Hot Best Seller

The Art of Death: Writing the Final Story

Availability: Ready to download

At once a personal account of Edwidge Danticat's mother and a deeply considered reckoning of how to write about death, The Art of Death moves outward from her mother's cancer diagnosis and sifts through Danticat's writing life. Danticat circles the many forms death takes, shifting fluidly from examples that range from Toni Morrison's Sula to Gabriel García Márquez's One Hu At once a personal account of Edwidge Danticat's mother and a deeply considered reckoning of how to write about death, The Art of Death moves outward from her mother's cancer diagnosis and sifts through Danticat's writing life. Danticat circles the many forms death takes, shifting fluidly from examples that range from Toni Morrison's Sula to Gabriel García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude, to deliver a moving tribute and work of astute criticism that will profoundly alter all who encounter it.


Compare

At once a personal account of Edwidge Danticat's mother and a deeply considered reckoning of how to write about death, The Art of Death moves outward from her mother's cancer diagnosis and sifts through Danticat's writing life. Danticat circles the many forms death takes, shifting fluidly from examples that range from Toni Morrison's Sula to Gabriel García Márquez's One Hu At once a personal account of Edwidge Danticat's mother and a deeply considered reckoning of how to write about death, The Art of Death moves outward from her mother's cancer diagnosis and sifts through Danticat's writing life. Danticat circles the many forms death takes, shifting fluidly from examples that range from Toni Morrison's Sula to Gabriel García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude, to deliver a moving tribute and work of astute criticism that will profoundly alter all who encounter it.

30 review for The Art of Death: Writing the Final Story

  1. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    Appreciated Edwidge Danticat’s honest words about grieving her mother as I go through my own grief process. In this book she intertwines some writing about losing her mother with analysis of how other writers describe death in their works. Though I found the analysis portion a bit distracting from Danticat’s writing about her mother’s passing, I liked the intelligence of her commentary as well as how she emphasized the importance of including specific detail to help readers feel more connected t Appreciated Edwidge Danticat’s honest words about grieving her mother as I go through my own grief process. In this book she intertwines some writing about losing her mother with analysis of how other writers describe death in their works. Though I found the analysis portion a bit distracting from Danticat’s writing about her mother’s passing, I liked the intelligence of her commentary as well as how she emphasized the importance of including specific detail to help readers feel more connected to those who have died. Her writing about her mother, while on the briefer side, shows the love they had for one another. I hope writing this book felt cathartic or at least meaningful to Danticat in her grieving process.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ken

    One of those "tiny" books, dimension-wise, The Art of Death is a quick read. What art is there in dying, you ask? Well, Danticat is more about the literary treatment of death in all its manifestations (alone, together, by accident, by your own hand, by murderers, etc.). Thus, the book offers many allusions to writers past and present, along with edifying quotes to show what the author means. You may think reading such a book is morbid (and certainly, people who see the cover while you're reading One of those "tiny" books, dimension-wise, The Art of Death is a quick read. What art is there in dying, you ask? Well, Danticat is more about the literary treatment of death in all its manifestations (alone, together, by accident, by your own hand, by murderers, etc.). Thus, the book offers many allusions to writers past and present, along with edifying quotes to show what the author means. You may think reading such a book is morbid (and certainly, people who see the cover while you're reading it will get that just-swallowed-a-lemon look and ask, "Why so morose?" or, if they're clever, "Light beach reading, I see"), but really, what could be more humdrum and everyday than reading about death as usual? After all, death goes on, as the saying goes, and only fools hide from it. One quote I liked came late in the book from the Canadian author Margaret Atwood: "All writing of the narrative kind, and perhaps all writing, is motivated, deep down, by a fear of and a fascination with mortality--by a desire to make the risky trip to the Underworld, and to bring something or someone back from the dead." Adds Danticat: "In other words, even when we are not writing about death, we are still writing about death. After all, death is always the eventual outcome, the final conclusion of every story." Meaning: even if your novel, play, short story, essay, or poem seems focused on the joy of life, that joy is writing more deeply into a plot that has the same conclusion. Yes, the conclusion looks different for each of us, but once past the actual doing, amounts to the same. As a writer, it's of some consolation to me, whose poetry has been called "dark" by some. I wasn't even aware of it when writing, and humor IS in my work, too, but it seems some readers are surprised by the reminder. Buddhists, I think, would take it in stride, because acknowledging and accepting is the way. As for this book, it is framed in the story of Danticat's own mother's death. She moves from literature to her mother, literature to her mother, occasionally pausing for other big death events like the earthquakes in Japan and Haiti (as well as 9/11). All in all, not depressing at all. We are comrades in arms, after all, enjoying our brief, shining moments and our shared destinies. As we should.

