by Edwidge Danticat

Published by Graywolf Press

A review by John Irvin


“More and more of us are writing our own obituaries.”

            From the back cover blurb:

            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 Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, to deliver a moving tribute and work of astute criticism that will profoundly alter all who encounter it.

The Art of Death (Writing the Final Story) by Edwidge Danticat. A writer's discussions about the forms of death. Using realistic examples for ideas on how to write death scenes and the meaning of them.

            When I first got a hold of this work, it was given to me by a friend, I thought, “Oh, dear, sounds gothic.” But as soon as I started reading, the writer in me exclaimed, “Finally, a book that teaches me how to weave a death scene.”

            Death scenes have always been a struggle. How can I make it sad? How can I get the reader to actually mourn? How can I make them ball?

            Danticat, using her mother’s slow death, woke something in me. The way she presents each form of death—I’d never considered how many forms it could take until reading this work—is intriguing and thought-provoking. Some of the examples she gave sent me into imagining my own death scenes I’ve written or plan to write and how I could possibly make them better.

            Death is a dark subject to most of us as human beings. Danticat shows this, in a masterful way if I can brag on her for a moment. I could imagine it took quite a bit for her to bare her soul for this work—as this book is nothing more than just that.

When a writer publishes a book, we are offering a piece of our innermost selves to the world. To write about the loss of someone we love and to turn around and open that to the public is one of the most terrifying things I can think of.

            There is the old quote: Writers write to taste life twice. Those who do not write have a hard time understanding why we do and how we do what we do. Sometimes we write death to taste it twice. Something in our soul delves in, longing to seek out the mysteries of this fact of life.

            Opening my eyes to the enigmatic, powerful piece of life that death is, I would recommend the Art of Death to any writer who wants to know how to write that final scene better.

            So, take my recommendation and click this link to go buy it: THE ART OF DEATH.

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