The Inevitable: Contemporary Writers Confront Deathby Bradford Morrow
What is death and how does it touch upon life? Twenty writers look for answers.Birth is not inevitable. Life certainly isn't. The sole inevitability of existence, the only sure consequence of being alive, is death. In these eloquent and surprising essays, twenty writers face this fact, among them Geoff Dyer, who describes the ghost bikes memorializing those/p>
What is death and how does it touch upon life? Twenty writers look for answers.Birth is not inevitable. Life certainly isn't. The sole inevitability of existence, the only sure consequence of being alive, is death. In these eloquent and surprising essays, twenty writers face this fact, among them Geoff Dyer, who describes the ghost bikes memorializing those who die in biking accidents; Jonathan Safran Foer, proposing a new way of punctuating dialogue in the face of a family history of heart attacks and decimation by the Holocaust; Mark Doty, whose reflections on the art-porn movie Bijou lead to a meditation on the intersection of sex and death epitomized by the AIDS epidemic; and Joyce Carol Oates, who writes about the loss of her husband and faces her own mortality. Other contributors include Annie Dillard, Diane Ackerman, Peter Straub, and Brenda Hillman.
that we are all in this together. Alan Moores
Tillman at the end of her essay: "Of death, mortals are absolutely ignorant. The dead, fortunately, are beyond caring." Ultimately, these readings may bring the reader some comfort to realize, perhaps again,
that we are all in this together.”
Twenty writers discuss what the inevitability of death means to them.
Editors Shields (Reality Hunger: A Manifesto, 2010, etc.) and Morrow (Ariel's Crossing, 2002, etc.) elicit a wide-ranging variety of responses to their request to "speak the unspeakable, envision the unseeable." In the intensely personal "The Siege," Joyce Carol Oates vividly describes her grief after her husband's death, while Annie Dillard's "This is the Life" is more philosophical. She writes that whatever our culture tells us about how to live our lives, the fundamentals remain the same: "You have seen an ordinary bit of what is real, the infinite fabric of time that eternity shoots through, and time's soft-skinned people working and dying under slowly shifting stars. Then what?" In "Bayham Street," Robert Clark interweaves his unsuccessful efforts to learn more about the life of a sister he barely knew with his exploration of past historical and cultural events during a trip to Europe. "A Primer for the Punctuation of Heart Disease" is Jonathan Safran Foer's humorous account of how his family uses pregnant pauses to slide over serious issues, including his father's heart condition, uncomfortable questions about girlfriends, painful memories, etc. Though most of this collection's essays are impressive, Sallie Tisdale's piece,"The Sutra of Maggots and Blowflies,"is a standout. In it, the author finds beauty in the way that maggots and blowflies are part of the cycle of birth, death and the re-creation of life by feeding on decomposed matter: "a piece from here and a fleck from there, a taste of this karma, a speck of that memory, this carbon atom, that bit of water, a little protein, a pinch of pain: until a new body and a new life is made from pieces of the past. The wee bit they claim, can you begrudge it? Dissolved, our flesh is their water, and they lap us up."Other contributors include Mark Doty, Geoff Dyer, Peter Straub, Terry Castle and Diane Ackerman.
A wonderfully speculative patchwork quilt on the meaning of life and death.
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Meet the Author
Bradford Morrow's novels include The Diviner’s Tale, Giovanni's Gift, and Trinity Fields, and co-edited with David Shields The Inevitable: Contemporary Writers Confront Death. The recipient of numerous awards, he founded and edits the literary journal Conjunctions and is a professor of literature at Bard College. He lives in New York City.
David Shields, the author of Reality Hunger, is the Milliman Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at the University of Washington.
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