Showing 91 - 100 of 153 annotations tagged with the keyword "AIDS"

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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What Patients Taught Me

Young, Audrey

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

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

This collection of stories describes "a medical student's journey" (the subtitle) through the difficult terrain of clinical education. In Audrey Young's case, this is also a geographical odyssey from Seattle to Swaziland to Pocatello, Idaho, as she completes her University of Washington clinical rotations and electives. In one sense the main characters of these narratives are the patients the author encounters in clinics and hospitals. As she writes in the Preface, "Patients teach things that the wisest and most revered physicians cannot, and their lessons are in this book."

In another sense, of course, Dr. Young herself is the central character of these stories; this is an account of her journey into doctoring. The author first takes us to Bethel, a Yupik Eskimo town on the Bering seacoast of Alaska, where she had her initiation into clinical experiences in the form of a summer preceptorship. There she learns that patients are far different from textbook examples, as she confronts the social and cultural factors that influence illness and its amenability to treatment. We follow the author to assignments throughout the WWAMI network. WWAMI is the University of Washington's decentralized clinical training program (Wyoming, Washington, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho).

In Spokane she delivers a baby for the first time, supervised by an opera-loving attending physician. In Pocatello she takes care of her first critically ill neonate. In Missoula her life becomes "one of resigned solitude" in her internal medicine clerkship, where she experiences sleep deprivation and experiences sunlight only "through dusty windows."

During her fourth year, the author finds herself treating desperately ill AIDS patients without a supervising physician (he had gone to Zaire for a funeral and might be back the following week) and also without anti-retroviral drugs. However, it is in Swaziland that she learns the deep power and dignity of medicine, as exemplified by a patient who invites her to a dinner in her honor that requires killing one of his precious chickens.

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Dying: An Update

Brodkey, Harold

Last Updated: Oct-04-2005
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Journal

Summary:

A chronicle of the author's perceptions, thoughts, memories, and personal relationships during the months after he was diagnosed as having AIDS. Brodkey's mind and prose are as sharp as a knife's edge. Beginning with the desperate struggle for breath that signaled pneumonia and, retrospectively, "how my life ended. And my dying began," continuing with the reactions and decisions of himself and his wife, the first half of the essay spins out an observant, introspective, cerebral, even amusing account of his particular experience.

But AIDS is often a disease associated with more emotional baggage than other fatal illnesses, and in Brodkey's case we learn that he traces both his dying and his homosexual experiences to "the major drama of [his] adolescence", daily sexual abuse by his adoptive father, with the implied knowledge and acquiescence of his mother. Writes Brodkey, "I experimented with homosexuality to break my pride, to open myself to the story." "Now I will die disfigured and in pain."

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The Way We Live Now

Sontag, Susan

Last Updated: Oct-04-2005
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The Way We Live Now consists entirely of fragments of conversation among friends concerned about a friend with AIDS. They confer on the telephone, over coffee, in the halls of the hospital, about the patient and his illness. They speculate, prognosticate, share anxieties, trade innuendoes of guilt and blame, pool their medical knowledge, and criticize the medical establishment.

The patient never appears, and indeed, we never meet a fully-fledged character, but only hear the orchestra of voices that wryly and accurately reflect the mediated and fragmented character of modern community life. News travels among them like an electric current, carrying shock waves of fear and pain. Their pooling of medical lore results in an eclectic mix of remedies that reach from chicken soup to the patient's favorite jelly beans.

By the end, several of the characters, represented only by voices in the conversation, have had to come to terms not only with the impending loss of their friend, but with their own various and unsettling responses. The disease, clearly AIDS, is never mentioned by name.

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This Wild Darkness

Brodkey, Harold

Last Updated: Oct-04-2005
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Journal

Summary:

This is the last published entry in the journal kept by author Harold Brodkey, before he died of AIDS on January 26, 1996. Brodkey, ever the flamboyant writer, began a record of his diagnosis with AIDS and "my passage into nonexistence" in the pages of The New Yorker (see also earlier journal entry, Dying: An Update, annotated in this database).

In this last entry he focuses intensely on the end of consciousness that looms ahead. In spare poetic phrases he describes what he is attempting to grasp-- " . . . this wild darkness, which is not only unknown but which one cannot enter as oneself." He reflects also on memory, medication, creature comforts, family history, the legacy he leaves, and describes with amazement that he feels happy.

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Your Sightless Days

Monette, Paul

Last Updated: Aug-26-2005
Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

Paul Monette wrote about his partner's life and death with AIDS in both prose (Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir, see this database) and poetry. This poem, a lyric elegy to Roger Horwitz, concerns Roger's loss of sight despite treatments for cytomegalovirus infection. It is a love poem; Monette's devotion to Roger is unbounded. If Roger cannot see, then the poet wishes not to see--this is empathy to the fullest degree.

