A Complex Sorrow: Reflections on Cancer and an Abbreviated Life

Paperback (Print)
Buy New
Buy New from BN.com
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $3.88
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 86%)
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (10) from $3.88   
  • New (4) from $20.35   
  • Used (6) from $3.88   


In 1988, Marianne Paget published The Unity of Mistakes: A Phenomenological Interpretation of Medical Work (Temple) in which she argued that error is an intrinsic feature of medicine - an experimental and uncertain activity. Her subsequent research focused on medical negligence and on miscommunication and silence as a cause and product of error in medicine. While pursuing her research on negligence, she found out that she was an example of it. Chronic back pain that had been misdiagnosed as muscle spasms turned out to be a symptom of a rare and fatal cancer that claimed Paget's life in December 1989. This collection of her personal and professional writings on the phenomenon of error in medicine chronicles a young scholar's courageous struggle to make sense of a tragic coincidence. Discovering that she was living the charged and painful topic that she had studied so deeply, Paget wrote poignantly and analytically until the last week of her life about this uncanny parallel. "It is very tricky to come to terms with the reality of death without becoming trapped in that reality," wrote "Tracy" Paget to her friends. In this book, she describes "the odd way my life began to mirror my work"; her search for "life rites" when faced with tasks involving wills, last rites, and farewells; and her indomitable and forthright attempt to remain intensely alive in the face of death. A Complex Sorrow, her final project, comprises essays, letters, and a journal recording her last year. Ever critical of the distanced and dispassionate stance taken in much social analysis, Paget had experimented with performance as a form for enlivening social science research. The script for her play, "The Work of Talk," about communication problems between a physician and his cancer patient, is also included. Her compelling life-text speaks to those living with illness and those who care for and about them, as well as to social scientists committed to the investigation and representation of lived
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The author's multiple voices—scholar, sociologist, victim—provide an academic, yet personal, professional, yet poignant, story....Readers face...the 'contradictory meanings' that an especially articulate woman brings to the final chapter of her life."
Women and Health

"Paget's book is stunning. It's a tribute to the invulnerable human spirit. The woman burned like a flame; obviously she died well, because she lived well; she was loved because she was loving. The book is tremendously sad, but it isn't depressing; somehow, one is left with a sense of human possibility."
Joan Cassell, author of Expected Miracles: Surgeons at Work

Library Journal
Paget was a social scientist whose scholarly work on medical errors ( The Unity of Mistakes , Temple Univ. Pr., 1988) as well as her experimental drama, ``The Work of Talk,'' on miscommunication between doctor and cancer patient, strangely presaged her own tragic misdiagnosis; what doctors told her were muscle spasms proved to be fatal cancer. Paget's final project was to analyze her predicament in this collection of scholarly essays, her play's script, letters to friends, and personal journal entries. The mix is unsettling; much of the book is coolly analytical, and yet it ends with these words written days before her death: ``too much pain.'' For collections in medical sociology.-- Judith Eannarino, Washington, D.C.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781566391924
  • Publisher: Temple University Press
  • Publication date: 12/15/1993
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 244
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Marianne A. Paget (1940-1989) was a Research Associate in the Department of Sociology at Brandeis University.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)