Showing 81 - 90 of 182 annotations tagged with the keyword "Dementia"

Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The old sit "on the porch in rockers / Letting the faded light / Of afternoon carry them off." The narrator visualizes them mulling over the past as they rock back and forth. Although the old people cover "ground / They did not know was there," they learn nothing new in this. They receive no redemptive message, not even "a reason / To make it seem worthwhile." In fact, evening comes and soon it will be time for them to go to their solitary beds and fall into the "sheepless / Pastures of a long sleep."

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Brilliant, liberated Iris Murdoch (Kate Winslet/Judi Dench) captures the utter devotion of awkward John Bayley (Hugh Bonneville/Jim Broadbent), whom she inexplicably chooses to be her life partner. The film transfers often between their earliest adventures as students, when Murdoch reveled in shocking the more conventional young man--to stages in the inexorable deterioration of her mind and Bayley’s attempts to keep her going as a writer and a human being.

Memorable scenes include Bayley’s continued admiration of the mature woman’s brilliance, his midnight rage against their lot, and underwater swimming that contrasts nubile daring youth with clumsy, terrified age. In the final minutes, Iris is left in a light-filled institution with kind attendants; her death is hidden. The viewer realizes that this is his tale, not hers.

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Literature

Genre: Anthology (Mixed Genres)

Summary:

Life on the Line relates the experience of 228 writers who express in their work the deep connection between healing and words. Walker and Roffman have organized their anthology into eight topical chapters: Abuse, Death and Dying, Illness, Relationships, Memory, Rituals and Remedies, White Flags From Silent Camps, and a chapter of poems about the nuclear accident at Chernobyl. This hefty volume contains a very broad selection of contemporary poems, stories, and essays by both well-known and relatively unknown writers on the experience of illness and healing.

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In the Shadow of Memory

Skloot, Floyd

Last Updated: Aug-29-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

I used to be able to think. My brain’s circuits were all connected . . . I had a memory and an intuition that I could trust. So begins Floyd Skloot’s memoir of living his life with "a scatter of white spots like bubbles" in his brain, as a result of a viral illness in 1988 that led to chronic fatigue syndrome and persistent brain damage. The first section ("Gray Area") consists of essays that re-create a texture of mistaken words and memory lapses, as well as the author’s creativity in discovering ways to minimize or bypass disability in his daily life. The temporal vector of this section begins with the onset of illness; continues through his marriage to Beverly and their settling on a hilltop in Oregon; and ends with an idyllic stay on Achill Island off the western coast of Ireland.

The second section draws us back in time to "The Family Story," a series of stories about childhood. In "Kismet," which begins section 3, the author returns to a description of his post-illness experience, in this case to his fateful final visit with an older brother, who is dying of diabetes and kidney failure. Later, in "A Measure of Acceptance," he tells of his encounter with a Social Security psychiatrist, whose task is to determine whether Floyd Skloot is "really" sick. The Social Security Administration provides one measure of acceptance; but the author creates a more important measure of acceptance for himself: "I can say that I’ve become adept at being brain damaged. It’s not that my symptoms have gone away: I still try to dice a stalk of celery with a carrot instead of a knife . . . Along the way, though, I’ve learned to manage my encounters with the world." (p. 196)

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Heredity

Davidson, Jenny

Last Updated: Aug-24-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Elizabeth Mann, the daughter of a world famous fertility specialist whom she despises, hasn’t quite made it into medical school. She runs away to London, where she can revel in an orgy of self-destructive behavior, while working as a freelance writer for a travel guidebook. She soon develops two obsessions. In an obscure medical museum she encounters the skeleton of Jonathan Wild, a famous 18th century criminal who met his death by hanging. During the same museum visit, she runs across Gideon Streetcar, a young fertility specialist who once worked with her father. Though Gideon is "happily" married, he and Elizabeth soon begin a torrid affair.

Elizabeth’s obsession with Jonathan Wild grows when, through Gideon, she obtains a copy of the criminal’s second wife’s memoir. Through it, she learns that his first wife, who died in childbirth, was named Elizabeth Mann. She develops a scheme to obtain DNA from Wild’s skeleton and use it in association with an experimental cloning procedure to become pregnant with the 18th century criminal’s child (clone).

When the 25 year old Elizabeth reveals that her father tied her tubes when she was 16, after having aborted her fetus--a "slut," he called her--Gideon agrees to attempt in vitro fertilization with her eggs and his sperm. He transfers two blastocysts, plus one of the supposedly cloned Jonathan Wild cells. She becomes pregnant. Soon thereafter she returns to the USA when her father has a massive heart attack and she, apparently, has an opportunity to go to medical school.

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

Levertov structures this poem in many ways like a Biblical psalm: repetition, irregular rhythms, direct address. The poem is also reminiscent of a Catholic litany in which saints are invoked in repetitive phrases. It moves forward by piling particularity upon particularity. The movement of the first part of the poem corresponds to the process of aging, preparing to die, letting go of the world, a natural flow or rhythm. However, this natural process is aborted: "She did not die."

