Showing 971 - 980 of 1224 Fiction annotations

Ingenious Pain

Miller, Andrew

Last Updated: May-31-1999
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

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.

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The White Life

Stein, Michael

Last Updated: May-31-1999
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

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.

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Evening

Minot, Susan

Last Updated: May-31-1999
Annotated by:
Holmes, Martha Stoddard

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In the fictional present of Evening, Ann Lord is diagnosed with terminal cancer and spends most of her time in her own bed in her house in Cambridge, Mass, drifting in and out of a medicated sleep, cared for by her adult children and various private nurses. In her reveries Ann returns to a weekend some forty years earlier, and re-experiences meeting a young doctor named Harris Arden and finding and losing the only true passion of her life. As Evening moves episodically between present and past, only the reader can see both Ann's dying, nearly motionless body and the hidden, vital world of her memories.

Ironically, while Ann's remembered youth forms a suspenseful plot, full of romance and tragedy, her full adult life seems to have been signally lacking in any of the passion, focus, and vitality that characterized her young womanhood. The best times of her life were literally over when that weekend in the past came to an abrupt and tragic close; and now, as her own life ends, it is this past "best time" that she returns to. Ann's children, friends, and caregivers only see her as a relatively young woman, dying a tragically early and painful death; they never grasp the content or intensity of her inner life, or know the name of the man who meant most to her.

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Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Through a series of letters, the lover, Werther, narrates his story of finding love and losing it. The continuity of the piece is interrupted by the third person narrator to explicate certain segments of the tale and to describe the unsuccessful suitor's suicide.

Young Werther, an artist with independent means, meets and falls in love with a woman already betrothed. The letters he writes detail the development of his relationship with Lotte and eventually with her intended, Albert. As the date of Lotte's wedding approaches, Werther leaves the area and attempts to forget her by immersing himself in the work world.

Unsuccessful, he returns to the estate where Lotte and her new husband reside. Becoming increasingly more obsessed with the need to possess Lotte, he alienates his former friends and is banished from their presence. Suicide ideation appears on multiple occasions, and in his final agony of loss, Werther borrows Albert's pistols and kills himself.

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Lying on the Couch

Yalom, Irvin

Last Updated: Apr-07-1999
Annotated by:
Martinez, Richard

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Dr. Ernest Lash, single and around 40, discovers his enthusiasm and love for psychoanalysis, the talking therapy, after several years of practice as a psychopharmacologist. As the novel opens, we meet a smart, somewhat smug and self-absorbed Dr. Lash who practices from his office located in the privileged community surrounding Sacramento Street in San Francisco. He has an active psychoanalytic practice, ambition for respect and notice by the seniors of his professional community, and some aspiration to greater success as a theoretician and writer on the subject of psychoanalysis. Central to his character is a love for his work, where it appears that pride in technique and outcome shadows genuine concern for his patients and their unhappiness.

Early in the novel, a male patient, Justin, who has been working with Ernest for several years, announces that he is leaving his wife, Carol, for another woman. Ernest is pleased since he views the marriage between Justin and Carol as unhealthy, while a bit dismayed that Justin fails to acknowledge Ernest's contribution in helping Justin develop the confidence to take this step. Justin ends his relationship with Ernest Lash--feeling that he no longer needs his help--as the beginning of the novel takes an intriguing direction.

Justin's now abandoned wife, Carol, in a state of betrayal and desire for vengeance--she has a hateful attitude toward all psychiatrists after her psychotherapist of many years ago had an affair with her--decides to enter therapy with Dr. Ernest Lash in the hope of seducing him. She disguises herself with a name change and enough distortion of her past and present so that Dr. Lash will not be able to connect her to Justin. She wishes to expose him as a charlatan, and destroy his career.

Carol is an attorney, and smart. Dr. Ernest Lash is lonely and drawn to Carol. The therapy sessions and the progression of their relationship are central to Yalom's exploration of the intersubjective experience, where strangers struggle with the ambiguity of their own motives and intentions in the intimate world of psychoanalysis. Who is giving, who is receiving? Who is being helped, and who is helping?

Yalom weaves this central element of the plot with many other relationships. Dr. Marshal Streider is a senior psychoanalyst with ambitions for national recognition and a preoccupation with money. He is Dr. Ernest Lash's supervisor. He takes great pride in the fact that he treats many wealthy patients, and is engaged in his own boundary dilemmas when he invests, using insider information from one of his patients.

