Seeds of Mortality: The Public and Private Worlds of Cancer

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According to the publicity of cancer, we are at last emerging from the time when the disease was surrounded by the unhealthy silence of denial. Stewart Justman is less certain about our so-called progress. A cancer patient himself, in Seeds of Mortality he separates the experience of cancer from the publicity and disputes the liberation rhetoric that has somehow established itself in the cancer world. He questions whether in fact the past was an age of darkness, whether silence is necessarily harmful (or ...

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Overview

According to the publicity of cancer, we are at last emerging from the time when the disease was surrounded by the unhealthy silence of denial. Stewart Justman is less certain about our so-called progress. A cancer patient himself, in Seeds of Mortality he separates the experience of cancer from the publicity and disputes the liberation rhetoric that has somehow established itself in the cancer world. He questions whether in fact the past was an age of darkness, whether silence is necessarily harmful (or conspiratorial), whether the openness of publicity is our best personal defense against cancer. He argues that cancer is a much more enigmatic disease than the publicity would suggest, that to those who stand in its presence the traditions of humility may still have something to say. Mr. Justman explores these questions with telling references to great art and literature, especially Tolstoy's Death of Ivan Ilych and the paintings of Brueghel. And he looks into the sources of our culture's fascination with publicity as an instrument of enlightenment and a cure for what ails us. In all, Seeds of Mortality is not simply another cancer diary; it is a fresh breeze of thinking about a subject that has become mired in cant and ritual.

His witty, ironical and provocative style grips and delights the reader: One does not let go of this book easily.
— From the Program for the Pen Awards Ceremony

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Editorial Reviews

Booklist
An invaluable, counter-mass-cultural book.
CHOICE
...An insightful account of...cancer...combined with interpretations from the great literature of the past.... Useful for its alternative views.
New England Journal Of Medicine
Cleverly interweaves his own experience...with cancer with reflections on works of literature, the visual arts, and philosophy.
— Dr. Richard Meakin
Richmond Times Dispatch
I couldn't resist a medical book that quotes not just Hippocrates but...Austen, Tolstoy,...Melville,…and the Song of Songs.
Booklist
An invaluable, counter-mass-cultural book.
Cancer Forum
The book...is to be read leisurely and savoured...
RICHARD MEAKIN
Cleverly interweaves his own experience...with cancer with reflections on works of literature, the visual arts, and philosophy...
NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE
The Montana Professor
An articulate, clear, and forceful narrative... Justman is that rare combination of scholar and wit, a writer who is academic without being pedantic.
Publishers Weekly
The author, a professor of English at the University of Montana and author of Springs of Liberty, had his prostate cancer treated with radiation seed implants, and his experience as a patient led to this reflection on how cancer is viewed and publicized in our society. Although some of Justman's comments are provocative, the narrative so frequently rambles that his points are obscured. Drawing on his academic background, Justman alludes to works of art, history and literature to make his arguments. He uses, for example, Tolstoy's "Death of Ivan Ilych," to argue that fictional works of great authors that describe the tragedy of an ordinary man are as valid as the first-person narrative accounts of actual heroic cancer sufferers currently in vogue. It is clear that the author does not approve of the so-called transparency movement in cancer circles, whereby support groups of patients discuss their feelings. Justman also questions the validity of such activities as yoga and visualization as cures for cancer, preferring reticence and offering Brueghel's painting Landscape with the Fall of Icarus as a masterpiece of understatement. In the end, this is an iconoclastic but meandering look at the cancer culture. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781566634984
  • Publisher: Dee, Ivan R. Publisher
  • Publication date: 4/1/2003
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 7.48 (w) x 8.62 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Meet the Author

Stewart Justman was born in New York, studied at Columbia University, and now teaches English at the University of Montana. He has also written The Springs of Liberty and The Psychological Mystique.

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