  3. 5 out of 5

    David Dacosta

    It’s a monumental thing to lose your mother. Having that shared experience with Edwidge Danticat, this became an instant must read. Sure, the idea of a book, however brief, dedicated solely to the idea of death is not for everyone. But Danticat manages to keep the content elevated above the threat of dreariness through philosophical pondering, artistic analysis and personal accounts of her mother’s life and eventual passing. . For much of The Art of Death, Danticat dons a professorial like cap, It’s a monumental thing to lose your mother. Having that shared experience with Edwidge Danticat, this became an instant must read. Sure, the idea of a book, however brief, dedicated solely to the idea of death is not for everyone. But Danticat manages to keep the content elevated above the threat of dreariness through philosophical pondering, artistic analysis and personal accounts of her mother’s life and eventual passing. . For much of The Art of Death, Danticat dons a professorial like cap, as she deconstructs passages from famed and obscure novels where different types of death are addressed. The subject of death is uncomfortable for most of us. Here, we’re able to study this weighty occurrence mostly through the lens of various authors, from a personal and creative perspective. As a writer, it’s said that the more you read, the more your craft will improve. At the bare minimum, this book exemplifies just how voracious of a reader Danticat is. This appetite has definitely paid dividends. Since her debut novel, Breath, Eyes, Memory, she’s gone from a rising talent to a masterful creator of impactful literature, particularly in the past decade. The Art of Death is a unique blend of the cerebral and visceral realms. On the one hand. it will force you to examine death more closely, while simultaneously stimulating the higher reaches of the mind. That being said. the heart of the book is Danticat’s candor regarding her mother’s final days. It will prompt more than a few tears.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Shirleen R

    4.25/5 on aesthetic narrative structural merits 5/5 - on heart. what threads these disparate chapters together, written often for varying news and magazine outlets, is that Danticat processes her mother's death of ovarian cancer. The continuity is not linear, but it's there. Danticat shares her grief and her fears, her dreams and even her mother's dreams, from diagnosis and initial chemotherapy and holistic medicine treatments until her mother's decline in hospice. She shares even the hours of he 4.25/5 on aesthetic narrative structural merits 5/5 - on heart. what threads these disparate chapters together, written often for varying news and magazine outlets, is that Danticat processes her mother's death of ovarian cancer. The continuity is not linear, but it's there. Danticat shares her grief and her fears, her dreams and even her mother's dreams, from diagnosis and initial chemotherapy and holistic medicine treatments until her mother's decline in hospice. She shares even the hours of her mother's last breath, her body transfer to a morgue, the year that follows. This endeared me most to The Art of Death . Thank you, Ms. Danticat. I'm grateful for your witness and testimony

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    “It is, I learned over the course of my mother’s gradual decline, impossible to watch someone you love die and not feel the encroaching brush of death upon yourself. It’s as if death had entered the room, paused, then moved past you before laying its hands on your loved one.” Edwidge Danticat was apart from her mother for eight years of her childhood. I cannot imagine that. I cannot separate my mother from my childhood. If there is a line between the two, I don’t understand that line. For many of “It is, I learned over the course of my mother’s gradual decline, impossible to watch someone you love die and not feel the encroaching brush of death upon yourself. It’s as if death had entered the room, paused, then moved past you before laying its hands on your loved one.” Edwidge Danticat was apart from her mother for eight years of her childhood. I cannot imagine that. I cannot separate my mother from my childhood. If there is a line between the two, I don’t understand that line. For many of us, the death of our mother is one of life’s most profound experiences. And it’s an experience that never really ends. So I appreciated this examination of death, and death in literature, as seen from the eyes of someone coming to terms with that momentous event. This book has a trajectory--it goes from the outside in. At first I was a little disappointed. Lots of references to other people’s writing about death. Much good stuff there: Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, Albert Camus, Tolstoy--but I wanted to know her story. She mentions the circularity of her telling, and she spirals in slowly, closer and more personal. I found the last part so poignant and meaningful. An informative and touching exploration.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Melora

    A surprisingly effective combination, this is both a memoir of the author's mother's death from cancer and an examination of the way different authors whose work she likes have depicted death. Considering the portrayal of death as art allows Danticat to explore this essential subject – its dread, allure, power, and the potent force its inevitability exerts on every other aspect of human life – from a variety of angles and with useful artistic distance. This intellectually valuable coolness is ba A surprisingly effective combination, this is both a memoir of the author's mother's death from cancer and an examination of the way different authors whose work she likes have depicted death. Considering the portrayal of death as art allows Danticat to explore this essential subject – its dread, allure, power, and the potent force its inevitability exerts on every other aspect of human life – from a variety of angles and with useful artistic distance. This intellectually valuable coolness is balanced and the book gains warmth and depth by the love and vulnerability illustrated in the sections about Danticat's time caring for her mother during her illness and dying. Thought provoking, powerful, and lovely. 4 1/2 stars, rounded up.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ellie

    Very moving book on--as said in the title--death. Only some of it pertains to actually how to write about it, although in some sense, of course, the writing of the book itself describes that. The book did make me cry. Repeatedly. And painfully aware of my own mortality. That's says a lot for the power of Danticat's writing. And there are some solid suggestions for how write "the Final Story". Not a "how-to" book but a strong one. Very moving book on--as said in the title--death. Only some of it pertains to actually how to write about it, although in some sense, of course, the writing of the book itself describes that. The book did make me cry. Repeatedly. And painfully aware of my own mortality. That's says a lot for the power of Danticat's writing. And there are some solid suggestions for how write "the Final Story". Not a "how-to" book but a strong one.

