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Chekhov. A Biography

Simmons, Ernest

Last Updated: Jul-22-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Biography

Summary:

A comprehensive and quite readable biography of Anton Chekhov (1860-1904) by an eminent scholar of Russian literature. Five aspects of Chekhov’s life (as presented here) stand out as particularly interesting: First, the central importance to Chekhov of his self-image as a physician, even in the latter part of his career when he had given up the regular practice of medicine.

Second, the theme of philanthropy (especially in medical and educational areas) that runs through his entire life. For example, even while he was dying of tuberculosis himself, Chekhov was still actively involved in raising money to build a tuberculosis sanitarium at Yalta for poor writers. Third, the fascinating portrait of a person who was extremely compassionate and emotional, yet very reserved and reluctant to express his feelings to others, even to close friends.

Fourth, his long denial (even to himself, perhaps) that he suffered from tuberculosis, even though the diagnosis must have been medically obvious. For example, he began having episodes of coughing up blood as early as 1887 or 1888. Fifth, Chekhov’s fascinating decision to marry Olga Knipper (1901) at a time when he was already gravely ill and an invalid, after having shown no interest in matrimony (and a generally flippant attitude in his relationships with female friends) throughout his adult life.

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Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Biography

Summary:

This lively biography is a work of love based on newspaper accounts and an abundance of local anecdotes about "Doc Susie," Susan Anderson, who received her M.D. from the University of Michigan in 1907, and who maintained a single-handed rural practice in the almost inaccessible heights of the Rockies from shortly after her training was completed to 1956. She lived to tell a great many stories about arduous and ill-equipped visits to out-of-the-way sites in lumber camps and makeshift farmhouses in several feet of snow through dangerous mountain passes.

After her death at the age of 90 in 1960 her survivors added their recollections to the body of lore. An authentic hero tale about what made it worth her while to withstand tuberculosis, unreliable transportation and supplies, impoverished patients, snow, and solitude, this book may remind readers of a quality of "gumption" that is one of the still admirable aspects of the American pioneer legacy.

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

In 1981 the author, a well-known 75 year old Swedish poet, suffered a heart attack and lay comatose for two months. He then began a prolonged period during which he gradually recovered all of his faculties. In the early stage of his recovery, Lundkvist experienced a series of strange and intense "waking dreams," which he describes in this memoir. Many were dreams of journeys to real or fantastic places: for example, a trip to a railroad station in Chicago where physicians surgically transformed white people into black people, or a visit to a strange planet where cows produced blue milk. Lundkvist's memories of these dreams are embedded in a series of imaginative meditations on aging, human nature, the meaning of life, and the inexorable passage of time.

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Taylor, Nancy

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

As she turns 39, Alden begins a four-year quest to have a child. Despite her need and desire, she wonders whether having one will keep her from her work, writing. She and her husband Jeff go from not-really-trying, through temperature charts, to a series of painful and expensive procedures, all to no avail.

The memoir describes not only Alden's search for a child but for herself as well. Her relationship with her mother, her immersion in the counterculture ("in a middle-class way"), the importance of writing, her attempts to keep her own life under control, and her satisfying marriage are important elements in the memoir.

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Hospital Time

Hoffman, Amy

Last Updated: Apr-03-1997
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

The memoir is divided into roughly two halves: before Mike's death and after Mike's death. The narrator is one of the dying man's circle of gay and lesbian friends, and becomes, for unclear reason's, his most involved caregiver. She goes to his apartment on summons at any hour, flies to Memphis when Michael is hospitalized after collapsing, loans him money, and endures relentless psychological abuse as his cognitive powers fade.

In the second half of the book, the writer reflects. Her anger toward Mike's disease, AIDS, and Mike himself does not seem tempered by the passage of time. She is still struggling at the end of the tale, more than two years after Mike's death.

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josie takes the stand

Herschberger, Ruth

Last Updated: Mar-21-1997
Annotated by:
Moore, Pamela

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay

Summary:

Herschberger pretends to interview Josie, a female chimpanzee tested by Robert M. Yerkes. Yerkes used his observation of Josie's behavior to write his famous paper arguing that males are naturally dominant over females and that females naturally engage in prostitution. In the interview, Josie tells her side of the story, refuting Yerkes conclusions. She points out flaws in the experiment and offers a more woman-centered interpretation of her actions.

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Summary:

Fausto-Sterling is a biologist who challenges various experiments meant to prove the biological bases of sexual difference. The first chapter is a brief introduction describing the interdependence of modern social structure and biology. Chapter Two is called "A Question of Genius: Are Men Really Smarter Than Women?" She is partly concerned here with arguments that women are simply less intelligent than men. More interestingly, she takes on scientists who claim that women have a different sort of intelligence than men (more verbal than visual or spatial). Such claims, argues Fausto-Sterling, simply provide a rationale for sexism in education and employment. Fausto-Sterling questions both the techniques used in the experiments meant to prove these differences and the scientists' objectivity.

Chapter Three, "Of Genes and Gender," similarly critiques theories that suggest humans are totally controlled by genetic information. Particularly, she argues that the binary genetic sex model under which biology works is not nearly as obvious or secure as it seems. The author also points out that studies of "sexual development" are almost always about men. This chapter contains discussions of medical views of menstruation and menopause. The author ridicules positions that see menstruation as a disease or sick-time.

Chapter Four moves the discussion to testosterone, arguing against the equation of testosterone with aggressivity and natural superiority. Chapter Six takes on socio-biology.

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Why I Hate Family Values

Pollitt, Katha

Last Updated: Mar-21-1997
Annotated by:
Wear, Delese

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Criticism

Summary:

This essay is found in her collection, Reasonable Creatures: Essays on Women and Feminism. In this particular chapter she rips apart the contemporary fetish of family values and the cult of the nuclear family, exposing these arbitrary socio-political constructions for what they are: "just another way to bash women, especially poor women."

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Biography

Summary:

In his introductory notes, Pritchett calls his book a "biographical and critical study." The author presents Chekhov's life chronologically, while at each stage concentrating on the relationships between life events and art, particularly with regard to the incidents and characters that find their way into Chekhov's stories. A typical chapter begins with the events of a given period and then presents lucid analyses of several stories or plays written during that time.

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Summary:

A journalistic account of the CIA-funded experiments in "psychic-driving" of Dr. Ewen Cameron at Montreal's Allan Memorial Institute in the 1950's and early 1960's. Cameron investigated "treatment" for various forms of depression, consisting of high-dose electroshock (Page-Russell variant), heavy sedation, and the repetetive playing of patient's or the doctor's recorded voice.

Many patients did not respond; some were destroyed by the technique. Particularly moving is the story of Mary Morrow (Chapter 9), a physician-patient whose career was damaged by her experiences. Cameron held the most prominent positions in professional psychiatry; he died unscathed by his questionable research and in pursuit of yet another goal, a mountain peak.

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