Excerpt from The Inevitable by David Shields, Bradford Morrow, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Inevitable

Contemporary Writers Confront Death

by David Shields, Bradford Morrow

The Inevitable
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Paperback:
    Feb 2011, 336 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Elena Spagnolie

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


Several essays eulogize mothers in particular; in our beginning is our end. The first half of Kyoko Mori’s “Between the Forest and the Well” evokes her mother’s suicide and evolves into a necessary meditation about the author herself, alone and childless, thinking about death. “Sometime in my forties,” she writes, “I came to admit the truth: the main problem with death isn’t dying but being dead. Much as I’m afraid of the process, the result is unimaginably worse. . . . I am afraid of death because I believe in nothing.” And yet Mori’s conclusion is stunning, invigorating: “My decision-making practice is the opposite of memento mori. . . . I try to choose as though I would have to live forever with the consequences, not as though I might die tomorrow. . . . In my reverse memento mori, I’ve learned to cheat death, if only in imagination and metaphor.” In “A Solemn Pleasure,” Melissa Pritchard evokes imagery of landscapes and graveyards far from home while addressing the recent death and cremation of her mother. “She was ash in my home now,” Pritchard writes, “powdered and tamped into a hideous shoe-polish-brown box, weighing little more than a feather.” Kevin Baker’s “Invitation to the Dance” describes the process by which he finds out that his mother has Huntington’s disease and then that he has inherited the gene for the disease: “I thought about how giddy I would have been feeling if the results had been negative. I felt like blurting out the news to anyone I encountered, I just found out I will get a fatal disease. But I didn’t. . . . What I really wanted was to live like I always did, taking little care of myself, wasting time worrying over politics, or how the Yankees were doing, or even the banality of other people’s opinions. . . . I wanted my trivialities.”

Many of these essays, such as Jonathan Safran Foer’s and Christopher Sorrentino’s, are highly pointillistic—death as content apparently pushing form toward a sort of scattering. In “A Primer for the Punctuation of Heart Disease,” Foer proposes a new way of punctuating dialogue to denote unspoken aspects and meanings in conversations within a family that has suffered forty-two heart attacks, while examining the family legacy marked by tragic losses in the concentration camps of World War II. In Sorrentino’s essay, the author makes an argument that digital proliferation—the attempt to leave a record of ourselves not so much in art as in various web presences—avails not as far as death is concerned. “Public mourning says, I am sad,” he writes. “Now show me the film.” Having made this case, he proceeds to offer a moving tribute to his recently deceased father, the writer Gilbert Sorrentino, weaving polemical with personal -thoughts.

Several essays resolve the issue of the difficulty of writing about death by coming at the subject from several angles simultaneously, working toward the subject of death through collage or in triptychs. (Why triptychs? Birth, life, death.) Diane Ackerman mourns the loss of a beloved friend in an intimate, moving passage that floats between two linguistic flights touching upon mortality and eternity. Greg Bottoms’s “Grace Street” is a gracefully understated triptych as well: three apparently unconnected scenes, all death-haunted, from his life fifteen years ago, when he was living in a down-and-out section of Richmond. In “Cézanne’s Colors,” Brenda Hillman writes about the deaths of three loved ones in an essay that gestures more overtly toward the mystical than most of the other essays in the book do: “The diagnosis for everyone is death, yet even in times of thinking about the afterlife, I’ve thought of being part of an endless system of metaphors.” Imagining consciousness as being like a bursting-with-life park near her house, in which the cycle of life and death endlessly flow, she concludes that existing knowingly within that vivid world is -sufficient.

Reprinted from The Inevitable, Contemporary Writers Confront Death edited by David Shields and Bradford Morrow (c) 2011 by David Shields and Bradford Morrow. Used with permission of the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member
and discover your next great read!

Join Today!

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Opposite of Everyone
by Joshilyn Jackson

"Quirky and appealing characters, an engaging story, and honest dialogue make this a great book!"
- BookBrowse

About the book
Join the discussion!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Holding Up the Universe
    Holding Up the Universe
    by Jennifer Niven
    Jennifer Niven's spectacular Holding Up the Universe has everything that I love about Young ...
  • Book Jacket: Coffin Road
    Coffin Road
    by Peter May
    From its richly atmospheric opening to its dramatic conclusion, Peter May's Coffin Road is a ...
  • Book Jacket: The Guineveres
    The Guineveres
    by Sarah Domet
    It's a human need to know one's own identity, to belong to someone, to yearn for a place ...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Victoria
    by Daisy Goodwin

    Daisy Goodwin breathes new life into Victoria's story, and does so with sensitivity, verve, and wit." - Amanda Foreman

    Read Member Reviews

Win this book!
Win All the Gallant Men

All The Gallant Men

The first memoir by a USS Arizona survivor, 75 years after Pearl Harbor.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

K Y Eyes P

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
X

Free Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the world of books:
Reviews, previews, interviews and more!



Spam Free: Your email is never shared with anyone; opt out any time.