  8. 5 out of 5

    S.W. Gordon

    This is my 8th Dandicot book and won't be my last. She is an amazing thinker and I enjoyed this all-to-brief glimpse into her mind. I'm still giggling about the "momoir" genre she mentioned. The bibliography of referenced works illustrates her vast and varied influences, and this book demonstrates her ability to synthesize and draw meaning from these disparate sources. Finding different puzzle pieces through intertexuality and assembling them into a meaningful picture seems to be common denomina This is my 8th Dandicot book and won't be my last. She is an amazing thinker and I enjoyed this all-to-brief glimpse into her mind. I'm still giggling about the "momoir" genre she mentioned. The bibliography of referenced works illustrates her vast and varied influences, and this book demonstrates her ability to synthesize and draw meaning from these disparate sources. Finding different puzzle pieces through intertexuality and assembling them into a meaningful picture seems to be common denominator in many of our most brilliant writers. I wish I had a mere fraction of her talent.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Wendy G

    I felt like a grad school professor reading my student's thesis or dissertation on the art of death. There are five pages of works cited. I give it an A+. As far as pleasure reading goes, though, I'd give it a 'C'. I felt like a grad school professor reading my student's thesis or dissertation on the art of death. There are five pages of works cited. I give it an A+. As far as pleasure reading goes, though, I'd give it a 'C'.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kristine

    I checked this book out of the library, having been disappointed by Danticat's short story collection Everything inside and thinking I had to give this very important, clearly talented writer another chance, in another genre - but not quite willing to spend money again. After about 25 pages, I returned the library book and bought my own copy so I could highlight, write in margins, take notes inside the front cover, and in all ways have a conversation with this very engaging thinker. She is well- I checked this book out of the library, having been disappointed by Danticat's short story collection Everything inside and thinking I had to give this very important, clearly talented writer another chance, in another genre - but not quite willing to spend money again. After about 25 pages, I returned the library book and bought my own copy so I could highlight, write in margins, take notes inside the front cover, and in all ways have a conversation with this very engaging thinker. She is well-read, thoroughly observant, and well-traveled through life, thus has much to teach about what is probably life's central mystery. Danticat examines death from every angle, partly for the sake of writers who need to lead their characters and their plots through the scenes, the feelings, the five senses' involvement, in every kind of death. Even more, she digs deeply into grief and loss for every one of us who has experienced the death of a loved one. I found myself poring over sentences and paragraphs like I was studying for an exam, and I realized that in fact I am. I'm in my early 60's and have suffered some hard grief, as my parents' generation ages and dies and people my age begin to fall victim to disease or accidents. Death edges closer and closer, and Danticat's book made it clear to me that I do not fear my own. I fear losing the people I love, and I know the older I get the more inevitable it becomes that I will lose the people closer to me. She quotes C.S. Lewis saying that no one told him that grief was like fear. Somehow, it's reassuring to know that people as wise and sensitive as Danticat have been down this road ahead of me, that they're there to lead the way when, as unavoidably I must, I get to that point of losing the people who are most important to me. I didn't know this was an exam I needed to study for, but she is a wonderful guide to the subject and she led me to others: I stopped and read Toni Morrison's Sula after an unforgettable scene in this book, and then Song of Solomon (and knew I needed to read every word Toni Morrison ever wrote.) Danticat shows us the way through the forests we all must pass through, gently but firmly. Count me a grateful fan.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Nina

    This book is part of “The Art of” series for writers. Danticat explores how death has been written about in fiction and non-fiction, using many examples from classic and contemporary literature. She shares her experience of her mother’s death to explore culture, ritual, and expectations surrounding death. I find it fascinating that death scenes from literature are referred to as well as accounts from memoirs of facing one’s own or a loved one’s death. This is certainly not a clinical, dry accoun This book is part of “The Art of” series for writers. Danticat explores how death has been written about in fiction and non-fiction, using many examples from classic and contemporary literature. She shares her experience of her mother’s death to explore culture, ritual, and expectations surrounding death. I find it fascinating that death scenes from literature are referred to as well as accounts from memoirs of facing one’s own or a loved one’s death. This is certainly not a clinical, dry account of how to write about death. It’s not, directly, a craft book. It’s as much a critical and philosophical exploration as it is personal. Danticat ably manages the balance between writing details from her mother’s illness and death, yet weaving them into larger themes of how writers explore “the final story.” Danticat’s writing here is as thoughtful and evocative as it is in her novels. In her introduction, she states: “Writing has been the primary way I have tried to make sense of my losses, including deaths.” This statement resonated. As a writer whose work is populated with themes of death and subsequent grief, as a bereaved daughter, and as an avid reader, I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

  12. 4 out of 5

    T.M.

