cover image The Point Is: Making Sense of Birth, Death, and Everything in Between

The Point Is: Making Sense of Birth, Death, and Everything in Between

Lee Eisenberg. Hachette/Twelve, $26 (304p) ISBN 978-1-4555-5046-3

"What is the point?" Former Esquire editor-in-chief Eisenberg (The Number) tackles the big question in this memoir about writing and life. The book takes time to develop momentum, but ultimately succeeds in looping in the reader. Eisenberg's approach is discursive, trolling through history and current culture for insight. Employing the process of writing a book as an extended metaphor for creating meaning, he says that memory is "the little storywriter nestled in the fissures of your brain" whose task it is to create "the so-called chapters of your life." Self-referential in the extreme, his story of writing this story returns repeatedly, throughout its three parts, to a touchstone%E2%80%94a graveyard the author visits%E2%80%94to ground a wide-ranging consideration of the role of memory, the tricky "elbow" of middle age, and death, among other things. In a paragraph about reporter Richard Ben Cramer, the author manages to make reference to Vice President Joe Biden, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Laurie Anderson. The underlying question, as it was for psychiatrist Viktor Frankl (another reference point), is how we create meaning and purpose in our lives. Eisenberg's suggestion is to write a compelling life story. An appendix provides three questionnaires used by psychologists and physicians to study attitudes toward life and death. Also included is an extensive list of references. Agent: Esther Newberg, ICM. (Feb.)