Showing 711 - 720 of 873 annotations tagged with the keyword "Empathy"

Dire Cure

Matthews, William

Last Updated: Mar-27-2001
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

This long (11 stanzas of ten lines each) poem takes us through the--at first faulty--cancer diagnosis, treatment, and recovery endured by the speaker's wife, and witnessed by the speaker. The poet personifies the tumor because to do otherwise would mean that he would "have to think of it as what, / in fact, it was: part of my lovely wife." The poison of chemotherapy that renders his wife "averse to it all" is contrasted with "perky visitors" and the flowers that they bring.

The poet imagines that the tumor of which his wife has been cured now resides in "Tumor Hell" where it lies "bleak and nubbled like a poorly / ironed truffle." The doctors who practice in teaching hospitals show the students how to deal with tumors: "batter it . . . strafe it . . . sprinkle it with rock salt and move on."

Now that his wife is better, the poet and his friends consider how he has fared. At first he was unable to concentrate, made lists, "wept, paced, / berated myself, drove to the hospital" and was "rancid with anger." Yes, it was awful, but he rejects pity--even self-pity. Only his wife has the right to give a name to the experience: "let her think of its name and never / say it, as if it were the name of God."

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Neverland

Kinnell, Galway

Last Updated: Mar-20-2001
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The scene is a sickroom in which the narrator stands at his dying sister's bed. He wishes that she could be "snatched up / to die by surprise" without ever knowing about death. The sister speaks, "I am in three parts." One is red for pain, one is yellow for exhaustion, and the other is white: "I don't know yet what white is."

The narrator stews for a while in his fears of dying, but his sister speaks again, saying that she is not afraid, but, "I just wish it didn't take so long." "Let's go home," she suddenly says, and he recalls images of their youth, and these images shuttle back and forth into the sickroom until at the end of the poem, "they ratchet the box holding / her body into the earth . . . " [79 lines]

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Lives of Moral Leadership

Coles, Robert

Last Updated: Mar-20-2001
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

In this book Robert Coles elucidates the nature of moral leadership by presenting a series of narratives about moral leaders. These are individuals who have made significant contributions to the author's moral development, mostly through personal interaction, but in some cases through their writings or their influence on other people.

The subjects include public personages like Robert Kennedy, Dorothy Day (of the Catholic Worker), Danilo Dolci (a Sicilian community organizer), Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Erik Erikson; writers who have influenced Coles, such as Joseph Conrad and Ralph Waldo Emerson; and "ordinary" persons whom he encountered over the years in his studies of the moral lives of children.

The "ordinary" person category is most extraordinary. Coles draws heavily on personal interviews that reconstruct the courageous narratives of people like Andrew Thomas, a young Mississippian who worked on the voter registration project during the summer of 1964; Donita Gaines, one of the first black teenagers to "integrate" an all-white high school in Atlanta in 1961; and Albert Jones, a parent who volunteered to drive the school bus that carried black children in 1967 from Roxbury to a previously all-white school in South Boston.

However, the clearest and most powerful narrative that emerges from this book is that of the author himself, as he develops from young, socially conscious child psychiatrist to a middle-aged man seeking to understand what it means to be a moral leader in today's world.

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Summary:

This collection contains all 52 of Williams’s published stories, together with a new introduction by physician-writer, Sherwin B. Nuland. The stories were first collected in one volume in 1961 under the title The Farmer’s Daughers (New Directions); that book, in turn, included three earlier collections, plus "The Farmer’s Daughters"(1956), Williams’s last published story.

Thirteen stories featuring physician protagonists were previously collected by Robert Coles and issued by New Directions as The Doctor Stories (1984). (That volume also includes several poems and an "Afterword" by Williams’s son.) Among the stories with medical themes are Old Doc Rivers, The Girl with a Pimply Face annotated by Jack Coulehan (also annotated by John A. Woodcock), The Use of Force annotated by Felice Aull (also annotated by Pamela Moore and Jack Coulehan), Jean Beicke(annotated by Felice Aull and also by Pamela Moore and Jack Coulehan--see Jean Beicke), A Night in June, and A Face of Stone. The tales of a nonmedical nature include such masterpieces as "The Knife of the Times," "A Visit to the Fair," "Life Along the Passaic River," "The Dawn of Another Day," "The Burden of Loveliness," and "Frankie the Newspaper Man."

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You See the Armless Woman

Gilbert, Sandra

Last Updated: Feb-12-2001
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The armless woman appears "on some cold suburban corner." She holds a pen between her teeth, she types with her toes, and she is competent and straight. Why do you fear her? Why do you follow her? Why do you ask her to give back the magic of your own arms and elbows? [21 lines]

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The Unfortunates

Baer, William

Last Updated: Feb-07-2001
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

This is a collection of portraits in verse of 40 "unfortunate" characters. In most cases using a 16 line sonnet-like form, William Baer creates stark, unsettling miniature narratives of men and women who live at the edge, where "normal" people (like you, dear reader?), when hearing their stories, will turn to their companions and exclaim, "Oh, how unfortunate!"

Take, for example, the "Prosecutor" who has lost faith in justice, or the dying woman in a "Hospital" who remembers the day her young lover walked away, or the flashy chic who get her kicks by making-it in a ditch beside an airport "Runway," or the wounded Newark thug in "Trauma Center" who elopes from the hospital as soon as he can stand.

