Showing 91 - 100 of 209 annotations tagged with the keyword "Nature"

Dirt Cheap

Miller-Lachmann, Lyn

Last Updated: Aug-28-2006
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Nicholas Baran, a one-time student activist, is now in his 40s, teaching at a community college in rural Connecticut after having been denied tenure at an Ivy League school. The tenure denial, despite consistent teaching awards and high performance was clearly politically motivated and instigated by a right-wing professor protecting his turf and the school from a labor-oriented, media-challenging progressive. Nicholas has leukemia, and, upon noticing that he appears to be living in a cancer cluster, begins a private investigation of the large chemical company located just upstream on the river that runs through the town near his neighborhood.

The investigation becomes more intense after he comes upon a local rescue squad retrieving the body of a small boy who has drowned in the river, but whose body reveals effects of considerable acid in the water. Though his wife fears for him and resists his efforts, even to the point of temporarily allying herself (and engaging in a dailliance with) a powerful local real estate broker, Nick finds an ally in his son's teacher, hesitant, but committed to finding out the truth.

Though Nick's disease is progressing rapidly, he and Sandy, the teacher, manage to break into the company's files and retrieve enough damaging evidence to expose deliberate deception of the public as well as documenting the high incidence of cancers in the immediate neighborhood. Before his death Nick manages to supply enough material to the major media to expose the scandal, and leaves a hard-won legacy of truthtelling to his children.

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Butterfly Effect

Humes, Harry

Last Updated: Aug-24-2006
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

These poems offer a rich series of impressions of the speaker's present life, surrounded by family, a garden, and pockets of natural life that evoke memory after memory of a childhood lived in relative poverty with a father whose years as a coal miner damaged his lungs and finally killed him. Allusions to his chronic and worsening illness and his death thread through the poems like a long shadow.

Recurrent images of his blood-stained handkerchief, his coal-smeared face and hands, are echoed in images of the death of an uncle, the deaths of animals, and of a mother strained by poverty and taking frugal measures to preserve small things. The final poem in the collection recalls her in old age, barely able to see, but still "stitching it all together."

The title poem, one of the best, pauses over the famous idea that the flutter of a butterfly's wings might be the source of large effects continents away. Together the collection invites us, without sentimentality, to consider how things are connected over time and come together in memory in compositions one couldn't have anticipated.

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Gardening in Clay

Valdiserri, Ronald

Last Updated: Aug-22-2006
Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Collection (Essays)

Summary:

A collection of twenty-six short essays about AIDS from two primary perspectives. Approximately one-third of the essays reflect on this physician-author’s personal response to his identical twin brother’s deterioration and eventual death from AIDS. The remaining essays reflect this pathologist/public health educator’s interest in confronting the epidemic on a societal/cultural level.

The author’s love of nature and gardening provides a sense of continuity throughout the book. The gentle yet strong voice of the author is very moving when sharing his personal experience. His voice, on occasion, becomes pedantic when addressing societal and public health concerns.

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Annotated by:
Moore, Pamela

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Arabella is a young lady who has lived for a long while at her father’s secluded country home. She spends her time reading romances (in 18th century Britain, "romance" meant fictional works posing as historical accounts of tragic heroines, leibestods, and undying affection--usually French in origin).

She has come to believe the romances to be true and models her behavior after the rigid rules of womanhood contained in them. Moreover, she interprets others’ action or outside events according to romantic expectations.

When Arabella finally goes into society, all are struck with her wisdom and beauty, but are baffled by her behavior and constant references to various romantic characters. She scorns her persistent suitor, Mr. Glanville, since he does not, at first, pursue her according to the rules of romance. He neither pines away, nor allows her to send him to the far ends of the earth to think of her without hope, forever. He soon learns to humor her caprices.

Arabella goes through many adventures all of which depend on her obsession. When she falls ill after diving into a river to save her honor, a doctor is called in to treat her. Learning of her obsession, he resolves to cure her. Using cold logic, he dissolves Arabella’s misconceptions.

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Fra Lippo Lippi

Browning, Robert

Last Updated: Aug-21-2006
Annotated by:
Moore, Pamela

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The poem is narrated by Fra Lippo Lippi, a Florentine painter and friar of the fifteenth century. Lippi is stopped by watchmen just as he drunkenly leaves a bordello. They tell him that he ought not be on the streets at night and are surprised to find a friar in such a state. Drunkenly, Lippi tells them his story. He was orphaned and taken to a monastery where the monks set him to work painting on the walls of the church.

