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As Joanne Trautmann Banks indicates in the Foreword of this fine anthology, "when we are sick, very sick, it is often the nurse who is closest to our bodies, minds, and souls." This experience of closeness to suffering is well-reflected in the poetry and prose of the 49 nurses whose work is collected here. While these writings vary widely in form and style, they focus almost exclusively on the nursing interaction; they are nurses' stories of patients and nurses' reflections on nursing. Two major themes pervade the book. One is the powerlessness of nurses in the face of illness and suffering. The other is their tough, unsentimental devotion to their patients and the profession.
Of the poetry, particularly fine pieces include: "Raiment" (Carol Brendsel); "Daffodil Days" (Celia Brown); Butterfly (Jeanne Bryner; see this database); "What the Nurse Likes" and The Body Flute (Cortney Davis); "Hospital Parking Garage" (Jeanne LeVasseur); and "Euthanasia" (Belle Waring). Among the excellent prose pieces are "Nighthawks" (Carolyn Barbier), a tale in the voice of a ventilator-dependent woman who has elected to discontinue treatment and die; "While His Life Went on Around Him" (Angela Kennedy); "Wisteria" (Leslie Nyman); "Where Are You Now, Ella Wade?" (Joyce Renwick); and "Bev Brown" (Sybil Smith).
Four ghosts visit the miserly businessman Ebeneezer Scrooge on Christmas Eve. After the apparition of Scrooge's dead business partner Marley, the ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas As Yet To Come guide Scrooge through his own emotionally charged past, his harsh and loveless present, and his bleak future. The vision of his own headstone and the realization that no one will mourn his death force Scrooge to see the error of his "Bah! Humbug!" attitude toward humanity in general and Christmas in specific.
The primary recipients of Scrooge's moral rebirth are his poor clerk Bob Cratchit and his family, especially the crippled boy Tiny Tim. When Scrooge wakes from his ghostly visitations, he delivers a huge turkey to the Cratchit household and gives Bob a raise. He becomes a "second father" to Tim and reconciles with his own nephew.
Adolescent orphan Nell Trent escapes with her gambling-addicted, mentally infirm grandfather from the villainous "dwarf" Daniel Quilp, to whom the old man, obsessed with making Nell wealthy, has lost his money and his shop. Quilp and a host of other malevolent and benevolent characters track the pair's journey through urban, rural, and industrial England. When the good characters reach the peaceful hamlet where Nell and her grandfather have settled, Nell has just died, soon to be joined by her grief-stricken grandfather.
Although the Creation of Adam has been portrayed many times in the history of Western art, no other image is as enduring as Michelangelo’s fresco. Adam lays back on a barren terrain, a small piece of the newly created earth. His languid pose belies his apparent physical strength. Based on classical Greek and Roman prototypes, Adam is the ideal human male with his rippling muscles and elegant contours.
However, at this particular moment, Adam is not complete. He extends his left hand out to meet the finger of God. God hovers in the air, surrounded by angels and a billowing cloak-like form. Adam is clearly made in God’s image, as seen in God’s muscular form. God stretches out with his right hand toward Adam; He looks intently and directly at Adam, who returns the gaze with longing.
As God’s outstretched finger almost meets Adam’s more passive finger, we are poised on the brink of creation. Adam is physically alive, but here God is about to endow Adam with what makes human beings truly alive: the spirit, the soul, the intellect. All of man’s potential, physical and spiritual, is contained in this one timeless moment.
Ingenious Pain tells the life story of James Dyer, a surgeon in eighteenth-century England who is gifted--and cursed--with the inability to feel physical or emotional pain. Beginning with his postmortem, the novel traces the thirty-three years of his life, from his illegitimate conception on a frozen river, through the rise of his career from itinerant quack's assistant to ship's surgeon, and then to the court of Empress Catherine of Russia where he meets Mary, a mysterious woman who performs magical surgery on him with her hands, enabling him for the first time to feel and, as a result, to love.
At first this new ability drives him mad, and he is submitted to the infamous torments of Bethlehem Hospital. He gradually recovers, but his new sensitivity has disrupted his identity as a surgeon. He performs one last operation, saving the life of a Negro wrestler by opening his chest and massaging his heart. His own death, not long after, seems to signify that he has at last become a normal man, and this is a form of redemption.
