asks him to back off, and returns home. The man finds their home that same night, meets with the son, and demands money. When the spurned man leaves, he slips on the dock and hits his head on a rock. The son had already returned to the house.
The surface world of lunches, carpools, and school activities is shattered by the mother's discovery of the familiar body in the lake at the edge of the family dock. Unbeknownst to the mother, the death of the man/her son's initial partner, is accidental. She assumes the worst and automatically moves to protect her son. While managing the ordinary routine for her family, she struggles to get the body into a skiff and sink it with weights in a different location.
Of course the body is discovered within a short time and unfortunately for the mother, associates of the deceased are able to figure out the scenario, or at least the connections with the son. She is approached by blackmailers with impossible financial demands.
Born breech and deprived of oxygen for two hours, Irish poet and writer Christopher Nolan was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and is unable to speak and virtually unable to move voluntarily. His book, subtitled "The Life Story of Christopher Nolan," is narrated as a third person account of the life of "Joseph Meehan." The memoir opens with Meehan's winning the British Spastics' Society Literary Award for his first book of poetry, Dam-Burst of Dreams (1988) and ends with his last day at Trinity College, having turned down the invitation to continue his studies there towards a degree.
In the mixture of linear, traditional life narrative and lyrical, neologistic description that falls in between, the memoir addresses Meehan's birth, early life, education, and growing acclaim as a poet and writer. It recounts how his family and teachers helped develop a combination of medication, tools (a "unicorn-stick" attached to his forehead), and assistance that allowed him to type.
It details, above all, how various family, friends, and health and education professionals advocated Meehan's special-school and mainstream education and made available to him such normative life experiences as riding a pony, boating, fishing, skipping school with his mates, and going on school trips without his parents--and such unusual life experiences as becoming an award-winning writer.
A traveler falls ill and is treated by the local physician, Doctor Trifon Ivanitch, who unexpectedly shares a personal and potentially embarrassing story with the stranger. Once the doctor was asked to make a house call by a woman who believed her daughter might be dying. On his arrival, the physician finds a beautiful 20 year old woman named Alexandra who is feverish and initially unconscious. Although fully aware how ill she is, he nonetheless promises everyone that she will survive.
He is immediately infatuated with the woman and spends days and nights at her home caring for this single patient. As Alexandra's condition worsens and she becomes convinced her death is imminent, she professes love for the doctor satisfying a basic need to experience love before she dies. Just before her death, the doctor lies about their relationship to Alexandra's mother. Later the doctor marries an "ill-tempered woman" who sleeps all day. Did he marry for love, convenience, money, or penance?
Grandma's life was fully spent. Sensing her time was ending, she climbed up three flights of stairs, took to her bed, and began to die. The other inhabitants of the great house, her children and grandchildren, cried out for her. How could her great vibrancy end? What would become of them--of the house--without her? Grandma reassures those surrounding her that "no person ever died that had a family . . . other parts of me called Uncle Bert and Leo and Tom and Douglas, and all the other names, will have to take over, each to his own" (427-428).
The Heavenly Ladder is physician-poet Jack Coulehan's most recent chapbook, bringing together 48 poems, many of which have been published individually in various medical journals and literary magazines. The collection is divided into four sections.
Poems in the first section, "Medicine Stone," are written in the voice of patients or in the voice of the physician who treats them. The second section, "So Many Remedies," consists of five poems inspired by physician-author Chekhov. The poems of "The Illuminated Text" section reflect a wide-ranging interest in people who lived in distant times or in distant places. The final section, "Don't Be Afraid, Gringo," stays, for the most part, closer to home and includes a number of poems addressed to, or about, family members.
The story begins with the doctor-narrator unobtrusively observing an older man lying in a hospital bed. The patient is blind and has amputations of both legs. (We are given no medical details that cannot be observed in the room.) The narrator tends to the man's amputation wounds and answers a few simple questions. The man requests a pair of shoes.
Back in the corridor, a nurse tells the doctor that the patient refuses his food, throwing his china plate against the wall of his room. The narrator hears the man and a nurse argue briefly about food and then, by himself, watches as the patient carefully and powerfully throws another dish against the wall. The next day the doctor discovers that the patient has died.
The narrator, Jeremy, orphaned at age 8, is attempting to write a memoir of his wife's parents, June and Bernard Tremaine. The pair married in England in 1946, idealistic young members of the British Communist Party, but on their honeymoon in France something happens to June that estranges her from her husband and his values forever. After the birth of their daughter, Jeremy's wife, the two live separately. June dies in a nursing home in 1987, after telling Jeremy a great deal about her life and marriage.
In 1989 Jeremy and Bernard travel to Germany together to share in the dismantling of the Berlin Wall. Bernard has taken a lot longer than his wife did to give up on communism. In Berlin, Jeremy hears his father-in-law's very different version of the couple's biography. Jeremy then travels to France to try and unearth the truth about their honeymoon, finding unreliable storytellers, poor memory, and, at the center, June's encounter in the French countryside with a pair of black dogs, owned and trained and then abandoned by the Gestapo. The story, as Jeremy reconstitutes it, is a discovery of evil that, regardless of literal factuality, bears a terrible truth about the human capacity to do harm, both personal and political.