Synopses & Reviews
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, Brenda Hillman, and Terry Castle.
"When editors Shields (The Thing About Life Is One Day You'll Be Dead) and Morrow (The Diviner's Tale) approached 20 writers with the idea for this anthology, their requirements were simple: address the subject of death and 'speak about the unspeakable.' What resulted is a collection of extraordinary essays ranging from the life cycles of flies to reflections on a '70s-era porn film, the 'romance of old cemeteries,' and 'ghost bikes' as memorials to traffic victims. In one essay, Diane Ackerman (Dawn Light) describes 'the sudden monstrous subtraction' she felt on learning of a close friend's death. Sallie Tisdale (Women of the Way: Discovering 2,500 Years of Buddhist Wisdom) points out, 'It is our peculiar punishment that we know things change and we want this to be otherwise.' Often poetic and at times funny or gruesome while exposing raw grief, the writers — Mark Doty, Jonathan Safran, Geoff Dyer, Annie Dillard, to name a few — tackle the subject of death with honesty and courage. (Feb.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
"A wonderfully speculative patchwork quilt on the meaning of life and death." Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"Either because of the seriousness of the subject, or because of the acumen of the editors, these essays make for a singularly powerful, substantial, and thoughtful collection. A celebration of good writing, under the auspices of the grim reaper." Phillip Lopate
What is death and how does it touch upon life? Twenty writers look for answers.
About the Author
David Shields's The Thing About Life Is That One Day You'll Be Dead
was a New York Times
bestseller. He lives in Seattle.
The editor of Conjunctions, Bradford Morrow is the author of many books, including The Diviner's Tale. He lives in New York City.
Read exclusive essays by David Shields from 2010