The Art of Death
A moving reflection on a subject that touches us all, by the bestselling author of Claire of the Sea LightEdwidge Danticat’s The Art of Death: Writing the Final Story is at once a personal account of her mother dying from cancer and a deeply considered reckoning with the ways that other writers have approached death in their own work. “Writing has been the primary way I have tried to make sense of my losses,” Danticat notes in her introduction. “I have been writing about death for as long as I have been writing.” The book moves outward from the shock of her mother’s diagnosis and sifts through Danticat’s writing life and personal history, all the while shifting fluidly from examples that range from Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude to Toni Morrison’s Sula. The narrative, which continually circles the many incarnations of death from individual to large-scale catastrophes, culminates in a beautiful, heartrending prayer in the voice of Danticat’s mother. A moving tribute and a work of astute criticism, The Art of Death is a book that will profoundly alter all who encounter it.

The Art of Death Details

TitleThe Art of Death
Author
FormatPaperback
ReleaseJul 11th, 2017
PublisherGraywolf Press
ISBN1555977774
ISBN-139781555977771
Number of pages160 pages
Rating
GenreAutobiography, Memoir, Nonfiction, Language, Writing, Death

The Art of Death Review

  • David Dacosta
    July 8, 2017
    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.
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  • Tia
    July 12, 2017
    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.
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  • John
    June 18, 2017
    An excellent, deeply moving resource for writers who wish to write about death and dying.
  • Georgina Lara
    July 23, 2017
    I've never been particularly afraid to die. A painful death or prolonged suffering, sure, but I think I've made my peace with the fact that I will not be here someday. What I have been scared most of my life is losing those I love the most. When I was a teenager I tried to make a pact with God: if he granted me many years with my grandma, I'd be willing to trade the "head-over-heels love" that I desired with all my heart. I know that's not the way the world works but I did get to have my grandma I've never been particularly afraid to die. A painful death or prolonged suffering, sure, but I think I've made my peace with the fact that I will not be here someday. What I have been scared most of my life is losing those I love the most. When I was a teenager I tried to make a pact with God: if he granted me many years with my grandma, I'd be willing to trade the "head-over-heels love" that I desired with all my heart. I know that's not the way the world works but I did get to have my grandma for many more years (and coincidentally no love interests). All this to say that the way you approach death impacts your life choices out of necessity. In my case that means leaving everything on the table so as not to have regrets. "We are all stories in the end, just make it a good one."
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  • S.W. Gordon
    July 15, 2017
    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.
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  • Michelle
    July 11, 2017
    As much critical essay as it is memoir. Danticat elegantly explores the relationship between writing and death, both for herself and other authors. An interesting counterpoint to Joan Didion's famous "we tell ourselves stories in order to live." Danticat seems to indicate that fiction is a lifeline to the world that refuses to let us forget that we all must die.
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  • Inda
    July 17, 2017
    As always will write more later on the blog but beautiful and eloquent meditation on death and the ways we write/think about it. If you like Toni Morrison's Playing in the Dark, this is definitely the type of book you'll love.
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