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At the age of 42, Barbara Rosenblum learns, after several misdiagnoses, that she has advanced breast cancer. This book, co-written by Rosenblum, a sociologist, and her lesbian partner, Sandra Butler, a feminist writer and activist, is a record of their lives together from the diagnosis until Rosenblum's death three years later. Early on, Rosenblum decides that her dying will be exemplary and self-conscious, and she and Butler use their writing as a way to create an illuminating examination of their lives over those three years.
The book's title is accurate; the writing takes the form of alternating meditations by two women, on the effects of cancer on their relationship, their work, their families, and their social, political, and spiritual beliefs. Especially significant are the differences between their voices, and the differences between the experience of the person who is dying and that of the person who is going to have to survive and grieve. The writers bravely explore the conflicts between them as well as their profound bonds.
After a mastectomy and eighteen months of chemotherapy, Rosenblum has a very brief respite, followed by liver and lung metastases, and prolonged further chemotherapy. A few months after ending treatment, she dies at home.
Madame Ranevsky returns to her estate after five years in Paris, where she had fled after the accidental death of her young son. In the interim her brother and adopted daughter have been running the estate, which has gone hopelessly into debt, largely because of Madame Ranevsky's improvident life style. As she and her adolescent daughter Anya arrive, friends and retainers have gathered to greet them. Among these are Trofimov, her dead son's tutor and an ineffectual idealist; and Lopahin, a brilliantly successful businessman whose father had once been a serf on the Ranevsky estate.
The family's beloved cherry orchard, along with the house and the rest of the estate, are about to go on the auction block. Lopahin proposes a solution: break up the cherry orchard into building plots and lease them to city folks to build summer villas. This would generate an annual income of 25,000 rubles and, thus, solve all of Madame Ranevsky's financial problems. She refuses to consider cutting down the orchard. Her brother, Gaev, gravitates ineffectually around the problem, suggesting various harebrained schemes to raise money, but in the end he believes there is no solution: "Someone gets sick, you know, and the doctor suggests one thing after another, that means there's no cure . . . " (p. 346)
The auction occurs, and, lo and behold, Lopahin himself has purchased the estate with the intention of developing the property for summer villas. In the last act, as Madame Ranevsky and her family prepare to vacate the house, workmen hover in the background, ready to begin chopping down the orchard. Madame Ranevsky departs for Paris, and Lopahin leaves to pursue his business in the city. A much alluded-to liaison between Lopahin and Varya, the adopted daughter, dies on the vine, apparently because the businessman has neither the time nor inclination for romance. As the house is closed up, Firs, the senile 87-year-old servant, is inadvertently left behind.
Sleep is a much sought-after prize in this novel. Bonnie Saks is a 39 year old woman whose life has spiraled out of control. Already divorced and the mother of two young boys, she is tormented by insomnia. Her life is further complicated when she discovers she is pregnant and struggles to complete her unfinished dissertation on American literature.
Ian Ogelvie is a 29 year old psychiatrist and sleep researcher experimenting with a breakthrough drug known as Dodabulax that greatly enhances REM sleep. While Ian helps Bonnie sleep, she in turn provides him with a wake up call of sorts. Ultimately, Bonnie becomes uneasy with the changes triggered by her blue pills. Despite suffering a miscarriage, her life becomes more tolerable and her insight much clearer.
The action of this stream-of-consciousness novel takes place over one day--the Day of the Dead--1938, in a remote village in Mexico. The novel opens with a conversation between two who reminisce about the Consul who died one year ago. Thence the work takes the reader back to the preceding year and the principals about whom the story evolves. The Consul (Geoffrey), his former wife Yvonne, his half brother Hugh, and a smattering of characters resonating in the Consul's past come together with some dream or fantasy about reconstructing a life that has been cast asunder by the Consul's alcoholism.
Flashback by flashback, the reader is apprised of the former lives of the central characters as they move together through a surrealistic day in search of some anchor to which they may attach their ill-fated, but obsessively conjoined, lives. Much of the day is mired in the Consul's alcoholic hallucinosis and the reader is challenged to sort the reality from the fantasy as the day ends in tragedy for two of the three primary characters.
This first-person narrative of a runaway girl's short stay in a residential mental health center develops her impressions, resistances, and accommodations from her admission ("I can see right away it's a nuthouse") to her release. These include reluctant interviews with the staff counselor, uncomfortable encounters with nurses, observations of other patients' erratic behavior, and efforts, finally, to communicate with a very detached roommate.
"Stevie" speaks from a place of anger and mistrust. She attempted suicide in the girl's bathroom by slicing her wrists, but regards herself as otherwise quite competent. A turning point comes for her when her silent roommate sings a song she's written which ends with the words, "Don't forget to cry." This moment of vulnerability, which also unveils surprising talent and beauty, moves Stevie from anger toward curiosity and sympathy.