    I read this book in one day, in one sitting (punctuated by the living tasks of eating and such), feeling less like I was reading a memoir (or a piece of literary criticism) and more like I was sitting across the table from Danticat, listening to her discuss her death with the sort of casual-but-seriousness that one adopts during a particularly lively discussion following dinner (and I wound up adding quite a lot of books that depict death to my Amazon shopping cart). I'm the kind of person for w I read this book in one day, in one sitting (punctuated by the living tasks of eating and such), feeling less like I was reading a memoir (or a piece of literary criticism) and more like I was sitting across the table from Danticat, listening to her discuss her death with the sort of casual-but-seriousness that one adopts during a particularly lively discussion following dinner (and I wound up adding quite a lot of books that depict death to my Amazon shopping cart). I'm the kind of person for whom the books I read constantly reflect and refract the content of my life, so I found Danticat's fluid blend of narrative and literary analysis eminently readable and engaging, although I could certainly see how the casual consumer of prose might find it less than satisfying. The subtitle to The Art of Death is "Writing the Final Story" and I can image that bit was added by the editor so that it could better fit the Charles Baxter series on craft that it joins, because if Danticat's narrative and analysis make anything about writing about death clear, it is that death is hardly ever the final story, the final plot point, the finale. Instead, as Danticat and the other works of fiction she investigates maintain, death is hardly ever the end. Narratives move outwards, backwards from death; in toward it; we circle it; it happens offhand, offstage or language explores it laboriously. In this way, our attempts to grapple with death (as a concept and as a reality) mirror the ways that narrative treats it as well. Having never died, we cannot fully represent death on the page, so it becomes that great absent signified toward which our language only ever gestures, however incompletely. Readers and the living have this in common as well, our shared goal of trying constantly to make meaning out of that strange absence.

  13. 4 out of 5

    N.K. Layne

    I read The Art of Death: Writing the Final Story while I was working on my own essay about maternal death. This was somewhat serendipitously as I wasn’t in the SoHo bookstore searching for inspiration. I was only killing time. Using the air conditioned space, lingering as I was waiting for my dinner plans to text me. Only an hour earlier, I had finished a therapy appointment, leaving me scattered and narcissistic. So obsessed with my own deficiencies, I lacked energy to connect to the tomes surr I read The Art of Death: Writing the Final Story while I was working on my own essay about maternal death. This was somewhat serendipitously as I wasn’t in the SoHo bookstore searching for inspiration. I was only killing time. Using the air conditioned space, lingering as I was waiting for my dinner plans to text me. Only an hour earlier, I had finished a therapy appointment, leaving me scattered and narcissistic. So obsessed with my own deficiencies, I lacked energy to connect to the tomes surrounding me. A bookshop, ordinarily a technicolor experience, was dull and distant. Thirty minutes later, that twinge of excitement reminding me that I’m still bibliophilic and alive. Attracted to the morose to embarrassing levels, I lit up when I saw the title: The Art of Death: Writing the Final Story. The book’s appeal is directly linked to my longing for more honest, long-form dialogue about death. Needless to say, I left the bookshop with a new companion that day. Like me, Danticat recently lost her mother to a fast-moving cancer, a trauma she memoirs throughout the short, but punchy, volume. She explains that writing and reading about death have given her the personal insights that has helped her take a swing at grasping mortality. She’s been writing about death for as long as she’s been writing, taking great inspiration from other writers attempts at the subject. The Art of Death isn’t a declaration of the right way to write about death. The thesis is more that, for writers and readers, the subject can be so much more than a plot point. Danticat encourages writers to engage with the bigger conversation when death is in their narrative(s), fictional or autobiographical. The Art of Death is broken into 8 subjects, each with their own chapter: Living Dyingly Ars Moriendi Dying Together Wanting to Die Condemned to Die Close Calls Circles and Circles of Sorrow Feetfirst Her explanations on how to write death are far from technical. She uses emotional understanding as her ruler as she passionately deconstructs prose and plot that tackles the subject. As a writer, her examples really helped clarify how to be succinct and careful when describing the morbidities of my internal world. As a reader, these examples were extremely valuable as they provided understanding and connection on the isolating subject, even if my TBR shelf is creaking with the additional weight of her recommendations. Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone interested in contemplating death or anyone who has a connection to death and is looking for solace. It’s a writing advice book, and the writing advice is very valuable, but it is also Danticat’s personal memoir or an ode to her belated mother. Five decomposing hearts.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Alina Borger

