cover image The Art of Death: Writing the Final Story

The Art of Death: Writing the Final Story

Edwidge Danticat. Graywolf, $14 trade paper (200p) ISBN 978-1-55597-777-1

In the latest installment of Graywolf’s the Art Of series, Danticat (Claire of the Sea Light) tackles a complex subject that reverberates throughout her award-winning fiction. She seeks to “both better understand death and offload [her] fear of it” through the experience of dealing with the deaths of friends and family members, and through the works of writers past and present, from Leo Tolstoy to Ta-Nehisi Coates. She highlights—and perhaps achieves—the writer’s desire to “help others feel less alone.” For Danticat, death is not an isolated phenomenon. Everything in our lives, and in the fiction we read and write, is informed by our knowledge of the inevitability of life’s end: “Even when we are not writing about death, we are writing about death.” Danticat pursues two major goals here, and they dovetail gracefully. In a series of linked essays on overlapping topics such as suicide, close calls, and how we relate to catastrophic events, she both shows how great writers make death meaningful, and explores her own raw grief over her mother’s death. This slim volume wraps literary criticism, philosophy, and memoir into a gracefully circling whole, echoing the nature of grief as “circles and circles of sorrow.” (July)