Review: Edwidge Danticat’s The Art of Death and Julia Cooper’s The Last Word offer clear-eyed ruminations on dying

The Art of Death: Writing the Final Story Graywolf, 181 pages, $19.50 The Last Word: Reviving the Dying Art of Eulogy Coach House Books, 115 pages, $14.95 Early on in The Art of Death , Edwidge Danticat invokes the stirring words of Toni Morrison’s 1993 Nobel lecture: “We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.” Morrison also appears on the very first page of Julia Cooper’s whip-smart rumination on death, The Last Word . This time it’s Shadrack, from Sula , a former soldier who concocts his own grim celebration of suicide; a “DIY death parade,” as Cooper writes, to enflesh her point that, “if you want the space to ruminate on death, dying and loss, you’ve got to sanction it yourself.” Cooper’s mother succumbed to cancer in 2004, while Danticat’s mother was diagnosed with the disease in 2014 – a decade’s berth between their respective passings. Now both have published books that offer trenchant, clear-eyed looks at dying and what it feels like to live in the tumbling morass of grief that follows the loss of a love one. As Mary Gordon writes in Circling […]

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