    Danticat is brilliant and takes us on a tour of literary death that is nonpareil, examining death, suicide, and near-death with a lens both personal and extremely literary (heavy on Morrison and Hurston, and justufiably so). She tells us what great art does to bring death near and to keep it at bay, and her insight is some of the best craft advice I could have gotten writing a book whose protagonist lost her mom and is losing her dad. But it is the final chapters of this book in which she begins Danticat is brilliant and takes us on a tour of literary death that is nonpareil, examining death, suicide, and near-death with a lens both personal and extremely literary (heavy on Morrison and Hurston, and justufiably so). She tells us what great art does to bring death near and to keep it at bay, and her insight is some of the best craft advice I could have gotten writing a book whose protagonist lost her mom and is losing her dad. But it is the final chapters of this book in which she begins to _show_ us the art of death by writing the deaths of her parents in prayer, story, poem, and ritual. I wept openly as the book moved from theory and analysis into mastery of the form—not because it was artful, though it was, but because it did what all great writing about death does. It brought me closer to my deaths: both the losses I’ve survived and my own future expiration date.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    One of my favorite books I’ve read this year, part memoir, part literary criticism, all heart and mind and soul. Danticat examines the ways we think and write and feel about death in light of her mother’s death.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Rita Ciresi

    Wise advice from the immensely talented Edwidge Danticat on how she and other fiction/nonfiction writers have approached writing about the final journey. I'm looking forward to discussing this in my Illness Narratives class this fall. Wise advice from the immensely talented Edwidge Danticat on how she and other fiction/nonfiction writers have approached writing about the final journey. I'm looking forward to discussing this in my Illness Narratives class this fall.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Danita Berg

    4/5: While not my favorite Danticat book (perhaps because she was restricted by the nature of Greywolf's "The Art of" Series), The Art of Death made some excellent correlations about death, and about several authors' writing about the same. The last chapter, "Circles and Circles of Sorrow," is easily my favorite and not an easy read, where Danticat relates the story of her mother's death. I ended up dog-earing nine pages for later reference. It would be a good book for someone who is writing abo 4/5: While not my favorite Danticat book (perhaps because she was restricted by the nature of Greywolf's "The Art of" Series), The Art of Death made some excellent correlations about death, and about several authors' writing about the same. The last chapter, "Circles and Circles of Sorrow," is easily my favorite and not an easy read, where Danticat relates the story of her mother's death. I ended up dog-earing nine pages for later reference. It would be a good book for someone who is writing about death, and who needs to see how others have already written about the subject well.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Cat

    i want to read all of her other books and all the books she mentions that i haven't read i want to read all of her other books and all the books she mentions that i haven't read

  19. 5 out of 5

    Louise

    Part memoir, part analysis of death in literature. I preferred the memoir parts.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Patricia Burgess

    Danticat explores death, how people die, their experiences between life and death, the “dying livingly,” leading up to her experience as her mother dies. Beautifully written with references to Michael Ondaatje, Toni Morrison, the Bible, and other books and writings that reference death. How does one die? In pain, surrounded by family, alone, scared, relieved?)

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    If you are interested in death, or writing, or writing about death, this book is for you. I bought it not knowing that it was geared towards writing but it was very interesting and helpful during the grieving process. Made me want to read the author's fiction books and tons of the books she references throughout this book. If you are interested in death, or writing, or writing about death, this book is for you. I bought it not knowing that it was geared towards writing but it was very interesting and helpful during the grieving process. Made me want to read the author's fiction books and tons of the books she references throughout this book.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Marc Nash

    I'm not sure how to review this. I disagree with so much of it, particularly its focus on the death of others (bereavement, grief) about which much literature already exists (some of which this provides a lit crit of); nowhere, even on the chapter devoted to suicide, is there anything about one's own death. As in writing one's own death as an author. But then one can't really criticise a book for what it is not. I give it 4 stars because it has stimulated a lot of thought for me, possibly even a I'm not sure how to review this. I disagree with so much of it, particularly its focus on the death of others (bereavement, grief) about which much literature already exists (some of which this provides a lit crit of); nowhere, even on the chapter devoted to suicide, is there anything about one's own death. As in writing one's own death as an author. But then one can't really criticise a book for what it is not. I give it 4 stars because it has stimulated a lot of thought for me, possibly even a future novel (having spent the last 18 months trying to write my own death in fiction). But where I take issue with it is in its quotes of the writings and sayings of others such as Toni Morrison, Albert Camus, Don Delillo, William Faulkner, Susan Sontag, Tolstoy, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, Murakami's non-fiction, (I was surprised by how many of her sources I have also read) - it's because I found myself disagreeing with so many of these that I do feel I can contest with her book even though it is making a different study than the one I want it to make. Toni Morrison - We die - That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the meaning of our lives". Don Delillo - "There's a moral force in a sentence when it comes out right. It speaks the writer's will to live" (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4...) Well bully for writers like Morrison & DeLillo - this implies people who don't have the language they as writers possess are the only ones who can access the meaning of life. And as for Morrison, if death is the meaning of life, we are all dunces, because most people keep death very remote from their daily lives, which is why they are always surprised when they are exposed to it. Joan Didion (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7... ) - "Death always wants to hog the stage. It cannot help itself. After all, Death cannot write its own story. While we are still alive, we are the ones who get to write the story". Chitra Divakaruni (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6... ) - "Everyone has a story... stories in order to live" No, the point is when we die, the story ends (even if a couple of generations of our loved ones keep those stories in circulation, eventually there's no one left to do that). And again, lucky authors whose stories may well live long in the pool of human knowledge in the form of their books. But where is the meditation on the fact that when we die we lose our tongues, our language, our stories - stories past of memory and unwritten and unenacted stories of a future that no longer exists? This is what I believe Danticat omits to study and while admittedly few writers have attempted to write their own deaths, I would offer William Gaddis, David Markson (and Markson himself offered Virginia Woolf & Henry James). This is the great dearth in literature. It is not just about the ones left behind. It is not just about those departed wholly refracted through the eyes of those left behind. It is about the death of the "I". And this book never gets to grips with that at all.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Tara Hun-Dorris

