Showing 81 - 90 of 187 annotations tagged with the keyword "Dementia"

The Shadow Man

Gordon, Mary

Last Updated: Dec-05-2006
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Subtitled "A Daughter's Search for Her Father," this memoir chronicles author Mary Gordon's quest to recapture the essence that was her father, a man she idolized and adored while he was alive--and long after his death when she was only seven years old. This death she saw as the single most defining event of her life. Identification with her father was essential to the conception of self, both as a creative writer, and as a worthwhile person. So she "entered the cave of memory" but found that memory was discordant with the facts.

Gordon's father was a writer, and a convert from Judaism to Catholicism. His persona was that of an intellectual, a graduate of Harvard, a frequenter of literary circles in Oxford and Paris. He claimed to be an only child, born in Ohio. As Gordon explores her memory and the historical record, forcing herself to confront her father's political opinions--opinions which are repugnant to her, and which she had earlier chosen to ignore--she uncovers a charade.

Her father, it turns out, was an immigrant from Vilna (in Eastern Europe) and had never finished high school. He had two sisters whom he never acknowledged to his family--one spent years in a mental institution where she ultimately died. Among his published writings are pornography and political diatribe (he was an anti-Semite and a facist); his writing was stylistically flawed.

This memoir is Mary Gordon's attempt to come to terms with what she learned about her father. It is the narrative deconstruction and reconstruction of the author's self; it is both biography and autobiography; a reflection on loss and recovery.

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Animal Dreams

Kingsolver, Barbara

Last Updated: Dec-04-2006
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Cosima Nolinas (Codi) trained as a physician, but decided during her residency to give up medicine. As the novel opens, she is returning to her hometown, Grace, Arizona, to teach high school biology and care for her physician father, Doc Homero, who is suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Her younger sister, Hallie, has just left for Nicaragua to help with agricultural development. Codi's journey back to where she grew up reinforces a sense of aimlessness which she attributes to the death of her mother when she was three years old, to the miscarriage of an unwanted pregnancy when she was fifteen, and to her father's remoteness. She intends her stay to be temporary.

But gradually she is drawn into the community. She restarts a relationship with Loyd [sic] Peregrina, the Native-American father--though she never told him--of the child she lost in high school. She joins the town's struggle against a mining company that has polluted the town's water supply and now plans to dam the river. As her father's condition deteriorates, she learns more about the history of his connection with the town and, by examining the results of a life-long study he has done on a genetic anomaly affecting children born to second-generation inhabitants of Grace, she learns that her own hereditary background is far more deeply rooted in the town than she had known.

Codi's narrative is interspersed with her father's confused but illuminating memories of her childhood, and with the letters she receives from Hallie, who has always been the motivated and determined sister. When Hallie is kidnapped and then murdered by the contras, Codi's first response is to run away once more, but in laying her sister to rest and telling Loyd about their lost child, she realizes that she has found her home and--in her fierce and practical education of the new generation of Grace adolescents--her purpose.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

A young woman observes the slow decline of her grandmother into dementia and her grandfather’s reaction to the situation. Issues of denial, anger, autonomy, and intimacy rise to the surface—and expose the formerly private dimensions of their marriage. The illness also stresses her own relationship and invites the idea that someday she and her partner could be projected into a future with the same vulnerability.

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Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Literature

Genre: Collection (Mixed Genres)

Summary:

This collection of nonfiction writings by fiction author Amy Tan includes multiple genres: essay, email, responses to journalist's questions, eulogy, love poem, university presentations, travel journal entries, and a commencement speech. Hence Tan terms the work "musings." Consonant with the multiple genres are multiple topics, ranging from memoirs of childhood and young adulthood, writing tips, fun portraying a dominatrix in a writers' rock-n-roll band, work on the film version of The Joy Luck Club, and past and present tragedies and struggles.

Much of the book, however, centers on medically-related themes. Prominent themes are: her diagnosis of neuroborreliosis--a form of late-stage Lyme disease--detailed in the final essay entitled "The Opposite of Fate"; her traumas such as the torture and murder of her best friend; the death of her father and brother from brain tumors; a car and a skiing accident; the cancer death of her editor and, woven throughout, the complicated psyche of her mother, Daisy Tan.

Daisy's extreme emotions ruled the family, and her behaviors, such as threatening not only suicide but also murder (she held a knife to Amy's throat), caused profound responses in her daughter. Probably one of the most adaptive responses was Amy Tan's use of their complex relationship in developing the nuanced mother-daughter relationships that characterize her fiction. Daisy's decline and death from Alzheimer's disease are also detailed here.

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Quartet in Autumn

Pym, Barbara

Last Updated: Nov-16-2006
Annotated by:
Mathiasen, Helle

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Pym’s novels depict ordinary life among middle class Englishmen and women with compassion, humor, and irony. The quartet denoted in this title consists of two men and two women in their sixties, the autumn of their lives. These characters hold menial jobs at the same office in London during the nineteen-seventies; two live in rented rooms, and two own their own small houses. Pym’s opening chapter catches them going to the library, because it is free. She clues us in to their personalities by describing their hair: Edwin’s hair is “thin, graying and bald on top”; Norman’s hair is “difficult”, as he is; Letty wears her faded brown hair too long and soft and wispy. Marcia’s hair is “short, stiff, lifeless” and home dyed. (1-2)

Only Letty visits the library because she likes to read; the others take advantage of the shelter it offers. Edwin frequents the local churches when there are masses or holiday celebrations with sherry and perhaps free food. Pym depicts their office routines, conversations, and uneventful lives. When Letty and Marcia retire, the (acting) deputy assistant director wonders what they have done during their working life: ”The activities of their department seemed to be shrouded in mystery – something to do with records or filing, it was thought, nobody knew for certain, but it was evidently ‘women’s work’, the kind of thing that could easily be replaced by a computer.” (101)

Letty moves in with another woman, and Marcia, alone in her house, wears her old clothes and forgets to eat. She resists the well-meaning social worker knocking on her door. Letty begins thinking of her failures: she did not marry, and she has no children or grandchildren. After some time, Edwin arranges a reunion at a restaurant; Letty tries to be upbeat: ”She must never give the slightest hint of loneliness or boredom, the sense of time hanging heavy.” (134) Marcia complains about the social worker and brags about her “major operation”, a mastectomy. She takes the bus to her surgeon’s, Mr. Strong’s, house to spy on him, and her encounters with him are her happiest moments. After Marcia’s decline into dementia and lonely death, the three office mates meet at her house, which Marcia has willed to Norman. Here they divide up the contents of her cupboards: the tins of sardines, butter beans, and macaroni cheese. They find an unopened bottle of sherry and toast each other as they remember their deceased friend.

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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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