The second part of the poem invokes the unnatural state in which she "lies half-speechless, incontinent, / aching in body, wandering in mind . . ." and describes the tubes and sores. "She is not whole." While the psalmist praises "O Lord of mysteries" for the beauty of sudden death, she cries "how baffling, how clueless / is laggard death . . . ." Death "that steals / insignificant patches of flesh" is a mystery.

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Doctor Faustus

Mann, Thomas

Last Updated: Aug-17-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The full title of this novel is "Doctor Faustus: The Life of the German Composer Adrian Leverkühn as Told by a Friend." Mann wrote it during the latter part of World War II when he was living in exile in the United States. The Faust character in this story is a German composer named Adrian Leverkühn (1885-1940), whose biography is recounted by his childhood friend, a schoolmaster named Serenus Zeitblom. Zeitblom presents the tale in his own voice--in essence, the novel is an extended reflection on the composer’s life (the past) set into the context of the deteriorating military situation in Germany (the present) as he is writing; i.e. the same period that Mann is actually writing the novel.

Adrian Leverkühn starts out as a student of theology, but succumbs to his passion for musical composition. His early pieces, though technically skillful, lack energy and imagination. However, all this changes when the young man experiences himself as having made a pact with the devil. In a confession written years later, Adrian recounts that he "voluntarily" contracted syphilis in an encounter with a prostitute, an episode that he believed was emblematic of this Faustian bargain.

In the confession he recreates his dialog with Satan, who promises the composer an artistic breakthrough, if he agrees to forego human love. As a result of the pact, Leverkühn sets off on a brilliant 24-year career, becoming the greatest German composer of his time. Throughout the novel Serenus intersperses technical details of Leverkühn’s many compositions, culminating with his masterwork, an oratorio called "The Lamentation of Doctor Faustus."

Adrian Leverkühn had been a self-centered youth who failed to reciprocate the friendship and devotion that others, especially Serenus, had lavished upon him. As an adult he leads an austere, solitary, monk-like life. Yet, while he lives only for his music, he also yearns for love. His personal life consists of a series of aborted relationships. Leverkühn becomes attracted to a female acquaintance and asks a friend to court her for him, only to learn that she has fallen in love with the friend.

Toward the end of his career, Adrian’s 5-year-old nephew comes to live with him in the country. The nephew ignites in him another spark of love, only to be snuffed out when the boy suddenly dies of meningitis. Finally, just as he is in the process of "unveiling" his great composition to a select group of friends, Leverkühn experiences a "stroke" and lapses into a coma from which he recovers physically, but not mentally. He survives for another decade in a demented, childlike state, and cared for by his mother.

The larger theme of this somber work relates to the decline of German culture during the decades before the onset of the Nazi era. Mann explores the collapse of traditional humanism and its replacement by a mixture of sophisticated nihilism and barbaric primitivism. In "The Story of a Novel" (1949),

Mann wrote that "Dr. Faustus" was about "the flight from the difficulties of a cultural crisis into the pact with the devil; the craving of a proud mind, threatened by sterility, for an unblocking of inhibitions at any cost; and the parallel between pernicious euphoria ending in collapse with the nationalistic frenzy of Fascism." In Zeitblum’s narrative comments, Mann subtly relates the composer’s personal tragedy to Germany’s destruction in the war. Mann also claimed a "secret identity" between himself, Leverkühn, and Zeitblom.

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

This remarkable book takes the reader into a Dutch nursing home where many of the 300 patients are terminally ill. The main protagonist is Anton, a competent, tough, and compassionate physician who tries to discover some meaning in the suffering of his patients, while at the same time disavowing any such meaning. Anton’s colleagues include Jaarsma, a somewhat detached and bureaucratic older physician, and Van Gooyer, a young physician who still believes that science has all the answers.

The first-person narrative consists of short, punchy segments (almost like an endless series of discrete physician-patient interactions) detailing the stories of Anton’s patients and his reactions to them. Many of these persons request assisted suicide or euthanasia. Anton reveals what he feels about these requests, how he goes about judging their validity, and the manner in which he actually carries out assisted deaths. A strong spiritual theme permeates the book; while Anton denies the relevance of God and religion, he seems constantly to be searching for a spirituality that "makes sense" of contemporary life.

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Wishbone Dance

Downie, Glen

Last Updated: Apr-24-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

Subtitled "New and Selected Medical Poems," this volume includes poems on illness and healing from Downie's three previous collections, along with several new poems. A longer piece called "Learning Curve Journal" serves as a framework for the book.

Beginning with the desperate voice he hears on his first night as a "suicide line" volunteer, the poet reveals the shape of his own medical learning curve, moving poem by poem from "Orientation" through the realm of "Patient Teaching" and "Teaching Rounds" to "Pronouncing Death." Among the many strong poems in this collection are "Diagnosis: Heart Failure," "Louise," "Sudden Infant Death," "Wishbone," "Living with Cancer," and "Ron and Don."

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Hero

Carson, Anne

Last Updated: Apr-24-2006
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

A woman begins the morning by assessing her mother's mood through her reaction to breakfast toast. They are off to visit her father who has dementia and no memory of his past as a war hero, or of his present as husband and parent. Yet a fleeting smile suggests that, on some level, unbeknownst to him and inaccessible to them, remain shreds of the same person.

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