Showing 81 - 90 of 134 annotations tagged with the keyword "Drug Addiction"

Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

This haunting memoir by a South African surgeon who has witnessed tremendous suffering across the globe is best read as his story, and not a war chronicle as the subtitle would suggest, since large chunks of the book are not about war in the dressing station sense of the term. That said, however, the war that rages inside the author continues throughout the book and gives the reader glimpses of wisdom gained during Kaplan's remarkable journey of life amidst death. The book is culled from journals of writing and sketches that he kept throughout his travels.

Kaplan's first crisis occurs when he joins fellow medical students in an anti-apartheid demonstration in Cape Town and, following the lead of a more senior student, Stefan, tends to the wounded and frightened after riot police attacked the demonstrators. Kaplan then gets the call of not only medicine as service, but surgery as service, when, as a neophyte doctor, he saves the life of a youth shot in the liver by the police.

This feat should not be underestimated, though the author writes with humility. Indeed, in recounting later incidents in which patients die, the odds tremendously stacked against the patients surviving anyway (a woman with disseminated intravascular coagulopathy and multiple organ failure, or the Kurdish boy in a refugee camp with a great hemorrhaging, septic wound), the author's self-chastisement is a painful reminder of how the physician suffers with each loss.

After a beautifully written prologue which begins, "I am a surgeon, some of the time" (p. 1), the book proceeds chronologically, each chapter named for the location of the action. Kaplan leaves South Africa to avoid military service and the fate that befell Stefan, who becomes an opioid addict after euthanizing a torture victim in a horrible scene of police brutality and violence. Kaplan's post-graduate training in England and BTA (Been to America) research stint heighten his sense of cynicism about hierarchy in English society and capitalistic forces in American medical research.

Ever the outsider, Kaplan first returns to Africa (treating victims of poverty, deprivation and violence), then sets off to war zones in Kurdistan, Mozambique, Burma (Myanmar), and Eritrea. In between, he works not only as a surgeon, but also a documentary filmmaker and a cruise ship and flight doctor. He avoids the more established medical humanitarian relief efforts, such as Médecins Sans Frontières, and instead prefers to work where no other ex-pat physician will go--enemy territory, front lines, and poorly equipped dressing stations.

Along the way he decides the number of people he has helped as a surgeon, particularly in Kurdistan, has been small compared to the potential to intervene in broader public health measures (he meets a Swiss water treatment engineer) and occupational health exposés to help abused victims (e.g., of mercury poisoning in South Africa and Brazil). The book ends with Kaplan studying to become an expert in occupational medicine, though, incongruously, in the heart of London's financial district where he treats stress-related illness.

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Especially Then

Moolten, David

Last Updated: Sep-30-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

In Especially Then David Moolten discovers his poetry in the ordinary, often painful, texture of childhood, adolescence, love, and marriage. Each memory becomes a small story-like poem that looks simple and straightforward at first, until suddenly the poem reveals its hidden truth.  A sense of existential loss pervades these poems, as in “One morning as a man’s wife offers to fill / His empty bowl he feels suddenly desolate / For how plain he has become…” (“Cornflakes,” p. 31)  But Moolten’s melancholy is sweet, rather than bitter; energized, rather than depleted; and cumulatively powerful, as “The tractor / Of memory drags on, churning its femurs, / Its numbers and dates.” (“Verdun,” p. 64)

Especially Then is ripe with traumatic events: A father’s abandonment, “During that proud, petulant year my father left / And I became a punk, nothing could touch me.” (“Achilles,” p. 17). A brother’s death: “in the shallow dark of years since / I buried my brother…” (“Pulled Over on I-95,” p. 23) Divorce, “despite the years between you / And a hard divorce, the unshrived recriminations…” (“Seen and So Believed,” p. 51) And a wife’s death, “As if his wife had always gone / By the name of death he thinks of her / Whenever he sees or hears the word.” (“In Name Only,” p. 49)

These ordinary tragedies play out against a panorama of tragedy, as evidenced in “Photograph of a Liberated Prisoner, Dachau (1945)” and “The War Criminal Gives His Testimony.” Most often, though, the world’s suffering has little impact on the way we live our lives, “Someone at the next table sighs / Over Guatemala, the tragedy / Of having read an article or watched / A TV special…” (“Who You Are,” p. 53) We go on as we always do.

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Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Journal

Summary:

Anne Lamott, a writer, recovered alcoholic, former addict and impassioned Republican-hater, finds herself pregnant in her mid-thirties, and decides to have the baby. This journal is a chronicle of her son Sam’s first year. She is fiercely self-deprecatory and funny and unafraid to talk about the dark side of parenting an infant: the fear, exhaustion, anger, emotional swings; that 4 a.m. inability to cope with the crying neediness of the baby.

She is a single parent barely able to pay the bills, but she has a tremendous support network of family, friends, and the people of her church--all of whom clearly love Sam and love her. And then, when Sam is 7 months old, crawling "like a Komodo dragon," the author’s best friend Pammy is diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. The author, who discovers the depth and resonance of love because of the gift of Sam, must now learn loss. She questions her faith, which she cannot justify on a cerebral level, but still hopes that God loves and guides her the way a parent loves and guides a child.

