Showing 71 - 78 of 78 annotations contributed by Kohn, Martin

A Poster of the Cosmos

Wilson, Lanford

Last Updated: Jan-28-1997
Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

A powerful one person/one act play set in a police station in Manhattan. Addressing a cop "who would be at the other end of the table," Tom, a 36-year-old baker suffering from "survivor guilt," has been accused of killing his lover Johnny who had been dying from AIDS. Throughout the interrogation Tom offers insight into his and Johnny's lives prior to and during their relationship. His story also is permeated with attacks on an uncaring and ignorant society, especially when he mocks the interrogator's derogatory refrain, "You don't look like the kinna guy'd do somethin' like dat."

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Dreamsnake

McIntyre, Vonda

Last Updated: Jan-22-1997
Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The initial chapter in this novel, Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand (annotated separately), sets the stage for the quest of the young healer/heroine, "Snake," to find a replacement for the snake she had carelessly allowed to come to harm, in the course of caring for a seriously ill child. The remainder of this coming-of-age novel chronicles Snake's journey during her "proving year" (aka/residency training).

Over the course of this year, Snake continues to minister to the sick and encounters, among others, a patient who demands assistance in suicide, a patient who refuses treatment for a gangrenous leg, and a young girl who has been sexually abused (whom Snake eventually adopts and begins to apprentice). There are, as well, myriad lessons in humility, rigidity of thought, and ethnocentrism.

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The Sepulchre

Oates, Joyce Carol

Last Updated: Dec-31-1996
Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A frantic phone call from an elderly mother to her middle-aged daughter opens this somewhat surreal and menacing short story. What follows is the daughter’s search for her father who has been missing for one and one-half days. Is he lost because of the stroke he had suffered or merely being wickedly mischievous as his wife suggests? Or is he hiding in anger or seeking revenge? Or, is he dead?

The menacing tone to this story is a result of the author’s skillful use of the second person voice: "Dad? Daddy? you whisper. You imagine you hear low, throaty laughter--unless it’s the wind . . . the door to the closet is open, your mother preceded you here, desperate in her search; you know no one is hiding inside but you can’t stop yourself from peering in, holding your breath. Then you switch off the closet light, you switch off the lights in the room, shut the door and walk away."

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Johnny Got His Gun

Trumbo, Dalton

Last Updated: Dec-30-1996
Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This anti-war novel is written from the point of view of an injured World War I infantryman (Joe Bonham). As the plot progresses we realize how severe the injuries are (most of his face has been blown away and eventually his arms and legs must be amputated--leaving a faceless torso) and why the story is being told by an interior monologue voice.

Interspersed with recollections of Joe Bonham's life is a description of his amazing struggle to remain human. Joe's quest begins with a search for "time," and once time has been found, he begins to "organize" his world. After many years of struggle to orient himself, he tries to reach out to others by "communicating" with them. Unfortunately, his initial attempts to move his head in Morse Code are initially misconstrued as seizures, for which he receives sedatives. Eventually, a nurse new to his care realizes what he is trying to do and informs his doctors.

What Joe wants most is to let the world know about the horrors of war. He assures his keepers that he could support himself in this venture if only they would let him out (people would be glad to pay to see a "freak" such as himself). The answer he receives in return, one which had to be "literally" pounded into his forehead: "What you ask is against regulations."

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The Moths

Viramontes, Helena Maria

Last Updated: Dec-30-1996
Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

This story is a reminiscence of the care provided to a dying grandmother when the Latina narrator was a teenager. She recounts the turmoil of her home life and the love and protection her grandmother provided. Grandmother's home, with its flowers growing wild on the front porch and smells of chiles frying in the kitchen, was a refuge of living things, a place where an awkward young woman could come into her own.

In the story's remarkable ending, after Abuelita (grandmother) dies, the granddaughter carefully undresses her, and then enters the cleansing waters of the bathtub with her. There she waits for the moths to come--the moths which Abuelita told her of "that lay within the soul and slowly eat the spirit up." The moths do come, and then she cries, sobs, for herself, her mother, and grandmother--"there, there, I said to Abuelita, rocking us gently, there, there."

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Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

In this story, Earth's inhabitants have moved below terra firma where their every need is met and every act controlled by "the machine." A young rebel protesting against the loss of authenticity and the reverence for abstraction seeks to communicate with his mother about his need to go to the surface of the earth. This act of direct experience terrifies his mother who is sure that her son will be sentenced to "homelessness." The son does experience the beauty of the earth and returns to prophesize the end of the machine and the "civilization" it created.

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The House of the Future

Cooper, Bernard

Last Updated: Dec-10-1996
Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A long story (35 pages) within a book of stories about the author's family, "The House of the Future" movingly describes from the perspective of a precocious 12 year old the death from cancer of his older brother, age 17. The story, subtitled "a reminiscence," conveys in a remarkable way the hopes and fears, the habits and idiosyncrasies of this ordinary and outlandish family. The belief in the clarity of architecture which sustained the younger brother through the year of his older brother's dying, collapses in the end, leaving him to enter a new house, a new ambiguous space, for making sense of his loss.

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Best Boy

Wohl, Ira

Last Updated: Oct-29-1996
Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

This 1979 Academy Award winning documentary takes us into the lives of the Wohl family. Featured in this film are Philip ("Philly") Wohl, retarded since birth and now in his early 50's, and the family members who care for him: his sister, Frances, and parents, Max and Pearl. The film-maker is Philip's cousin, Ira Wohl, who provides the narrative structure for the film and was moved to document the struggle of aging parents to care for their aging and homebound son.

Ira Wohl's goal was to convince Philly's family that Philly needed to become a part of the community by moving to a group home before his parents became incapable of caring for him. In fact, during the three years of filming Max dies. And eight months after the filming and Philly's successful move to a group home, Pearl dies.

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