From the best-selling How We Die by Sherwin Nuland to our fascination with serial murders, from the AIDS epidemic to the concerns of our aging population, America continues to express a widespread curiosity about death and dying. In The Grim Reader, editors Maura Spiegel and Richard Tristman have gathered the best of the new writings on the subject of death along with classic statements on mortality to produce an essential resource for the heart and mind.
Historians tell us that death was once a public experience, circumscribed by religious ceremony, that gradually disappeared as our medical ability to forestall it grew more confident. This clinical capacity to mediate death-to postpone it with machines, to relieve its pain and suffering-has made it once more a public subject. Though death remains inevitable, denial, taboo, and shame have been banished in favor of reflection, candor, mutual aid, and acceptance. In their personal reckonings with death, these writers and thinkers wrestle with the indomitable fact, discover emotional insights and methods of coping unknown to them before the crisis of terminal illness. And in poems, eulogies, private expressions of love and loss, letters of condolences, we find inspiration and solace.
From the reflections of Grace Paley on the death of her mother to Jessica Mitford's sociology of American funeral customs, from Freud's musing on the transience of life to Milan Kundera's story of laughter at a funeral, The Grim Reader offers a fresh and unmediated encounter with mortality and its many dimensions."