The friars are amazed by his skill, but insist that he remove his work for it is a representation of bodies, not of souls. It does not teach a moral lesson, either. So Lippi sarcastically paints a gruesome picture of the martyred Saint Lawrence. When a group of nuns enlist his help, he paints a cloudy collection of saints surrounding Mary but in the corner is an image of himself. He enters their presence in all his fleshy glory.

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Father and Son

Gosse, Edmund

Last Updated: Aug-21-2006
Annotated by:
Holmes, Martha Stoddard

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Victorian critic and poet Edmund Gosse was the child of respected zoologist Philip Gosse, a minister within the Plymouth Brethren, a fundamentalist evangelical sect. This memoir of Gosse’s childhood and young adulthood details his upbringing by parents whose faith and literal approach to Scripture directed all their domestic practices.

It details the older Gosse’s agony as he struggles to reconcile his scientific vocation with his religious faith in the face of the hefty challenges posed by Chambers, Lyell and Darwin’s mid-century hypotheses about the age of the earth and the diversity of its species.

Edmund’s own agony as he realizes his inability to fulfill his parents’ expectations for him in terms of religious vocation is another significant thread. While "father and son" is the primary relationship explored, the early parts of the memoir describe Emily Gosse’s influence on her son, particularly during her illness and death from breast cancer.

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Dear Mili: An Old Tale

Grimm, Wilhelm Karl

Last Updated: Aug-16-2006
Annotated by:
Bertman, Sandra

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Fairy Tale

Summary:

This fairy tale by Wilhelm Grimm, rediscovered in 1983, is prefaced by a short letter to "Mili," presumably a young girl much like the one in the story; what follows is a tale designed to teach children that life can be unpredictable. The story also demonstrates, however, that the unknown can sometimes provide shelter and security even when things are not familiar.

A young widowed mother, afraid for her daughter when the village they lived in was about to be attacked by invading warriors, sends the child to hide in the forest for three days. Alone and frightened, the girl loses her way, prays to God and is led to a little house tucked away in the woods where she meets a kind old hermit, Saint Joseph.

Three days (translated thirty years earth time) later, he decides it is time for the girl to return to her mother, whose dying wish is to see her daughter once more before death. Handing Mili a rosebud, he promises that after she meets her mother, she will be able to return: "Never fear. When this rose blooms, you will be with me again." The next morning the neighbors find the child and mother together, dead in their sleep.

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Annotated by:
Henderson, Schuyler

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

Published in 1734, this poem of 7-syllable couplets describes how Peter goes to visit his college friend Cassinus. He finds Cassinus filthy and miserable in his dorm room and asks his friend why he is such a mess. Cassinus replies that he is in this state because of Celia. Peter wonders if Celia has died; if she has cheated on Cassinus; if she has been struck down by some disfiguring disease; or, ultimately, if there is something terribly wrong with Cassinus. No, replies Cassinus, to each of these in turn. He makes Peter promise not to divulge the terrible secret he has discovered about his once beloved Celia, and then tells him: "Nor wonder how I lost my wits; / Oh! Celia, Celia, Celia shits."

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A Festering Sweetness

Coles, Robert

Last Updated: May-12-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

These poems stem from Coles's studies of the lives of poor black children in the South, and Native-American children in the Southwest and Alaska. In his Introduction to the first section of the book, Coles writes, "The words in this section tend to be soldiers." These tough, sad, hopeful, and militant poems give voice to children and adults on the firing-line during the civil rights movement of the 1960's. The poems in the second section, which arise from Coles's work among Native-Americans, are quieter in tone, more radiant, lyrical, and even transcendent.

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The Prairie

Cooper, James Fenimore

Last Updated: May-02-2006
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This is the last of Cooper’s Leatherstocking tales, in which his hero, Natty Bumpo, is on the frontier as an old man living and reliving his experiences in the developing West. As the reader follows Leatherstocking in his final venture, he/she repeatedly encounters an interesting character, Obed Bat (or Battius, as he is sometimes called because of his propensity for imposing Latinate terms on everything he sees).

Dr. Bat claims to be a medical practitioner who has chosen to study the natural world, the flora and fauna of the prairie. In a novel that is replete with unintentional comedy, Dr. Bat invites apparent, intentional and pointed ridicule. He chronically mistakes his own donkey for new species of wild animal; his vapid attempts at providing any kind of serious medical advice to the various travelers he encounters remind the reader of the tenuous position of the medical practitioner in the early to mid nineteenth century.

Although this adventure is the last trip for Natty, Dr. Bat’s presence is a major portion of the old-fashioned charm of Cooper’s novels. The unlikely collection of characters in this novel keep meeting, even though they are independently trekking across the vast land between the Mississippi and the Platte. There are, of course, buffalo and Sioux--friendly and otherwise--who must be tamed or overcome.

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