Summary and book reviews of The Inevitable by David Shields

The Inevitable

Contemporary Writers Confront Death

By David Shields, Bradford Morrow

The Inevitable
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  • Paperback: Feb 2011,
    336 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Elena Spagnolie

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Book Summary

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.

CONTENTS

  1. DAVID SHIELDS and BRADFORD MORROW | Introduction
  2. DAVID GATES | Death Watch
  3. KYOKO MORI | Between the Forest and the Well: Notes on Death
  4. ROBERT CLARK | Bayham Street
  5. SALLIE TISDALE | The Sutra of Maggots and Blowflies
  6. JONATHAN SAFRAN FOER | A Primer for the Punctuation of Heart Disease
  7. DIANE ACKERMAN | Silence and Awakening
  8. MELISSA PRITCHARD | A Solemn Pleasure
  9. CHRISTOPHER SORRENTINO | Death in the Age of Digital Proliferation, and Other Considerations
  10. JOYCE CAROL OATES | The Siege
  11. ROBIN HEMLEY | Field Notes for the Graveyard Enthusiast
  12. PETER STRAUB | Inside Story
  13. KEVIN BAKER | Invitation to the Dance
  14. MARGO JEFFERSON | Death in Negroland
  15. GREG BOTTOMS | Grace Street
  16. LYNNE TILLMAN | The Final Plot
  17. LANCE OLSEN | Lessness
  18. MARK DOTY | Bijou
  19. BRENDA HILLMAN | Cézanne's Colors
  20. GEOFF DYER | What Will Survive of Us
  21. ANNIE DILLARD | ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

Editors David Shields and Bradford Morrow have put together a heavy but thoroughly interesting collection of essays in The Inevitable: Contemporary Writers Confront Death. I was genuinely surprised by the uniqueness of the authors' experiences of death; it is encountered in an array of different ways, is interpreted differently, and means different things to people of varying cultures. That element - that intriguing difference - is what I found most compelling about this collection. Death is the one and only thing that all living beings have in common, and yet it is so personal. The level of thinking and, moreover, the level of writing in this collection is excellent...   (Reviewed by Elena Spagnolie).

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Media Reviews
Publishers Weekly

Often poetic and at times funny or gruesome while exposing raw grief, the writers...tackle the subject of death with honesty and courage.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. A wonderfully speculative patchwork quilt on the meaning of life and death.

Library Journal

[P]oignant, heartfelt essays...[S]eriously considered, highly literate analyses...raise the bar for more philosophical readers searching for alternatives to age-old traditions perpetuated in religious dogma.

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Contributing Authors in The Inevitable

Editors David Shields and Bradford Morrow selected an exquisite group of authors for their collection of essays entitled The Inevitable: Contemporary Writers Confront Death, and the unique assortment certainly accounts for the diversity of the essays themselves. Below is a list of the contributing authors with links to bios, interviews and photos:

David Shields
Bradford Morrow
David Gates
Kyoki Mori
Robert Clark
Sallie Tisdale
Jonathan Safran Foer
Diane Ackerman
Melissa Pritchard
Christopher Sorrentino
Joyce Carol Oates
Robin Hemley
Peter Straub
Kevin Baker
Margo Jefferson
Greg Bottoms
Lynne Tillman
Lance Olsen
Mark Doty
Brenda Hillman
Geoff Dyer
Annie Dillard

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