Showing 81 - 90 of 141 annotations contributed by Willms, Janice

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Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Anthology (Essays)

Summary:

The editor, herself a writer and one who has suffered depressive episodes, collects a series of personal essays or illness narratives about experiences with depression. Her contributors are all artists, primarily writers, who generally but not exclusively speak to the relationship between their art and their mood disorders. Some of the essays included have been previously published, but most are original contributions to this collection. The collection is introduced by Kay Redfield Jamison whose academic work has examined the relationship between creativity and depression, including manic-depressive disease.

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Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poems (Sequence)

Summary:

This is a cluster of seven short poems focusing on the response of husband to the diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis for the future of his beloved wife who has breast cancer. For example, "The Cloud" speaks of the passage of the uncertain weeks and years: "And into this idyllic time breast cancer crept. . . Wonder if it’s coming back. It’s life writ small / You don’t know what’s around that curve. . . ."

"For Rosemarie" is a plea for strength, while "Mommy’s Getting Chemo" contemplates the stance of the couple’s very young son. "Lymphedema Hand" is a loving tribute to the power and competence of the altered body of the woman. In all, the collection is forthright, painfully frank, while sustained by the gentle love that propels it.

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Old People

Goncz, Arpad

Last Updated: Nov-01-2001
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

An elderly woman prepares for an announced visit from "officials" to honor the 90th birthday of her demented and bedridden husband, Bernat, once a major force in the scientific community of Communist controlled Hungary. As she flutters about the apartment, preparing to serve cakes and drinks to the anticipated visitors, the reader becomes acquainted with the unnamed protagonist's own concentration difficulty. She repeatedly lapses into remote recall, speaking fondly of an apparent former lover and occasionally sighing for Mommie or Daddy.

During the brief period of waiting, she unfolds bits and pieces of the life of the intellectually privileged and those not so lucky during the Communist regime, and her own regrets for dreams not realized. The reader does not meet the guests, but learns of the visit only through the eyes of Bernat's wife. The visits serves only to enhance her fears that the apartment may be taken, the little pension upon which the couple lives may be rescinded.

As the little vignette draws to a close, the wife enters the room of Bernat, who is obviously profoundly demented, but for whom she cares as one would care for a baby. The sadness of her lonely life dissolves into tears of resigned hopelessness.

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The Victim

Bellow, Saul

Last Updated: Aug-29-2001
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The tale is that of two men who have had some business and a bit of social relationship in the past who are brought together after some long time in the course of the book. Allbee, who has disappeared into the underworld of skid row, submerged in his own alcoholism, suddenly reappears in the life of Leventhal, a fearful, up-tight man who struggles to maintain himself in a middle-class job and apartment. Allbee appears to have lost everything--wife, job, self-esteem, while Leventhal plods along in a respectable, but scarcely enthralling life.

Leventhal doesn't really owe Allbee anything, but he cannot rid himself of a sense of guilt. He is "successful," questionably at the expense of Allbee, and he allows the latter to plague his days and nights. Interwoven among the threads of this strange entanglement are family stresses, including the untimely death of a nephew, dragging at Leventhal's time and patience.

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The Iceman Cometh

O'Neill, Eugene

Last Updated: Aug-17-2001
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

This study of the anatomy of alcoholism, its spectrum and individual manifestations, is set in a skid row bar/hotel in 1912. The bar is peopled by a collection of society's failures: drifters, pimps, police informers, former anarchists, failed con-artists, ex-soldiers, and prostitutes. The patrons, in various stages of inebriation, await the annual arrival of the big-spending, happy-go-lucky salesman binge drinker, Hickey, whom the pipe-dreaming losers anticipate will treat them to hours of merriment and free-flowing liquor on the occasion of his birthday.

Hickey does, in fact, arrive, a bit late and very sober. He claims to have seen the light and to desire to help his old drinking buddies dump their pipe-dreams and return to productive lives. The reaction of the folks, the results of their attempts to buy into Hickey's sales-pitch, and an unanticipated homicide and surprise suicide, round out the drama.

