Showing 81 - 90 of 141 annotations tagged with the keyword "Epidemics"

Summary:

The aim of this collage of anecdotes from medical history is largely to entertain, though it is pointedly instructive in its focus on reasons for and results of medical mistakes, misapprehensions, and serendipitous breakthroughs. Gordon's dryly humorous skepticism and general irreverence is balanced by an obvious delight in the intellectual play that characterizes the history of science.

The stories he tells range from Hippocrates to the present with a heavy focus on the 18th and 19th centuries. The book includes a good representative collection of visual art and photography documenting moments in medical history upon which Gordon casts a cold but twinkling eye. Chapter titles such as "Discoveries in the Dark," "Sex and its Snags," "Odd Practices," and "Freud, the English Governess and the Smell of Burnt Pudding" give a bit of the book's flavor.

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Chekhov: 1860 - 1904

Laffitte, Sophie

Last Updated: May-09-2005
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Biography

Summary:

This biography, first published in French in 1971, was written by a Soviet émigré living in Paris. She begins her introduction with a quotation from Chekhov, "Happiness and the joy of life do not lie in money, nor in love, but in truth" (1). She follows this statement with an observation of her own, "Chekhov makes no prognoses, never raises his voice, does not explain, insist, and above all, does not instruct. . .

He is the least Russian of the great Russian writers." To a large extent, her short biography is devoted to presenting a particular vision of Chekhov that might be called "compassionate objectivity." Although her subject may not have insisted or instructed his readers, Ms. Laffitte does. In fact, there is a hagiographic quality about this book that leads the reader to conclude that if Chekhov had been a believer, by now he would have been canonized as Blessed Anton of Moscow.

Ms. Laffitte proceeds in multiple short chapters. While they are generally in chronological sequence, each one also takes up an issue or theme in Chekhov’s life. She makes copious and skillful use of her subject’s letters and notebooks. She also devotes considerable attention to Chekhov’s medical career, unlike V. S. Pritchett, whose short biography entitled, Chekhov. A Spirit Set Free (1988, see annotation in this database) portrays medicine as more of a hobby than a serious enterprise for Chekhov.

Ms. Laffitte also has a habit of tying up loose ends without presenting much evidence for her point of view, or acknowledging that uncertainty exists. For example, when dealing with what she calls Chekhov’s "moral depression" of the mid-1890s, she concludes, "By a logical exertion of willpower, Chekhov was gradually to emerge from this moral depression" (168). It seems here that she considers depression--assuming this is the correct term to use in the first place--a weakness or failure of will, rather than a clinical disorder.

Nonetheless, this short literary biography (not out-of-print) provides much easier reading than most of the major Chekhov biographies that have appeared since it was published.

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Buenos Noches, Buenos Aires

Adair, Gilbert

Last Updated: May-09-2005
Annotated by:
Henderson, Schuyler

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novella

Summary:

Gilbert Adair has a flair for French settings in the latter half of the twentieth century (The Holy Innocents, Key of the Tower) and this novella is no exception. Gideon, the narrator, has moved to Paris in the early 1980's in order to teach English at the Berlitz school. Although he detests 'dreary' London and has only a distant relationship with his parents ["The only thing we had in common was our kinship. Did we even have that?" (2)], the reason he gives for his move is obliquely described in a lengthy discussion of his unhappy, unfulfilling, often humiliating sex life.

Once in Paris and at work, he befriends a group of fellow teachers at the school. After languid hours gossiping in the staff room and teaching their students, they make variably energetic attempts to live interestingly bohemian and erotic Parisian lives, before and during the first intimations of AIDS. The narrator then describes how AIDS affects his friends and his own life.

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Juliana Cloth

Boyle, T. Coraghessan

Last Updated: Jan-31-2005
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A trader from the north arrives by boat in Miriam's village carrying bright and beautiful bolts of fabric--the juliana cloth of the story's title. The trader chooses to trade fabric for sex with some of the village women and girls; for others, perhaps the less appealing, he will take only money. Miriam wants a piece of the cloth, but hasn't the coins to buy and is not offered a trade. Over time, the village watches the more adventurous and attractive women and some of their male partners sicken and die from a strange new malady.

Miriam's mother, a widowed government employee, warns Miriam of the relationship between the deadly sickness and sexual behavior. The officials have promised condoms, but even had they arrived, the programs for education and understanding were not in place. The last we see of the 16-year-old Miriam, she is succumbing to her own adolescent sexual desires with a local boy.

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Cannery Row

Steinbeck, John

Last Updated: Jan-25-2005
Annotated by:
Henderson, Schuyler

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This novel takes place in the eponymous Cannery Row, a place made up of 'junk heaps, sardine canneries of corrugated iron, honky tonks, restaurants and whore houses, and little crowded groceries, and laboratories and flophouses' (1). Although there is a narrative trajectory--the desire of Mack and the other boys living at the Palace Flophouse to throw a party for their friend and benefactor, Doc--the plot of this novel is really that plot of land Steinbeck describes so well.

