Showing 971 - 980 of 1213 Fiction annotations

The Reconstruction

Casper, Claudia

Last Updated: Feb-08-1999
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Margaret is a sculptor whose detached and unaffectionate physician-husband has just exited their marriage. Depressed, she is in dire need of work to survive and to cover the costs of urgently needed dental work. She gladly accepts a museum commission to recreate a life-sized likeness of Lucy, the Australopithecus afarensis hominid.

The plan is to reconstruct the body using casts of the fossil bones and to depict a single moment in Lucy's past, as captured by the fossilized Laetoli footprints. Made by a hominid pair, the prehistoric footprints show how the smaller creature--Lucy--hesitated in her unknown journey 3.6 million years ago.

As Margaret reassembles her ancestor and situates her plausibly in that mysterious moment, she rediscovers her own animal body, its senses, needs, and beauty--and she begins to reassemble her life.

In the end, she appears to find love and joy with a musician whom she first encounters on a purely physical basis. Yet she is comfortable with an ambiguous future.

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Spin Dry

Hollingshead, Greg

Last Updated: Feb-08-1999
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Rachel is married to passive Leon who is utterly dependent on her care and organizational skills. They live in a vast, blanc-mange of a suburb where Rachel constantly looses her way while driving home from work. One night, she seeks direction from Wilkes. A strange recluse, he is obsessed with his teenage memory of the lost "girl on the bus" and leads a support group for agoraphobics.

Through contact with Wilkes, Leon gradually grows more independent and finds himself a job. Rachel becomes obsessed with the search for the meaning of "Harry," a mystery man who recurs in her husband's dreams and begins to take over her thoughts. She consults a psychologist, Alex Silver, who soon has Rachel enrolled in a study with two other women. Silver uses dream-deprivation with the goal of enhancing insight about her marriage, her life, and her friends.

Cameo appearances of three depressive, mid-life siblings, Dick, Jane, and Sally, with their dog, Spot, and cat, Puff, emphasize that life in modern suburbia can be a pathology in itself. In Jane, Wilkes finds his lost girl on the bus. Rachel dumps Leon and finds happiness with the agoraphobic developer of the aptly named "Arcadia Centre," where expense, space, light, greenery, and intimacy are employed unstintingly to create a non-pathogenic space for human collectivity.

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The Sensualist

Hodgson, Barbara

Last Updated: Jan-25-1999
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Helen Martin is an expert on medical art. She travels by train through Europe--Vienna, Prague, and Munich--looking for her journalist husband who has vanished for a longer time than usual. Their marriage is childless and flat. On the train, she awakens to temporary but surreal changes in her body--her breasts are enormous, her thighs huge. She meets her alter ego, Rosa, an obese and aging woman doctor, and original owner of the sizable breasts and thighs.

Rosa’s gift of a strange book-like box, containing images from Vesalius, bones, vials, leads her to many other people, including a blind intellectual, a philosophical train conductor, and a soon-to-be-murdered museum curator. These people add objects to the box, while removing others and awakening her dormant senses and identity in the process.

Helen learns that her husband disappeared while researching a story about woodblocks from the great 1543 anatomical atlas by Andreas Vesalius. The woodblocks are believed to have been destroyed in the allied bombing of Munich in World War II, but Helen suspects some have survived. She picks up the work where he left it. The rediscovery of her husband--temporarily at home in Vancouver and irritated not to find her there--comes as an anti-climax. Helen realizes she does not want him any more and boards another train to we know not where.

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A problem of plumbing

Bellarosa, James

Last Updated: Jan-12-1999
Annotated by:
Squier, Harriet

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The narrator, a cultured, educated man who happens to require a wheelchair, describes the start of his relationship with Marcia, who is beautiful, refined, and equally well educated. The narrator tries to impress Marcia with his personality and intellect, and the sparks between them are obvious. But all the while he grows more frustrated and embarrassed at the lack of accessibility of toilet facilities during their date. He argues that his disability should not diminish his capacity to conduct a normal conversation and that getting access to toilet facilities should not necessitate a public discussion of his need to urinate.

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Flowers for Algernon

Keyes, Daniel

Last Updated: Jan-12-1999
Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Charlie Gordon is a young man with an IQ of 68 who has a job at a box factory and attends night classes in an effort to improve himself. A (very fictional) experimental brain operation becomes available that promises to triple intelligence (it has already done so for a mouse named Algernon), and Charlie excitedly decides that he wants to give it a try. The story consists solely of Charlie's diary entries from the time he hears about the operation through the operation and his dramatic increase, and subsequent decrease, of IQ.

Charlie's increased intelligence opens up to him the understanding of everyday things that had been beyond his grasp, and at his peak he soars to the level of genius, ironically identifying the flaw in the scientific work of the two scientists who developed the operation he has undergone, and thus destroying their careers as their shallow research destroys the life that had been his.

Among the everyday things Charlie understands for the first time is the fact that two of his male co-workers have regularly taken advantage of his retarded state to make fun of him, sometimes roughly. Charlie also becomes self-conscious more generally, which makes it impossible for him to stay in the place where he has been so degraded, even after his formerly misbehaving pals become sympathetic.