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Under the Volcano

Lowry, Malcolm

Last Updated: Aug-16-2001
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

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.

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King Lear

Shakespeare, William

Last Updated: May-07-2001
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

The King begins to make bad judgments: he "retires" from the worries of kingship, but expects to retain the privileges; he divides the kingdom, something every king knows better than to do; he banishes his only honest daughter and his most loyal advisor. Lest the reader not get the significance of these actions, they are mirrored in the actions of one of his royal party, Gloucester.

Nature announces impending trouble and the aging king reveals the magnitude of his dementia in a scene of violent delirium. The complex conspiracies among the sons and daughters of the king and Gloucester eventually lead to the violent deaths of most of the principles, clearing the way for an establishment of a new stewardship for the kingdom.

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A Farewell to Arms

Hemingway, Ernest

Last Updated: Feb-05-2001
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

One of Hemingway's war and love stories, this novel takes place in Italy during World War I and is tied closely to the author's own experience as an American Ambulance Driver for the Italian Army. The story opens during a lull in the action and the reader meets a group of men who work with the wounded during battle. In the course of waiting for action, the protagonist, Henry, meets and courts an English nurse stationed in Italy.

The core of the tale is the evolution of the love of these two in the face of increasing military involvement, including an engagement in which Henry is wounded and after his return to the front, an Italian retreat from which he barely escapes with his life. Ultimately, he and Catherine, his English love, defect and enter Switzerland to await the birth of their child. Baby and mother both die and Henry is left alone, his future left by the author unplotted.

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Waiting

Jin, Ha

Last Updated: Jan-31-2001
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Year after year Dr. Lin Kong returned to his country village from his army hospital post in the city with the intention of divorcing his wife, Shuyu. Except for the conception of their single child, Lin and his wife had no conjugal relationship. Their marriage had been arranged by Lin's parents and his wife had remained in the village and cared for Lin's parents until they died and then raised his daughter, Hua.

In the meantime, Lin had developed a relationship with a military nurse, Manna, in his hospital. Manna pressed him each summer to request a divorce from his wife; each summer he got Shuyu's consent, but she backed down when they appeared in court. Still Manna waited--for 18 years she waited for Lin to be free.

Eventually the waiting ended as the law allowed a divorce without consent after 18 years of separation. Lin moved his former wife and his daughter to the city and he married Manna. The remainder of the tale is that of the new marriage. Lin still waits for something that doesn't seem to exist. Manna also waits for a dream that doesn't materialize. Shuyu and Hua quietly wait in the background for Lin to come to his senses.

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The Seed and the Sower

Van der Post, Laurens

Last Updated: Dec-20-2000
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This post-World War II tale is a joint reminiscence rendered by two Englishmen who have survived the war in the South Pacific, including concomitant internment in a Japanese POW camp. They meet over the Christmas holiday after a separation of five years.

The first segment has to do with Lawrence's memory of his relationship with Hara, a terror of a camp commander. The central portion of the work shifts to a document that has been saved by the narrator-author (the second of the two survivors) and was written by a mutual comrade, a South African officer who was not able to leave the prison camp alive. This is the longest and most detailed of the sections and dwells largely on the officer's relationship with a disabled brother and his assessment of how the guilt engendered by this relationship affected his entire adult life.

The third and final section is Lawrence's recall of the last few days of his service prior to his capture by the Japanese and a strange and wonderful few hours with a woman whose name he never learned. Lawrence's decision to share this very intimate secret with his host and hostess is stimulated by his view of their son sleeping with a play sword in the same room with their daughter who is cuddled with a toy--and the unavoidable reflection on the gender significance of this scene. The holiday is over and Lawrence returns to his service, leaving the narrator and his wife to review the three days they have passed together.

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