1.7.11

The Inevitable: Contemporary Writers Confront Death

What is death and how does it touch upon life? Twenty writers look for answers
The Inevitable: Contemporary Writers Confront Death
(ed. David Shields & Bradford Murrow)
As a pleasant distraction from a busy work schedule, I've been reading a recent collection of twenty essays (or are they short stories?) about death. Edited by David Shields and Bradford Murrow, The Inevitable: Contemporary Writers Confront Death approaches that tall, dark stranger from a variety of perspectives. David Gates opens the series with a rumination on illness and deterioration. Jonathan Safran Foer's contribution adopts what he calls 'the silence mark', an empty square figuration in the text that 'signifies an absence of language', an absence, Foer reveals, that punctuates 'every page of the story of my family life'. And Joyce Carol Oates revisits the territory of A Widow's Story, the grief that follows the loss of a husband, and the way those who are gone continue to haunt our day-to-day lives. It's an interesting, entertaining and at times quite moving book.

Contents

David Shields and Bradford Murrow, Introduction
David Gates, Death Watch
Kyoko Mori, Between the Forest and the Well: Notes on Death
Robert Clark, Bayham Street
Sallie Tisdale, The Sutra of Maggots and Blowflies
Jonathan Safran Foer, A Primer for the Punctuation of Heart Disease
Diane Ackerman, Silence and Awakening
Melissa Pritchard, A Solemn Pleasure
Christopher Sorrentino, Death in the Age of Digital Proliferation, and Other Considerations
Joyce Carol Oates, The Siege
Robin Hemley, Field Notes for the Graveyard Enthusiast
Peter Straub, Inside Story
Kevin Baker, Invitation to the Dance
Margo Jefferson, Death in Negroland
Greg Bottoms, Grace Street
Lynne Tillman, The Final Plot
Lance Olsen, Lessness
Mark Doty, Bijou
Brenda Hillman, C├ęzanne's Colors
Geoff Dyer, What Will Survive of Us
Annie Dillard, This Is the Life
Acknowledgments

Reviews

Starred Review. A wonderfully speculative patchwork quilt on the meaning of life and death.
Kirkus Reviews
[A] diversity of views, yet a consistently high level of thought. Their eloquent introduction sets up these pieces, several of them previously published. Suffusing the collection as a whole is the humility expressed by Lynne 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.
Alan Moores, Seattle Times

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