Tuesday, February 24, 2009Back in the ’90s, Daphne Merkin, one of our best critics and trend-watchers, predicted that “if the last decade of the 20th century is to produce any great literature” it will be “around the subject of death.”
This has proved true.
The literature of death may have begun with Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s classic “On Death and Dying” (1969)or with Judith Viorst’s “Necessary Losses” (1986), a book I buy for anyone who is grieving. Or the subject may linger in the air because of global warming and terrorism.
How does an atheist prepare for death? This is a theme Diana Athill explores in “Somewhere Towards the End.” Her grapplings are impressive: “My own belief — that we, on our short-lived planet, are part of a universe simultaneously . . . ordinary . . . and incalculably mysterious . . . — does not feel like believing in nothing and would never make me recruit anyone for slaughter. It feels like a state of infinite possibility, stimulating and enjoyable — not exactly comforting, but acceptable because true.” read more...