When, in the up and down course of the visual problems, Roger can suddenly, temporarily see, then Monette gleefully cries, "I toss my blinders and drink the world like water." The poem contains numerous references to sight, light, and eyes, such as "blacked out windows / like an air raid," "peer impish intent as a hawk," and "I'm shut tight Oedipus-old."

This constant stream of images and the unpunctuated, no-place-to- relax-and-catch-your-breath rhythm of the poem leads the reader through the suffering and uncertainties and into the final lines--the mourning for Roger. Grief is loneliness; it is the desperate ache of MISSING someone. Monette feels isolated from "the sighted fools"--he yearns for Roger, who, through it all and despite feeling like Job, could "hoot on the phone / and wrestle the dog so the summer was still / the summer."

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Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Handbook

Summary:

Professor Sandra Bertman founded the Medical Humanities Program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center and holds certificates in grief counseling and death education. This handbook outlines how she uses the visual and literary arts to "improve our professional abilities to deal with death and dying." Her premise is that the arts provide a valuable vehicle for exploring and making bearable the prospect and fact of death.

Bertman illustrates her presentation technique (Chapter 2) of juxtaposing dual images around six central themes, here abbreviated: the chosen death; death and afterlife; existential aloneness; loss of control, unmentionable feelings, grief; the land of the sick vs. the land of the well; the moment of death. The book offers dozens of paintings, sketches, and photographs (reproduced in black and white), as well as many literary excerpts. Classic works are represented (David's painting, The Death of Socrates; Michelangelo's sculpture, "Pieta"; Tolstoy's novel, The Death of Ivan Ilyich) but there are many unusual representations as well--greeting card messages, epitaphs, cartoons.

In addition, some groups with whom she works (for example, medical students studying Gross Anatomy) have submitted their own drawings and commentary. These are shown in Chapter 3, along with written responses to a follow-up Death Attitude Questionnaire. Responses are from junior and senior high school students; college students; medical students; graduate nurses; hospice volunteers.

Chapter 4 gives suggestions for how to use images and texts and for how to approach discussions of loss and grief. The course syllabus for "Dissection, Dying, and Death," taught with Gross Anatomy, is appended, and there is an extensive bibliography.

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Summary:

Moller is a sociologist who takes us into the world of the urban poor; he focuses on half a dozen individuals, giving intimate and moving portraits of them. An opening character is called Cowboy (a pseudonym); he lives under a bridge with his dog Cowgirl and dies a slow death of lung cancer. In an Epilogue (pp. 163-184) Moller calls him "an urban Thoreau." This respect for the dying poor pervades the book.

Besides descriptions of the characters, there is much dialogue, including extended quotations, but also some 100 small photographs, usually close-ups, inserted into the text. One photo shows a man in his coffin. Clearly Moller gets close to his characters, and so does the reader.

Moller argues that the dominant society--to its shame--neither supplies adequate care for this sector of society nor even recognition that such people exist. He calls the dying poor "an invisible world." It's a disturbing world, with the pain and neglect, but also an inspiring one, because of the caregivers such as social workers and nurses and the heroism and dignity of the patients presented.

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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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Late

White, Kelley Jean

Last Updated: Jan-31-2005
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

The front cover of this collection shows the outline of Africa completely filled with the names of patients ("Tyra Lynette Deja Nya Rovert Marqui Fatima Terry Alexia Michon Ty . . . ") On the last page, poem #120 consists of an outline of the United States of America, also completely filled with the names of patients, also African. The poems in this collection constitute a journey through these Dark Continents, both of which lie within.

Kelley Jean White stakes out her territory very clearly: "I suppose I embarrassed you / at all those mainline / plastic surgery parties / talking Quaker and poor and idealism" (3). There are no elegant parties, nor plastic surgeons, after page 3. Instead, persons like Shawanda live here: "At seventeen, Shawanda has never spoken. / Her brother easily carries her frail body / into the exam room--37 pounds" (36). And the nine year old girl who delivers her baby by C-section: "The nurses said it was the worst thing / they’d ever seen . . . She took her to her grandmother’s home / to raise. / The man did time / for assault." ("Freedom," 55)

But the poet hasn’t lost hope at all. She is filled with love and humor and imagination: "I dream I’m marrying this guy I used to work with who spent a lot of money on his hair" (73). "I musta been looking pretty down / when I left you today . . . " because the legless man pulling his wheelchair to his favorite begging spot said, "love, you gotta be always looking up . . . I just smiled and looked at / my too big shoe feet" (118).

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