Showing 71 - 80 of 141 annotations contributed by Willms, Janice

Graves at Elkhorn

Hugo, Richard

Last Updated: May-12-2003
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The poet contemplates the realities of life in the mining --now ghost--towns of Western America by exploring an old graveyard. "Eighty-nine was bad. At least a hundred / children died," the writer muses while walking among the grave markers. The reader recognizes that this settlement is no longer viable: "The last one buried here: 1938."

After describing the arrangement of the markers and the crude fence that defines the burial ground, he ponders why the graveyard is situated so far from the townsite. In an ironic reflection on the mothers' needs to get on with life after the frequent loss of young ones yet still striving to protect the little graves from greedy excavation, the poet says, " . . . a casual glance / would tell you there could be no silver here."

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Hot Springs

Hugo, Richard

Last Updated: May-12-2003
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The poem tells the story of one who travels to the hot springs seeking a cure for his chronic illness/disability. For 25 years the subject faithfully visits what remains of the opulent dream of spa-builders--a bubble that burst for both the entrepreneurs and their visitants. In the nearly deserted town, the poet's character continues to seek relief without success, yet he remains. The writer seems to be asking if it has become the search itself that keeps the sufferer alive; if he were to suddenly be made well perhaps he would lose everything in losing his familiar identity.

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Summary:

This collection is a wide-ranging view of physician poets writing not only about their professional roles, but about themselves and those around them as human beings. The anthology came about as a tribute to one of its major contributors, poet-physician Rita Iovino who spent many years of her life working with other physician writers and their creative natures.

All of the 29 contributors are physicians and the range of subject matter is broad. The collection is divided into subject matter clusters: Of Medical Matters; Of Love Matters; Of Family Matters; Of Natural Matters; Of Life and Death Matters; Of Philosophical Matters; Of Holy Matters; and two prose essays on the role of poetry in the lives of physicians.

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Summary:

Under the aegis of the Association of American Medical Colleges and its journal, Academic Medicine, the editor of the Medicine and the Arts column has collected 100 selections for publication in this volume. Each selection is made up of a piece of literature or art relevant to the medical humanities, followed by a commentary that elucidates or elaborates upon the contribution of the primary piece to the practice of medicine.

Given the wide-ranging nature of the art and literature in this collection, essentially every keyword listed in this database could come into play; those denoted above identify broad categories under which fall the works discussed. The artists represented vary from poets of the classical period, to ancient and modern painters, to writers who study the human condition in their fiction or essays. The scope is enormous; the adventure daunting.

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Ordeal by Hunger

Stewart, George

Last Updated: Apr-08-2002
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: History

Summary:

This is one of several histories or collections of documents concerning the ill-fated Donner Party westward trip of 1846-47. The wagon train of inexperienced and irregularly prepared families and individuals were California-bound from Illinois. Their misfortunes seem to have begun when they chose to follow the directions of a man who suggested a "short-cut."

Following upon a dreadful passage through the Wahsatch [sic] Mountains and then across the salt flats west of the Great Salt Lake, the group attempted the Sierra Nevada mountains too late in the fall to precede the snow and the cold. For the months of November through March, the party ( now cast asunder and without leadership) made various attempts at wintering over versus futile assaults on the pass.

From the diaries and other records surrounding this misadventure, the historian puts together a summation of the horrors of the cold, starvation, and growing hopelessness of being trapped and ill-prepared for a winter in the wilderness. Based on some of the diary entries, a sense of the extent of desperation that resulted in cannibalism is made available to the reader of today.

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Death in Venice

Mann, Thomas

Last Updated: Mar-19-2002
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novella

Summary:

Gustave Aschenbach, renowned German scholar and historian, reaches a crisis in his previously austere and celibate life. Exhausted from the pressures and the seemingly sterile quality of his aesthetic endeavors, he seeks respite and pleasure. Through a series of misadventures, he eventually arrives in the summer city of Venice, a city he knows and has always longed to visit again.

The reader observes the progressive moral alteration in the rigidly self-controlled man as he succumbs to his long repressed desire to experience the types of passion that art, rather than reason, allows. His transformation extends to the worship of a beautiful young boy--Aschenbach's vision of a doomed Greek god.

