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This film was inspired by the true story of mathematician John Forbes Nash, Jr., who was one of three Nobelists celebrated in 1994 for their work in game theory. The film is driven by the agonizing conflict between Nash’s mathematical brilliance and the paranoid schizophrenia which almost destroys both his career and his marriage to Alicia Larde (Jennifer Connelly). The film shows Nash (Russell Crowe) as obsessed and, in schizophrenic episodes, delusional and occasionally violent. He undergoes 1950s insulin shots and later is on and off pills that seem to take away his brilliance along with his schizophrenia.
Late in the film he is off medication and says, in effect, that he has decided not to be deluded by delusions. The film ends with a triumphant series of scenes around the Nobel Prize, including the tribute of his colleagues at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study and Nash’s emotional Nobel acceptance speech at Stockholm expressing his gratitude to his wife for standing by him.
The novel begins with a prologue in which the author reports that, while repairing an old chateau he had purchased in the north of France, he discovered a manuscript ("La Tendresse") hidden in one of the chateau's chimneys. Dr. Alain Hamilton, the manuscript's author, had hidden it there, as the German army approached the chateau in 1940. "La Tendresse" was a collection of writings that described Hamilton's early life, especially his experience as a battlefield surgeon in the British army during the First World War. The 80 short chapters that follow, Strauss explains, are an edited and annotated version of Dr. Hamilton's story.
We first meet Alain Hamilton as an adolescent, during an episode of sexual awakening with a girl his own age. Later, we see him as a medical student in Vienna and then as a young married surgeon in London, who has a tender affair with a married nurse. But most of the story takes place at a British Army field hospital, where Dr. Hamilton encounters the senselessness, devastation, and absolute terror of war.
His colleague in this tragedy is Elizabeth, a nurse whose brother and fiancé have died in the fighting. Alain and Elizabeth develop an exquisitely tender, yet unconsummated, intimacy, which ends tragically. After the war, Alain searches healing and consolation, eventually finding a measure of peace in the chateau where he and Elizabeth had once worked together.
Carlos and Geronimo make their living as beggars, traveling from one tourist stop to the next throughout northern Italy and the Austrian Alps. When Geronimo was a boy, his older brother Carlos accidentally hit him with a pea from a peashooter, causing him to lose his sight. The conscience-stricken Carlos vowed to devote his life to caring for his brother, and so for twenty years they have traveled together; Geronimo sings and plays the guitar, while Carlos handles the visual arrangements.
One day a tourist sows a seed of dissension. He drops one franc into Carlos's hat, then maliciously warns Geronimo to be careful because Carlos might cheat him out of the 20-franc coin he has just donated. Unexpectedly, this seed of suspicion thrives, with Geronimo becoming convinced of his brother's deception and greed. The heartbroken Carlos decides to go out and steal a 20-franc coin so that he can produce the money and satisfy his brother. He does so, and even though the theft is subsequently discovered, the story ends happily, since Geronimo now realizes how much Carlos loves him.
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 woman lies in her bed, dying of cancer. Several family members have gathered in the room around her, including her son Bruno. From the age of 11 Bruno had wanted to be an artist, but had become a doctor instead because it was easier to make a living. "And medicine at one point--when he was nineteen or twenty--had seemed more humane than the humanities, more artful than art." Yet four years earlier, Bruno gave up his medical practice in Rome to devote his life to painting. But now he is back to medicine, helping to coordinate the efforts of his mother's physicians.
The dying woman sips an opium solution to ease her pain. She teases Bruno about the many times she had embarrassed him as a child, by acting funny or assertive or eccentric, behaving very differently from the other children's mothers. She would always make people laugh. Likewise, she was never confused about what she wanted. Even now, tipsy with opium, she remains in charge, a rock among the gathered family members, deflecting their sadness with her good humor.
The narrator's mother, having received "all the benefits of modern medicine," was still alive after 14 months. The son, himself a doctor, finally told her that she had cancer, after which she requested that she receive no treatment, other than pain control. Thus, her son provided her with a bottle of opium solution to use as needed. However, the other doctors continued their pretense that, if only she would take the "cure," she would get better.
She died six days later, "not slowly, like a train arriving at a station, but swiftly and convulsively, like a train derailing." She was buried without the priest's blessing because she hadn't been a practicing Catholic. However, the "ceremonies" of the craftsmen creating a masonry border around her grave, and of the stonecutter carving her headstone, were "last rites" more to her liking than the priest's prayers anyway, because she had never been fond of religion.
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?
To relieve her insomnia, Claire Vornoff seeks help from Dr. Declan Farrell, a well-known holistic physician, who begins to see her professionally at his country home. Farrell's methods focus on massage and bodywork, along with some acupuncture. Claire finds him an attractive paradox--sensitive and "tuned in" to her, yet also blunt and emotionally unsettling.
The client-therapist relationship becomes deeper and more complex. After Claire has a brief sexual escapade with a married man, she admits to herself that she actually loves Declan and confesses her love to him. Indirectly, he reveals that he also has strong feelings for her, but is desperately resisting those feelings and attempting to maintain his professionalism.
Claire finally breaks off their relationship and attempts to go on with her life. Over the next couple of years, Declan closes his practice, moves elsewhere, divorces his wife, and ultimately commits suicide. Claire learns of these events gradually, at second hand, as she, too, moves on, but in much a different direction. Eventually she begins a new life in Toronto.
Although the relationship between Claire and Declan occupies center stage, Claire's quest for improved health leads her to consider, and sometimes consult with, other alternative medicine practitioners as well. (I say "improved health" rather than "relief of insomnia" because, although never stated, it seems clear that Claire seeks a sense of completeness and meaning in life that goes far beyond solving her sleep problem.)
One of these healers, for example, is Mr. Spaulding, who reviews Claire's blood work and concludes, "You're in rough shape, girl." (p. 231) He explains that her "body salts are so high I can't measure them" and that her "body is throwing off one hundred times more dead cells than it should . . . "
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.
A young boy dreams of "Mangan’s sister," who lives nearby: "Her dress swung as she moved her body and the soft rope of her hair tossed from side to side." Her image pursues him, even at night when he is trying to say his prayers. One day, he actually encounters Mangan’s sister, and she asks whether he plans to go to the bazaar (Araby) on Saturday night. She herself "would love to go," but cannot, because she must attend a retreat at the convent. This is the boy’s big chance! He promises to bring her a gift from the bazaar. On Saturday evening he waits for his uncle to come home and give him some money, but the uncle doesn’t arrive until nine o’clock.
The boy rushes onto a deserted train, trying desperately to reach Araby before it closes, but when he arrives "the greater part of the hall was in darkness." A few stalls are still open. A few people are still hanging around. The boy looks at some porcelain figurines, but suddenly realizes that his quest is doomed to failure: "Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity, and my eyes burned with anguish and anger."