    I had the recent privilege of listening to the author speak at UNC. In this book, she magically weaves her processing of her mother’s death with death in literature and other writing. It is lyrical, reflective & Dad & ultimately provides a good perspective on the gift of life, even with all its anguish & loss.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Cathy

    As someone who reads and writes about death and illness, I found this book interesting and moving.The book is one in a craft series, and Danticat shows how different writers write about different types of death. She provides many passages explaining how they, and the reader process and understand death. These examples are relevant and even moving. Danticat's personal stories about the deaths of her loved ones and especially her mother who is a dying of ovarian cancer, are particularly poignant a As someone who reads and writes about death and illness, I found this book interesting and moving.The book is one in a craft series, and Danticat shows how different writers write about different types of death. She provides many passages explaining how they, and the reader process and understand death. These examples are relevant and even moving. Danticat's personal stories about the deaths of her loved ones and especially her mother who is a dying of ovarian cancer, are particularly poignant and emotional. I read the book in one sitting and found myself tearing up at a number of passages.

  25. 4 out of 5

    B. Blythe

    I confess at the outset that I was careless in purchasing Edwidge Danticat’s The Art of Death. I’m a writer, but I’m also an unapologetic dork: it was the Saturday of AWP in Tampa and I was looking for a book to justify my time trundling between lit mag desks and arthouse book displays. It didn’t have to be a craft book, but the cover jumped out at me. The Art of DEATH, in all caps, with a sub-header about “Writing the Final Story.” Book cover cliches be damned; how could I ever not buy that? Ho I confess at the outset that I was careless in purchasing Edwidge Danticat’s The Art of Death. I’m a writer, but I’m also an unapologetic dork: it was the Saturday of AWP in Tampa and I was looking for a book to justify my time trundling between lit mag desks and arthouse book displays. It didn’t have to be a craft book, but the cover jumped out at me. The Art of DEATH, in all caps, with a sub-header about “Writing the Final Story.” Book cover cliches be damned; how could I ever not buy that? How could I not crack it open right there on the floor and start reading? My carelessness paradoxically led me to a reward. Danticat’s hybrid essay collection lands outside my usual wheelhouse, both as a reader and writer. It is not a book that will tell you exactly what you need to land an agent, crawl out of the slush pile, or otherwise assemble that gem of a story that will get you noticed. Rather, it’s a craft book that serves as a kind of eulogy: one part memoir, one part profile piece, one part advice on craft, one part reflective grief that seeps off the page. It is, exactly as its title says, a book about the art of death itself. Much of the Art of Death is concerned with the passing of Danticat’s mother. It takes twenty-five pages before craft advice appears in the text, and the reader is there with her for every single word. The moment the book first shifts from meditative grief to craft is at once jarring and heartbreaking for me as a reader: a bit of white space between an excerpt of Toni Morrison’s Beloved and sterile commentary on the limited third person point of view. There are no words when it happens, but that’s where Danticat the writer becomes Danticat the instructor. Grief is abruptly, powerfully, and only partially compartmentalized through intellect. While that first shift is jarring and doesn’t last long, her lessons are no less enthralling than her story. As the book progresses, the shifts between grief and craft begin to flow more naturally, even beautifully at times, as if that first jolt was a hitched breath and the rest are planned, expected. Speaking from my own experiences, it resembles the process of mourning and intellectualizing the loss of a loved one. By book’s end, Danticat has moved closer to the realm of a traditional memoir. The craft advice fades away somewhere in the last thirty or so pages, give or take a few very brief asides, and Danticat allows herself to truly mourn on the page. It’s a kind of bookending, and a subtler display of the craft Danticat is passing along to the reader. I think of it as a demonstration of how her mother says most of us enter the world headfirst and leave feetfirst. I’m not usually one for memoirs, as I said, but her work here moved me. There’s a little pit that forms in the abdomen when a creative work engages us at just the right emotional wavelength. Danticat manages to strike the perfect balance: she creates that pit and then fills it in with advice for writing and mourning and moving on. I recommend picking this one up. It might not be the book you’re looking for, it might not be a book you fully agree with. But you will get something out of it.