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Super Size Me

Spurlock, Morgan

Last Updated: Oct-22-2004
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Morgan Spurlock decides to test the effects of fast food by eating nothing but food from McDonald's, three meals a day, for thirty days. Three physicians and a dietician are involved from the outset and track his rapidly increasing weight and declining health. Along the way he visits McDonald's outlets around the US, interviewing workers and fast food enthusiasts, and considers the implications of a recent lawsuit brought against McDonald's by customers who blame the company for their obesity.

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Sweet Thames

Kneale, Matthew

Last Updated: Jul-26-2004
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The young and upwardly mobile engineer, Joshua Jeavons, is obsessed with finding a solution to the water problems of 19th-century London. He spends almost every spare moment drawing and re-drawing maps of his precious drainage plans destined to save the city from the stench of effluent, which everyone believes is the source of cholera. His boss, Augustus Moynahan, is unimpressed with Joshua's plans, but allows him to continue analyzing sewers and drains. They work in conjunction with a master plan of coercive bureaucrats, led by Edwin Sleak Cunningham and manipulated by private interest.

Joshua has married the boss's daughter, Isobella, who had seemed more than eager to have him over her father's objections; however, she rebuffs all his physical attentions and the marriage is unconsummated. Brimming with sexual need and self-pity, Joshua continues a sporadic liaison with a friendly prostitute, all the while resenting what he decides must be his wife's infidelity.

When Isobella vanishes on the night of a disastrous dinner party, Joshua's fortunes plummet. He is reduced to poverty and shame, as he replaces his first obsession with the quest for his lost spouse--to reclaim her or kill her, he knows not. But his contact with urchins and beggars brings him to discover the real causes of pollution and disease--both environmental and moral.

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Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: History

Summary:

Dr. McKechnie begins his overview of the history of the practice of medicine in British Columbia with records of Coastal Native practices encountered by the first explorers of the Northwest Territory in the 18th century. This opening section of the work contains interesting folklore regarding some of the methodologies and medicinals utilized, and terminates in descriptions of the rites surrounding the initiation of a new Shaman.

Moving forward in time, the author explores the early naval medicine of the seamen and their captains, including the early intermingling of the explorers with the Coastal Indians. The plagues of smallpox, measles, syphilis, and tuberculosis attributed to the arrival on the western continent of organisms to which the natives were not immune are covered briefly.

The third portion of the book is devoted to the changes in medical practice on this particular frontier as the emerging science of the 19th century moved gradually westward. The final chapters cover the century of the great world wars and the progressive advances in medical science as they affected the residents and physicians of British Columbia.

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After the Plague

Boyle, T. Coraghessan

Last Updated: May-27-2004
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Francis (aka "Jed") tells how he went off into the Sierra mountains for a few weeks of peace in order to write a novel and accidentally left his world behind. Fragmented radio reports hint that a catastrophe is brewing; appeals to avoid panic splutter to a silent stop. A trip to the nearest gas station confirms his impression that an Ebola-like epidemic must have wiped out most of the people of America. He worries about friends and family, but he worries too about himself and decides to stay put with his large cache of food.

Soon, wiry Sarai storms out of the wilderness demanding help. She has lost her hiking companion and refuses to believe in the full extent of the horror. They return to a city trying to build a life, but they dislike each other too much. They and other scattered survivors dwell in whatever house and drive whatever vehicle they choose; they avoid rotting corpses and each other, furtively taking what they need from shops and leaving the aisles undisturbed. Francis finds a compatible companion in Felicia and they engage in a polite, easy courtship. Their peace is disturbed by the rantings of Sarai, until they are saved by a survivor ex machina.

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The Dream of Scipio

Pears, Iain

Last Updated: May-10-2004
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Manlius is a 5th C Roman patrician living in Provence who has studied with the wise, reclusive Sophia. He writes his understanding of her teaching in his essay, 'Dream of Scipio,' which trades on an essay by the great Roman orator, Cicero. Sensing that the Empire is gravely threatened, he makes a pact with barbarians, sells out his neighbors, slays his adopted son, and becomes a bishop of the Christian religion, which he has long despised. Late in this ruthless and doomed attempt to salvage what he values most in his world, Sophia makes it clear that he has misunderstood her teaching.

Olivier is an astonishingly gifted 14th century Provencal poet whose intolerant father tries to stifle his love of letters, among which is Manlius's 'Dream'; his father destroys the manuscript, but Olivier recopies it from memory. As plague advances on their region, Olivier finds a mentor in the high churchman, Ceccani, who is bent on keeping the papacy in Avignon. He plans to destroy Jews as symbolic expiation for plague, widely construed to be a form of divine punishment. Olivier befriends a Jewish scholar and falls in love with his beautiful heretic servant.

The 'Dream' and the imprisonment of his friends lead Olivier to question and then betray his mentor. Either because of his efforts to save them, or for his role in a murder, he is mutilated--his tongue and hands cut off to rob him of speech and writing. The brutal mutilation appears early in the book--it is not fully explained until the end.

Julien is a French historian who has studied the poet, Olivier, and the rendition of Manlius' manuscript. He finds solace in his erudition as his county falls to the Nazi occupation. An old school friend who is a collaborator, gives him work as a censor and tolerates Julien's Jewish lover, the artist Julia. In the end, Julien is forced to choose between saving either another school friend in the Resistance or Julia. He chooses Julia, looses her anyway, and commits suicide in a vain attempt to warn his friend.

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