Dr. Seymour Trotter is a senior psychoanalyst who is condemned and removed from psychoanalytic practice after entering a sexual relationship with one of his patients. We learn that Seymour Trotter was once president of the American Psychiatric Association, and a mentor to Marshal Streider. His maxim, "My technique is to abandon all technique" (p. 7), both haunts and guides Ernest Lash throughout the novel as Ernest grapples with his own passions and temptations, while striving in his goal to achieve humane and healing therapy for his patients.

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Gain

Powers, Richard

Last Updated: Mar-01-1999
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In Gain, Richard Powers interweaves two narratives. One is the story of Laura Bodey, a forty-two-year-old divorced realtor with two adolescent children, who lives in the midwestern U.S. town of Lacewood. Sometime in the late 1990s, Laura is diagnosed with ovarian cancer. The account of her illness, treatment, and eventual death is set against the story of the Clare Soap and Chemical corporation, whose headquarters are in Lacewood, from its inception as a trading company at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

The Clare corporation is implicated in Laura's death: pollutants from its Lacewood plant have been associated, not quite unquestionably, with abnormally high cancer rates in the area. A class-action suit against the company succeeds, but Clare, globally powerful and massively differentiated, is ultimately immune: no matter how much we might sympathize with individual members of the Clare company (and Powers ensures that we do), the corporation has become a kind of monster beyond human control.

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The Three Army Surgeons

Grimm, Brothers

Last Updated: Feb-22-1999
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Fairy Tale

Summary:

A story with several implications for the profession of medicine, this short tale concerns three itinerant surgeons who "thought they knew their art perfectly." Boasting of their surgical/curative skills, they state that they will be able to re-attach their own body parts--hand, heart, and eyes--which they propose to excise. The body parts are entrusted to an innkeeper's servant girl to be saved overnight, but instead they are eaten by a cat.

Unbeknownst to the surgeons, substitutions are made: the hand of a gallows thief, the eyes of a cat, and the heart of a pig. These the surgeons successfully re-attach to themselves. But the organs confer on the transplantees the characteristics of their original owners (thief, cat, pig). Blaming the innkeeper for their problems, they threaten to burn down his inn unless he gives them all the money he can raise. This sum allows them to live comfortably, "but they would rather have had their own rightful organs."

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Paddy Clarke, Ha Ha Ha

Doyle, Roddy

Last Updated: Feb-16-1999
Annotated by:
Donley, Carol

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In Roddy Doyle's novel, Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, young Patrick is so distressed over his parents' fighting with each other that he stays up all night trying to prevent their quarrels. Like many children whose parents break up, Patrick thinks he is somehow responsible, but he does not understand what is going wrong or why. He loves both of them, especially his mother.

He acts out his anxiety over the discord between his parents by often getting into fights and by being mean and abusive to his younger brother. For awhile he thinks that if he were to run away, his parents would stay together. He thinks of questions to ask them so they will talk to him and not fight with each other. But his father leaves for good, and Paddy is left with the teasing chant of his schoolmates: "Paddy Clarke, Paddy Clarke, Lost his Da, Ha, Ha, Ha."

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Annotated by:
Donley, Carol

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

This is the story of a twelve year old who accidentally sets fire to the house where she lives with her grandmother. The grandmother decides that Erendira must pay her back for the loss, and sells her into prostitution in order to make money. The story takes on the characteristics of a bizarre fairy tale, with the evil grandmother forcing her Cinderella-like granddaughter to sell her body. They travel all over for several years, with men lining up for miles to enjoy her.

Meanwhile, Erendira falls in love. Her lover tries to poison the grandmother with arsenic in a birthday cake and to blow her up with a homemade bomb, but she survives all this and continues to dominate, until Erendira's lover finally stabs the grandmother to death. By the time he regains his composure, Erendira has fled alone.

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Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

This is one of three of Poe's tales that deal with mesmerism, an increasingly common practice of the early nineteenth century. This tale evolves around a young gentleman of Virginia, who has developed a rapport, a dependent relationship centered on mesmerism, with a physician who had been converted to the practices of Mesmer.

One day, after taking his usual morning dose of morphine, the gentleman leaves for his daily walk in the Ragged Mountains. He returns with the tale of a bizarre foreign encounter in which he dies from a snake bite to the temple.

As the "dead" man tells his tale, the doctor confirms that it was not a dream despite the fact that the subject seems quite alive. Within a few days the gentleman is dead, presumably because of the accidental application to his temple of a poisonous leech. The twist at the end of the tale, which includes allusion to reincarnation, will not be revealed here.

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