  26. 4 out of 5

    M.C. Easton

    This is a beautiful memoir of grief after a mother’s death. And because writing is at the core of Danticat’s experience of her grief, it’s also a concise compendium of the literature that has helped her approach and make sense of death and grief. The passages where Danticat examines Toni Morrison’s or Gabriel García Márquez’s portrayals of death are rich, packed with the stylistic insights of a woman who is not only a master writer but also a master reader. She quotes García Márquez as he explai This is a beautiful memoir of grief after a mother’s death. And because writing is at the core of Danticat’s experience of her grief, it’s also a concise compendium of the literature that has helped her approach and make sense of death and grief. The passages where Danticat examines Toni Morrison’s or Gabriel García Márquez’s portrayals of death are rich, packed with the stylistic insights of a woman who is not only a master writer but also a master reader. She quotes García Márquez as he explains that he knew how to write Remedios the Beauty’s death only once he had the detail of the sheets flapping on the clothesline. Danticat also breaks down the scene where Morrison writes an infanticide in BELOVED, examining where Morrison’s word choice allows children and mothers to be children and mothers, and where it does not, as well as how her use of the slave catchers’ point of view renders the scene’s horror more effectively, focusing our gaze on the moment of violence rather than Sethe’s internal experience. These are the passages I picked up the book for, and Danticat doesn’t disappoint. However, it is a departure from “The Art of” series in several significant ways. The first and most noticeable is the prevalence of memoir. It is as much, often more, about Danticat’s grief and the literature she finds solace in, as it is about literature itself. At root, it is a book about a writer trying to make sense of grief after a loved one’s death, not a volume exploring the technical how’s and why’s of death‘s depictions in literature. And while the book is divided into chapters addressing different types of death in literature (suicide, executions, natural disasters), there are no chapters centered on two of the most common death scenes in literature: murder and illness. This may be due to the fact that Danticat collected essays published elsewhere and repurposed them for this volume. Whatever the reason, it is a regrettable omission, in a book whose title promises a broader investigation of how novelists “write the final story.” Finally, much of the book—perhaps all, from a certain vantage point—is about grief, not death. It is a wonderful meditation on grief, its circularity, and the way it permeates our world. For those experiencing grief, it can offer solace. But for those looking to read about literary craft, it teases, more than satisfies. Ultimately, it is a book of two minds, torn between death and grief, literary craft and memoir, and by the final chapters, it comes down firmly on the side of memoir and grief. If I’d picked it up knowing this, or if the title had been more accurate, my reading experience would have been quite different, less frustrating and more pleasurable. A magnificent meditation on our mortality that simply needed better packaging or a clearer focus.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    This was one of the "texts" from the Morbity and Mortality class that I am taking at the library. Excerpts from the book were read in class and I wanted to read the entire book. It is a slim volume and it didn't take long to read. It is primarily the author's reaction to her mother's death, but she references a number of other writings, some fiction, some non-fiction, some I have read, others that I have not, some I want to read, others that don't really interest me. Danticat has a succint writi This was one of the "texts" from the Morbity and Mortality class that I am taking at the library. Excerpts from the book were read in class and I wanted to read the entire book. It is a slim volume and it didn't take long to read. It is primarily the author's reaction to her mother's death, but she references a number of other writings, some fiction, some non-fiction, some I have read, others that I have not, some I want to read, others that don't really interest me. Danticat has a succint writing style and makes a number of thoughtful points. She is not an author with whom I was familiar and I will also look for some of her fiction. I also watched an interview with Danticat on youtube. "It is, I learned over the course of my mother's gradual decline, impossible to watch someone you love die and not feel the encroaching brush of death upon yourself. It's as if death had entered the room, paused, then moved past you before laying its hands on your loved one." (27) "When I was young I believed death to be a phenomenon of the body; now I know it to be merely a function of the mind -and that of the minds of the ones who suffer the bereavement. The nihilists say its the end; the fundamentalists, the beginning; when in reality it is no more than a single tenant or family moving out of a tenement or a town." (37) [from William Faulkner's "As I Lay Dying"] "...before the dead took their last breath, pillows were to be removed from under their heads in order to make their transitions easier. Clocks and mirror were to be covered to allow time to stand still and to stop departing spirits from seeing their reflections and staying put." (134) [Some of these same customs are mentioned in another book I am simultaneously reading Louis Adamic's "The Native's Return" where the dying takes place in Slovenia.] "While I am reading these other daughter's accounts, their mothers become my mother." (135) "Smiling while dying is apparently not that unusual. The body tries to produce a state of euphoria to usher us out. It releases the same kinds of neurochemicals, dopamine and serotonin, that flood our brains as we are falling in love." (142) "'In the absence of organized religion,' she [Poet Elizabeth Alexander] writes, 'faith abounds, in the form of song and art and food and strong arms.'" (157)