As Aschenbach becomes progressively obsessed with his longing, he assumes the role of a lover gone amok. Venice is under siege by a plague, and given the chance to escape--and to warn his object's Polish family of his knowledge about the dangers facing them all--he chooses to take the ultimate risk of death rather than give up his passionate obsession.

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Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Philip Carey, the central character of this early 20th century Bildungsroman, is both an orphan and afflicted with a club foot. He is sent at age nine, after the death of his mother, to live with a childless uncle--a deeply religious Vicar--and his submissive aunt. They have no idea how to be parents, so send Philip away to a boys' boarding school where the child begins to learn what it means to be less than physically "perfect." The remainder of Philip's development is cast in this light.

He roams about looking for himself and his place--to Germany to learn languages, to London to learn a trade, to Paris to study art, and finally, as a last resort, a default decision to follow in the steps of his father the physician. A major part of Philip's maturation is based in making decisions about women and about sensual love. The most painful portions of his story are those that evolve around his stumbling and frequently failed attempts to find security in his personal relationships.

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Summary:

In 1871 the Polaris, a rebuilt tugboat commissioned by the U.S. Navy, set sail with a dual mission: planting the stars and stripes on the North Pole and providing scientific data and specimens for the Smithsonian Institution. A number of poor decisions were made early on in the planning and initiation of the expedition, including an inadequately structured vessel, a vague power distribution lacking a clear absolute authority, and a sailing captain with a significant alcohol problem.

The power struggles begin early. By the third month of the voyage the ship is in physical trouble and the designated expedition head (Charles Francis Hall) has died suddenly of an unexplained illness. There is no leader and the struggle for control erupts between the German scientist/physician who is responsible for the scientific mission and the drunken whaleboat captain who is responsible for keeping his ship and crew safe.

Bad weather, terrible luck, and lack of discipline result in the loss of the Polaris, the splitting of the crew onto separate ice floes, and several months of harrowing experience trying to survive the Arctic winter and hope for rescue. The good news is that everyone except Mr. Hall miraculously survives the ordeal. The subsequent Naval inquiry into the failed endeavor ends without resolution as to the cause of Hall’s death despite hints from crew members that it was not natural. In 1968, long after all crew members had expired, Hall’s grave was located and forensic samples proved that he had died of arsenic poisoning.

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Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This is a massive study of Paris and of Notre Dame set in the fifteenth century, but written from the viewpoint of the nineteenth century. Hugo gives us not only the magnificence and the horrid secrets of the great cathedral, but the boisterous city over which it stood. Quasimodo, the legendary hunchbacked bellringer of the great church, is the title character.

But the reader is also treated to a small group of individuals, including a high-ranking priest, a beautiful dancing street entertainer, a soldier of fortune, an itinerant poet, and a grieving mother whose lives are intricately woven together in the often painful plot line. The author, obviously deeply entrenched in the history of his city, gives his readers a dense, sometimes chaotic, trip through medieval Paris in all of its allure and its sordidness as his carefully crafted characters come together and gradually destroy one another and/or themselves.

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Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Mr. Galyadkin, minor clerk in Russian business, is introduced by the author as he begins an outrageous journey which takes him madly about St. Petersburg visiting his physician, who sends him away, and old friends who won't admit him to their homes. It is apparent that this man has either done something extremely objectionable to offend everyone, or he is not recognized by those whom he visits.

As he wanders along the streets, trying to decide why he is being so badly treated, he encounters a man who looks very like himself, in fact, who calls himself Mr. Galyadkin and was born in the same village as our hero. Mr. Galyadkin (now designated as "senior") welcomes the new Mr. G. into his life, sharing everything, including a position at his workplace.

The pleasures are short-lived, as the newcomer begins to act outrageously with the consequences being assigned to Mr. G, Sr. Life becomes unbearable for Mr. G; the worse things seem the more badly he and his double behave. And eventually, Dr. Krestyan Ivanovich is called to trick Mr. G into entering the carriage bound for the insane asylum.

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