Baer tells his unfortunates' stories in spare, transparent language, claiming no insight, no closure, no chance of redemption. Yet these poems dignify their sad subjects by insisting that we take them seriously, by crying out, "Attention must be paid!"

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Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Mr. Lucas, an Englishman, is growing old. He has always wanted to visit Greece and has finally achieved this, accompanied by his unmarried daughter, Ethel, who will, it has been assumed, dedicate her life to taking care of him in his old age. In Greece, Mr. Lucas becomes restless and resistant to the idea of an expected passive, peaceful death from old age. He wants to "die fighting." Something mysterious happens: he finds a great old hollow tree from which a spring of water flows. He climbs into the tree and experiences an epiphany: he suddenly sees all things as "intelligible and good."

But when the rest of his party find him, he is oddly repelled by them. He does not feel that anyone can share the revelation he has experienced, and he becomes afraid that if he leaves the place he will lose the feeling himself. He decides not to leave, and says he plans to stay at an inn near the old tree, but the others are horrified, and force him to leave with them.

Back in England, some time later, Ethel is now about to be married. Mr. Lucas has become a perpetually disgruntled old man, complaining about everything (especially the sound of water in the plumbing--the mystical Greek spring has been reduced to this annoyance--he says, "there’s nothing I dislike more than running water"). His sister, Julia, whom he hates, is going to take care of him once Ethel is married.

Then a gift arrives from a friend in Greece, wrapped in a Greek newspaper. In it Ethel reads the news that on the night they left, the old tree was blown down, and fell on the family who kept the inn nearby, killing them all. Ethel is upset, and says how lucky it was that they hadn’t stayed there that night, calling it a "marvellous deliverance," but Mr. Lucas dismisses the story without interest. He no longer cares.

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Annotated by:
Davis, Cortney

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Collection (Essays)

Summary:

This collection of 20 essays continues and expands upon the theme--how we living care for our dead and incorporate them into memory--that Thomas Lynch, a poet and undertaker, introduced in his first book, The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade (see this database).

In this new book, Lynch writes rambling pieces that begin with some observation about his funereal trade then blaze off into musings about religion ("The Dead Priest"), love and divorce ("The Blindness of Love," "Y2Cat"), poetry ("Reno," "Notes on 'A Note on the Rapture to His True Love'"), and the interplay of mortality and morality ("Wombs," "The Bang & Whimper and the Boom"). In his first book, Lynch wrote scathingly of abortion and mercy killing, and here he continues his thought provoking considerations of both.

In what might be the most interesting and radical essay in this collection, "Wombs," Lynch walks a precarious line between pro-life and pro-choice rhetoric; ultimately, he asserts a woman's right to abhor decisions about her body that "leave her out." At the same time, he asks if the reproductive choices available to women, "when considered for men," might not seem "irresponsible, overly indulgent, and selfish." What if, he writes, men could declare (without stating their reasons) their interest in their unborn children "null and void, ceased and aborted?" Lynch, who spends most of his time in the contemplation of the deceased, seems to find in death a spark of life; then he fans it into flame with language.

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Poems

Ruddick, Bruce

Last Updated: Oct-16-2000
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

In her Introduction to this posthumous collection, the poet’s daughter writes, "If I had to identify a single distinguishing figure of his imaginative world . . . it would be his preoccupation with the human task of sustaining the intensity of experience against a backdrop of desensitizing forces and death." These 25 poems range across Bruce Ruddick’s lifetime of sensitive responding to those desensitizing forces. Some spring from the pen of Ruddick as a young Canadian poet; others from the life experience of an aging psychoanalyst. All share the discipline, imagery, and economy of line that characterizes them as the work of a fine poet.

In "#25"(p. 10) Ruddick adopts the voice of a medical student who categorizes and quantifies the life of his cadaver. But the patient needs more than this. Indeed, the patient needs "a physician’s ear." ("The Patient," p. 11) Ruddick demonstrates such a sensitive ear in poems like "Ache" (p. 13)," Rehabilitation" (p. 39), and "Fever" (p. 41). And he also puts his "grouchy" heart on the table for all to see in "When the Dog Leaped"(p. 33) and "Spring" (p. 17).

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Annotated by:
Davis, Cortney

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Collection (Essays)

Summary:

A 199-page collection of twelve essays by undertaker and poet Thomas Lynch, superficially about his mortuary trade, but actually about much more--life and death; the process of mourning; how we human beings pass though our common lives with grace or desperation; how the graveside ritual serves memory, family, and society. In the preface, Lynch says that early on he came to understand that the undertaking trade he would inherit from his father had little to do with what was done to the dead, but everything to do with how the living responded to the deaths of loved ones, neighbors, and friends.

Particularly outstanding essays include "The Undertaking," in which Lynch divulges the practical and emotional secrets of his trade as he buries Milo, a man who owned a Laundromat; "Crapper," a humorous, rollicking essay that demonstrates our modern society's inability to deal either with the thought of dying or the actual dead body; "The Gulfatorium," a flight of fancy about building a graveyard in a golf course, but really about the nature of suffering and the afterlife; "Mary & Wilbur," about neighbors, about our fear of death and our impulse to memorialize; "Uncle Eddie, Inc.," about an uncle's "clean-up service" that sanitized rooms after messy suicides and about the natural order of life and death and the moral implications of our manipulation of that order through assisted suicide, abortion, and genetic manipulation. My personal favorite is the final essay, "Tract," in which Lynch says how he wants his own death and burial to be managed, how he, a witness to our final rituals, wants to be witnessed.

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