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ming

    A few favorite quotes: "I don't know much about my mother's childhood because she never liked to talk about it. The fact that I know so little about her early life means that I will not be able to fully reconstruct her on the page. But I have already created fictional versions of my mother, taking the bits I know and morphing them into different women, some who are like I imagined her to be, some who are like I wanted her to be, and others who represent the worst-case scenarios, the worst mother A few favorite quotes: "I don't know much about my mother's childhood because she never liked to talk about it. The fact that I know so little about her early life means that I will not be able to fully reconstruct her on the page. But I have already created fictional versions of my mother, taking the bits I know and morphing them into different women, some who are like I imagined her to be, some who are like I wanted her to be, and others who represent the worst-case scenarios, the worst mother I could possibly have had. My mother has given birth to more women than me, and perhaps in her death she will breed even more." "The more specifically a death and its aftermath are described, the more moving they are to me. The more I get to know the dying person on the page, the more likely I am to grieve for that person." "I agree. There's a heart-stopping, breathtaking, indescribable element to some sentences that even the most carefully chosen image can't match, due to the sentence's precision, specificity, clarity--or ambiguity, opacity, or mystery--rhythm, lyricism, and sometimes even shock value." "Literature thrives on suffering. What creates tension and conflict in most works of fiction is some type of useful, even if initially seemingly senseless, suffering. And by useful I don't mean useful to the sufferer but to the writer of the story. We put our fictional characters through the wringer so that we might write (tell others) about it. If we are too afraid to let them suffer, or even die, then we might fail. We also write of our most painful experiences hoping that bringing these horrors to light might serve some greater purpose. Our most humble, and perhaps most arrogant, wish is that our writing might help others feel less alone. Our suffering, or our characters' suffering--be it internal or external, physical or psychological--is never wasted. It often directs us somewhere, even if inevitably to death."

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ellyn Lem

    As someone who has appreciated Danticat's novels, often about her native Haiti, and someone who teaches a course on death, I anticipated this short book, which touches on many of the writers who are in my death course, Christopher Hitchens, Leo Tolstoy, Joan Didion, C.S. Lewis and Susan Sontag. While I agree with one review I read of the book that Danticat almost quotes too much from her sources and does not put enough of her own insights onto the page, there are still some precious components o As someone who has appreciated Danticat's novels, often about her native Haiti, and someone who teaches a course on death, I anticipated this short book, which touches on many of the writers who are in my death course, Christopher Hitchens, Leo Tolstoy, Joan Didion, C.S. Lewis and Susan Sontag. While I agree with one review I read of the book that Danticat almost quotes too much from her sources and does not put enough of her own insights onto the page, there are still some precious components of The Art of Death, which make me relieved that I came across it. One of the first gems comes in a section on suicide. It is from a Nikki Giovanni poem that I had not encountered before, "Poets." Here is the line that blew me away: "Poets shouldn't commit/ Suicide/That would leave the world/To those without imaginations/Or hearts." This comes after a really interesting section on Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton and their suicide's "legacy" to their children. Another favorite part for me was her insightful treatment of multiple Toni Morrison novels, including rare material from Morrison herself on some of the topics surrounding death in her novels. One last part of the book that I really appreciated was a prayer that Danticat was asked to write for PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature five shortly after her mom dies. The prayer, much of it in her mother's voice ("Let them not bury me in an ugly dress. Guide them to my good wig...", is so tremendously powerful. She asks, from the perspective of her mother no longer living, "And please let the world go on. . . .Let the rain still fall, quiet and soft at times, and hard at other times. Let the oceans be still or roar, as they always have. Let the world go on as it always has, so that my children will know that only my spark has dimmed and not the entire world." How moving is that?

  30. 4 out of 5

    Paperclippe

    We're all carrying our coffins with us every day. This book was nothing short of beautiful. The telling shifts back-and-forth, zig-zagging, wanderingly between Danticat's own recollections of her mother's death and the deaths of her father and others she has held dear - including the few times she herself has nearly died - to passages not just from books about death and dying, as in The Death of Ivan Ilyich and indeed many of Tolstoy's works and collections like Murakami's After the Quake but to We're all carrying our coffins with us every day. This book was nothing short of beautiful. The telling shifts back-and-forth, zig-zagging, wanderingly between Danticat's own recollections of her mother's death and the deaths of her father and others she has held dear - including the few times she herself has nearly died - to passages not just from books about death and dying, as in The Death of Ivan Ilyich and indeed many of Tolstoy's works and collections like Murakami's After the Quake but to a wide selection of literature. Danticat goes so far as to not so much as rehash but refresh the sentiment that all writing is about dying, that all plots lead the writer, and the reader, evermore inextricably toward not just the idea of but the eventuality and actuality of demise, and she does so in a cohesive, coherent, beautiful, and almost peaceful way. For those in the death positive community, the list of works referenced at the back is an absolute goldmine of some of the most relevant works of literature regarding death and dying, whether intentionally or incidentally. Even while reading the text itself I was constantly moved to select new books and essays to dig more deeply into. This is not a book that lets go of you. This is not a book you let go of. Death is an art, perhaps the oldest one, perhaps the earliest expression of it, and Edwidge Danticat somehow manages to put all of that into relatable, powerful words. I would say that she does it fearlessly, but that would be a disservice. The fear expressed in the lines - and the resolution of some of that fear, some of those fears - is half of what makes this book so brilliant. I get the feeling this won't be the last time I read this.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...