At the end of the story he has fallen back to his original level of intelligence--and may continue to decline, if we take the suggestion from the fate of his fellow subject, Algernon, who rises, falls, and then dies. Charlie has only a dim memory of having done something important. His self-esteem is strong, however, and he decides to leave his familiar world and find a place where people won't know about his embarrassment.

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When Heroes Die

Durant, Penny Raife

Last Updated: Jan-12-1999
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Gary, now in seventh grade, has lived with his mother since early childhood when his dad left. His uncle, Rob, has always lived nearby and loved and attended to him like a dad. Gary counts on Rob for basketball coaching, good advice about girls, and understanding about things he can't talk with his mom about. Gary notices one day that Rob looks pale and sick. The sickness doesn't seem to go away. Finally he learns that Rob has AIDS.

For a time he manages to convince himself it was a mistake at the lab and couldn't be true. Ultimately he has to come to terms with it when his uncle is taken to the hospital. With Rob's illness he finds a new kind of maturity in himself, and with Rob's encouragement he initiates a friendship with a girl he's been too shy to approach. After Rob dies, he is surprised at the kind of support he gets from friends, and finds ways to recognize and claim something of Rob in himself.

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Izzy--Willy-Nilly

Voight, Cynthia

Last Updated: Jan-12-1999
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novelette

Summary:

Izzy, a popular, active cheerleader, happily accepts a date with an attractive senior she doesn't know well, flattered to be noticed by him. At the party her date drinks too much, insists on driving her home anyway, and smashes the car into a tree. Marco suffers only surface wounds, but Izzy's leg is crushed and has to be amputated just below the knee.

During her weeks in the hospital Izzy finds that not only is her whole physical orientation to the world required to change--she suddenly sees every path in terms of obstacles--but her relationship to family and friends changes, too. Her three closest friends begin to avoid her, uncertain what to say or how to include her in their plans. In the meantime Rosamunde, a marginal classmate whose slightly unkempt appearance and quirky behavior makes her entertaining, but excludes her from the "in" crowd, moves into Izzy's world with curiosity, frankness, inventive amusements and a steady, if offbeat compassion.

In her impassive and demanding African American physical therapist Izzy discovers another unexpected source of comfort on terms she doesn't at first recognize as kind. As the story ends, Izzy is back at school, finding her way into a new, more challenging relationship to her body and her peers, and a friendship with Rosamunde unlike any she's known before.

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Something for Joey

Peck, Richard

Last Updated: Jan-12-1999
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

This novel is a fictionalized version of a true story. In 1973 John Cappelletti from Penn State won the Heisman trophy, given to the outstanding college football player each year. When he received the award, he publicly "awarded" it to his little brother, Joey, then suffering from leukemia.

The story covers the two years prior to that event, a period when the relationship between the brothers deepened as John moved upward to fame and Joey's illness ran its slow course toward his eventual death in 1976. It provides many scenes from family life that show the range of ways a loving family of five children and a daughter-in-law collaborate in supporting Joey through hospital visits, remissions, a near-fatal coma, and increasing bouts of severe pain.

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Too Soon for Jeff

Reynolds, Marilyn

Last Updated: Jan-12-1999
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Jeff, a college-bound senior, is about to break up with his girlfriend, Christy, when she announces she is pregnant. He had stopped using condoms when she announced she was on the pill. He urges her to get an abortion. She wants to have the baby.

The pregnancy separates them, puts a deep dent in Jeff's plans for college, and hinders his participation on the nationally ranked debate team. He finds himself blamed, blaming, reacting stupidly (he gets drunk one evening and has to be picked up by his mother at the police station), and stuck in denial about his responsibilities until grad night when Christy is taken in for a caesarean section and the baby is born at 33 weeks.

Jeff, whose own father is distant and negligent, finds himself wanting to be a father to the child. As he starts college, he works out a way to share parenting responsibilities and maintain a friendly relationship with Christy even while he begins a new, more mature relationship with a young woman in college.

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Diagnosis

Wharton, Edith

Last Updated: Jan-11-1999
Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The wealthy 49-year-old Paul Dorrance, concerned about his health, summons his doctor and a cancer specialist for an examination. They pronounce him healthy, though in need of a rest from work, and Paul begins to ponder a life of renewed vigor, perhaps in marriage with a younger woman who would bear him children. Then he discovers on the floor a piece of paper containing the diagnosis of cancer.

He believes the doctors have deceived him, and his elation turns to self-pity and gloom. In that mood he decides to propose to Eleanor, his mistress of fifteen years whom he had previously decided not to marry, for companionship in the difficult time ahead. He proposes to her the same day as the consultation, without telling her of the diagnosis (even though she knows he saw the doctors).

She accepts his proposal, and she is not deterred when he reveals the harsh prognosis. Several years later Eleanor dies of a heart attack, and Paul soon discovers that on the fatal day of the consultation she . . . had done a certain thing [which readers will want to discover for themselves] that trumps Paul's egotism and manipulativeness in the relationship.

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