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Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

A theatre classic about a dysfunctional family, whose summer on the shore is flawed by alcohol, tuberculosis, drug addiction, and denial of all of the above. Considered by biographers to be highly autobiographical, the plot of the play centers about the progressive retreat by wife and mother into drugs as her husband and sons pretend they do not see. Alcohol abuse among the men of the family contributes to the rising tension in the work, as does increasing concern about one son’s tuberculosis. The action and psychological power of the play accelerate steadily through the first three acts, then climax with recognition of the brutal realities in the final act.

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Doctors' Wives

Slaughter, Frank

Last Updated: Aug-23-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The story takes place in the town of Weston, the site of Weston Medical School, with its teaching hospital and private faculty clinic. The main characters are a group of seven men (six physicians and one administrator) who met while serving together in the Army during the Korean War and later joined to form the nucleus of Weston Medical School. These men all occupy prestigious positions as chiefs of various clinical departments and conduct lucrative private practices at the clinic.

Their wives meet regularly in what they call the "Dissection Club." While the women are said to be friends, their meetings consist primarily of backbiting, cattiness, and expressions of profound boredom. Mostly, they are bored with their sex lives. While the wives generally engage in small-scale infidelities (including a medical student in one case), Lorrie Delman, the wife of the biochemist, is exceptional because of her voracious sexual appetite, about which she is highly vocal. Lorrie obsessively "sleeps around." In fact, she proposes that the group devise a regular sequence of husband swapping, a suggestion that her friends vote down in favor of a more random approach to adultery.

The drama commences when Mort Delman catches his wife in bed with Paul McGill, the dermatologist. Delman shoots a single bullet that goes through Lorrie's back and chest, killing her (she is lying on top of Paul) and then lodges in her lover's heart. Marissa Feldman, the brand new female physician, accurately diagnoses and treats Paul's life-threatening cardiac tamponade in the emergency room, after which Anton Dieter, the cardiac surgeon, removes the bullet lodged in the victim's right ventricle. Needless to say, Paul McGill recovers uneventfully, and Drs. Feldman and Dieter engage in a sexual escapade.

Meanwhile, members of the "Dissection Club" begin to re-assess their lives and loves. After all, they conclude, any of their husbands could have been caught at Lorrie Delman's house having some "afternoon delight." Perhaps the wives should pay more attention to their husbands, or otherwise enhance the meaningfulness of their lives. While this is going on, Mort Delman, the biochemist-killer, has no fear of languishing in jail because he has a perfect "impassioned husband" defense. In addition, he also manages to pull off a scheme to extort money from the other physicians in return for his leaving town and not revealing everyone's secrets. If this isn't enough to whet your appetite, Doctors' Wives also features additional plot twists and a surprise ending.

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Annotated by:
Davis, Cortney

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Anthology (Poems)

Summary:

This extraordinary anthology of 65 poems examines the relationship of parents to their grown children from the parents’ point of view. The poets are well known (among these, Grace Paley, Ruth Stone, Kumin, Maxine , Marilyn Hacker, Alicia Suskin Ostriker, Linda Pastan), and lesser known, female and male ( Dick Allen, Raymond Carver, Hayden Carruth, and Robert Creeley), but all poems deal head on with situations that often confront parents.

Situations examined are: the addiction of grown children ("To My Daughter"), their illnesses ("Pittsburgh," "Anorexia"), their own visible aging ("The Ways of Our Daughters"), the frustration of poor communication ("Lowater Bridge," "Harmonies for the Alienation of My Daughter," "Listen," "Potentially Fatal Toes," "Letter to a Son I Once Knew"), the way parents aren’t really the people their children think they are ("The Children"), and the joy when, even for a moment, love and safety reign ("Time, Place, and Parenthood," "Visual Ritual").

In these poems parents stand at the doorway and watch their children caring for their own children ("Sometimes," "Practicing") and they invoke family histories ("The Blessing," "Girl Children," "On an Old Photograph of My Son"). They dread the ringing of the phone ("Hours After Her Phone Call," "Long Distance Call from the Alone & Lonely") and they worry over children’s marriages, physical pains, and the disasters in their lives that parents cannot fix but feel they might have caused ("What I Need to Tell You," ""Letter: Thursday, 16 September," "Love is Not Love").

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Dr. Haggard's Disease

McGrath, Patrick

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

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In this first person narrative, Dr. Edward Haggard addresses his story to James, the son of his former lover Fanny Vaughn. Haggard, once a surgical registrar at a major hospital in London, has isolated himself in a coastal town, where he serves as a general practitioner. The "present" of Dr. Haggard’s story is the early stages of World War II, when James Vaughn, a Royal Air Force pilot, lies dying in Edward Haggard’s arms.

The story’s "past" has multiple dimensions. The outermost, framing story recounts the relationship between James and Edward that began several months before the war and a year or so following Fanny Vaughn’s death from kidney disease. James sought out the reclusive Dr. Haggard to discover the "truth" about Haggard’s relationship with his mother.