The action takes place in 1968 at the offices and laboratories of a large pharmaceutical company. Dr. Michael Daly is replicating a series of psychological experiments purportedly designed to enhance the efficiency of learning. In these experiments the actual subjects are asked to inflict electric shocks on mock "subjects" who fail to give correct answers to mathematical problems.
The mock "subject" is ostensibly wired to an electric chair. In fact, she is really an actress pretending to be in pain. Even though she cries out in agony every time she makes a mistake, the actual subject--an ordinary person, who is just following instructions--pulls a switch that (he believes) gives her a progressively higher jolt of electricity.
The subjects almost invariably follow the evil instructions. In fact, one of them, Mr. Harley-Hoare, a sniveling and obsequious office worker, is truly outraged at Sally (the mock subject) for not learning faster. Against the backdrop of the Vietnam War and the corporate world, this play re-explores the issue of personal responsibility for evil actions.
The action takes place in a mental hospital where Pythagoras is a patient. According to the medical authorities, Pythagoras is a small-time show-biz magician. The patient, however, believes that he is the REAL Pythagoras, the ancient Greek philosopher, mathematician, and mystic. It certainly SEEMS that Pythagoras may have magical powers: when he points to the telephone, it rings; when he raises his hand to the sky, thunder claps.
Dr. Aquillus, the superintendent, has no sympathy with these pranks. The patients believe in his power, but even they sometimes question Pythagoras. For example, in response to the Greek's boast that "I was philosopher, mathematician and magician," one patient says, "You shoulda specialized, buster. You won't get anywhere unless you specialize." At this point Pythagoras responds that it is "difficult to wear both the white coat of science and the magician's purple one. You have to be--very great!" In the end Pythagoras is reduced to Tony Smith and the truth is revealed. Or is it?
Today, Friday June 5th, I am going to meet the man who killed my father. So begins the narrator of this novel, who is about to drive to New Jersey to visit the physician (now retired) who took care of his father during his final illness 20 years previously. The narrator (Peter Cave), who was an adolescent at the time, is now a physician himself.
Most of the novel is a flashback in which the narrator describes his life during the several days prior to June 5th, "the white life," which is the term he uses for the practice of medicine. We learn, in particular, about his patient George Dittus, a difficult man who definitely doesn't want to play the hospital game. "I need to get home" is the first thing Dittus says. Dr. Cave wants to save the life of this gruff, eccentric man who may well have had a serious heart attack, but at the same time, he tries--sometimes painfully--to respect the patient's desire to be in charge.
Cave's encounter with the retired Dr. Gresser, who remembers the elder Cave as a difficult patient, is surprising--"You know he refused to take the medicines I suggested." Cave is disappointed; he wanted a confrontation with the man who "killed" his father, but, instead, is confronted with the realities of human nature. Back at the hospital, he discharges George Dittus, who disappears into the inscrutable future.
The poet Donald Hall reflects in this journal-memoir on the meaning of work and "a life's work." He describes his daily life and work over a period of three months, interspersed with stories about his family, particularly his New Hampshire grandparents on whose farm Hall now lives.
Halfway through the book, Hall discovers that his colon cancer has metastasized to the liver. He undergoes surgery to remove part of his liver and subsequently recovers from the immediate effects of surgery. At the end of the book, he is ready to begin chemotherapy.
This book is subtitled, "Toward a Psychology of Suffering." In the first chapter, Bakan sketches a theory of disease as telic decentralization. He defines "telos" as that which is "determinant of form." In multicellular organisms, there are multiple, subsidiary tele, as well as an overall telos of the organism. Growth and development can occur only if there is a certain degree of telic decentralization, yet disease can also result from this internal separation or estrangement. Bakan supports this theory with arguments from post-Darwinian evolutionary theory, Selye, and Freud.
In the second chapter, Bakan considers pain as the psychic manifestation of telic decentralization. Suffering is a pain-annihilation complex: the experience of pain external to the ego, associated with an internal fear of annihilation. In the last chapter, the author considers the Book of Job as a literary approach to understanding the meaning of pain, sacrifice, and suffering.