She takes steps toward friendship with her roommate, and finally toward reconciliation with her mother who, she realizes, really wants her home. As she leaves, Zena really addresses her for the first time, reminding her, "Don't forget to cry."
Summary:Emma Woodhouse and her invalid father mourn the loss of Miss Taylor, Emma's companion and former governess, to marriage. Emma cheers herself up by taking the orphan Harriet Smith under her wing. Emma discourages Harriet's interest in the farmer Robert Martin, cultivating for her instead the attentions of the minister Mr. Elton (who is actually trying to woo Emma) or the eligible visiting bachelor Frank Churchill, while failing to see Harriet's feelings for Emma's brother-in-law Mr. Knightley. Emma herself flirts with the idea of loving Frank Churchill, until she discovers that he has been secretly married to the aloof Jane Fairfax. Mr. Knightley sets all straight by arranging Harriet's engagement to Robert Martin and marrying Emma himself.
This chapbook consists of two parts. The first part is a sequence of 20 poems that describe the final illness and death of the author's father. He is "a man who won't die," a man who has survived the ravages of several chronic illnesses, but who now faces another surgery, "to have the toe / amputated before gangrene set in." Yet the father is finally "slipping / below the horizon." His son sits in the hospital corridor, imbibing the sights and smells of the present, while moving back and forth in his mind between the past and future.
At last his father dies. Life goes on, connection goes on. The author thinks about his son, "my son is lifting the world / on his back . . . " The second part of the chapbook is a long poem called "Kaddesh for My Father," modeled after Allen Ginsberg's Kaddish and written about a year after his father died.
Joseph and Celice, a married couple in their fifties, both zoologists, return one day to the coastal dunes where, thirty years before, they had first made love. There they are attacked and beaten to death by a robber. From this starting point, the novel traces three trajectories: their married life, from their meeting as graduate students working at this beach; the course of their last day, traced backwards, or undone, until they are back in bed, asleep, that morning; and the first week of their death until they are found and taken away by the police. The changes that take place as their bodies decay are meticulously described. At the end of the novel, nine days after their death, the grass has recovered and there is no sign they were ever there.
Daniel Coulombe (Lothaire Bluteau) is engaged by a Montreal priest to improve on the parish's tired passion play. He is quietly excited by the possibility and invites a group of old friends to join him in revitalizing the ancient tale. They will stage the performance outside by torchlight on the crest of Mount Royal with the lights of the vast city flickering below. The script is modern, visceral, and engages the audience. The actors all manage to improve their life situations if not their finances: a man gives up dubbing scripts for porno movies; a woman leaves an abusive partner to become the Magdalene.
At first, the priest is pleased by their efforts, but he looses confidence and credibility when Coulombe finds he sleeps with one of the women actors. The play is a huge success, but nameless clerical authorities are disturbed by the vibrant sexuality and the avant garde performance; in the absence of support from the priest, "they" revoke the right to perform.
The defiant troupe performs anyway, hoping the police will be sympathetic. A naked Coulombe is arrested off the cross in the midst of his crucifixion scene. A scuffle ensues and he suffers an accidental head injury. Taken by ambulance to a busy hospital, he is neglected, but recovers enough to sign himself out, only to collapse in a subway station. Attended by the two dismayed and disoriented women, he is again taken to hospital where he dies.
Mohammed (Mohsen Ramezani), an eight year old blind boy attending a special school in an Iranian city waits for his widowed father (Hossein Mahjub) to bring him home to his isolated, but idyllic Iranian village for summer recess. During several interminable hours of waiting outside the school, viewers come to recognize the boy’s sensitivity to his surroundings. Through sound and feel he is at one with nature. Remarkably, he is able to rescue a vulnerable baby bird and return it to the tree branch nest from where it has fallen.
Unfortunately, Mohammed’s father fails to exhibit this kind of care with his son. The tardy reunion is painful: rather than embracing the boy, the father requests that school officials keep the boy during the recess. When the request is refused by embarrassed faculty members who are sympathetic to the child’s family needs, father and son begin the long walk, then bus ride into the distant countryside.
In contrast, Mohammed receives a warm and loving welcome from his Granny (Salime Feizi), his sisters, and the neighboring children. Immediately, the children run with him into the meadows to explore and celebrate. Clearly, this is Mohammed’s nest.
Even though Mohammed’s abilities at the local school are superior to those of his classmates and even though he is able to function in normal play with his peers, the father focuses only on the boy’s removal from the family and the village so that he can find a new wife to care for him and his other children. The unprepared boy is taken abruptly by his father to a blind carpenter many miles away where he will serve as an apprentice. Although the carpenter is kind, Mohammed is devastated by the cruel separation from Granny and the children.
Unburdened, the father goes forth with plans for another marriage, but before the arranged ceremony occurs both the heartbroken Granny and Mohammed die. The bride-to-be and her family regard these losses as unhealthy portends. Marriage plans are canceled. Only then, does the father recognize his own blindness.