The inner story consists of Haggard’s description of his reckless and passionate love affair with Fanny, an ultimately hopeless liaison between a young registrar and the wife of the hospital’s senior pathologist. Their few brief months of happiness ended when Dr. Vaughn learned of the affair, and Fanny made the realistic choice to remain with her husband and adolescent son. In a confrontation between the two men, Vaughn knocked Haggard to the floor, causing a leg injury that resulted in chronic pain and permanent disability.

Haggard resigned from the hospital and withdrew to a solitary life, in which "Spike" (the name he gives to his deformed and painful leg) is his only companion. He must constantly "feed" Spike with intravenous morphine to quell the emotional, as well as physical, pain. The situation only worsens when Haggard learns of Fanny’s death from kidney failure.

The obsession worsens further still after James Vaughn shows up at his door. As Haggard treats the young pilot for a minor wound (he has become the local RAF surgeon), he notices that James has a feminized body habitus--gynecomastia, lack of body hair, broad hips, narrow shoulders, and pre-pubertal penis. He interprets this as "a pituitary disorder" and attempts to convince James that he needs treatment. James is repulsed by these advances, which eventually escalate.

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Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

This film traces the shared career and dissolution of Beverly and Elliot Mantle, male identical twins (both played, thanks to seamless special effects, by Jeremy Irons) who are gynecologists, running a successful fertility clinic in Toronto in the 1980’s. They share both work and personal lives; Elliot, the dominant twin, lectures at the hospital, accepts awards, plays the smooth professional--and seduces women. Beverly, the quiet one, sees patients, does research--and sometimes has affairs with women his brother passes on to him.

They usually draw the line at patients, not because of ethics, but because "it’s not safe." Their dealings with women have to be carefully compartmentalized, for the ambiguous intimacy of the gynecological doctor-patient relationship is difficult and dangerous for the twins, who form a psychologically unstable and deeply interdependent relationship on their own, likening themselves to the original Siamese twins, Eng and Chang, whose names they eventually take on, too.

Their symbiotic system is disrupted when a television actress, Claire Niveau (Genevieve Bujold), consults them about her infertility. She has a trifurcate uterus--the twins call her a "mutation"--and will never have children. Elliot, fascinated, seduces her, and then gives her to Beverly, who falls in love, with disastrous consequences. When Claire discovers that they’ve deceived her and temporarily leaves, Beverly becomes addicted to the amphetamines and sleeping pills that Claire habitually abuses.

The drugs impair his work, he begins to hurt patients, is hospitalized, and after a calamitous breakdown in the operating room (where Beverly attempts to use the monstrously beautiful surgical instruments he designed himself

"for operating on mutant women") both brothers keep their hospital privileges only on condition that they don’t use them. Elliot tries to rehabilitate Beverly, but realizes that the need to do so comes from their absolute interdependence--they might as well be physically joined. So Elliot begins taking drugs as well, and when Claire returns and Beverly goes back to her, Elliot breaks down completely.

The rest of the film traces Beverly’s failed attempt to become a separate individual. The instruments he invented are now, he says, "for separating Siamese twins," and, in a terrifying surgery scene, the drugged Beverly "operates" on his conscious though equally drugged brother, apparently disemboweling him. Next morning, Beverly leaves the apartment where his dead brother lies and calls the woman he loves, but he cannot talk to her. He goes back, his bid for independent identity a failure, and the film ends on a shot of the two, dead, in an embrace echoing the Renaissance anatomical illustrations of in utero twins which illuminate the film’s opening credits.

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A Million Little Pieces

Frey, James

Last Updated: Jan-30-2006
Annotated by:
Henderson, Schuyler

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

At 23 years old, James is brought by his parents to a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in Minnesota to get treatment for his alcoholism and drug addictions. Physically and emotionally shattered, he slowly recuperates, sometimes insistently conquering his addictions with his own willpower, and at other times with the help of those around him. The consequences of his addictions, his struggle against the platitudes of the Twelve Step programs, and his relationships with his counselors build the tension in the book; his relationship with his family and several of his fellow addicts forms the heart of it.

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My Friend Leonard

Frey, James

Last Updated: Jan-30-2006
Annotated by:
Henderson, Schuyler

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Note that this annotation contains spoilers. The sequel to A Million Little Pieces (see this database), Frey's follow-up memoir begins with James serving time in an Ohio prison for crimes he had committed while an addict. On his release, he goes to Chicago where he plans to reunite with his girlfriend, Lilly, and start a new life. As soon as he arrives at the halfway house where she was living, he discovers that she had committed suicide the night before. Shattered again, he tries to establish himself in Chicago without relapsing (with notable bravado: working as a bouncer in various bars).

His friend and "father" Leonard, a mobster who unofficially adopted him during their stint in rehab together, as chronicled in A Million Little Pieces, tries to help him get on his feet financially. After a period as a runner for the mob, James decides to move to Los Angeles to become a writer, with some success. Leonard remains a benevolent father-figure and as their friendships develops, the larger-than-life Leonard and his mob henchman meet James's friends, his family, his girlfriends, even his girlfriends' families--until Leonard disappears. James eventually locates Leonard, and discovers that Leonard is gay, has AIDS, and the two of them spend Leonard's last few days together.

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