cover image The Baltimore Book of the Dead

The Baltimore Book of the Dead

Marion Winik. Counterpoint, $22 (160p) ISBN 978-1-64009-121-4

Winik follows her essay collection The Glen Rock Book of the Dead with this unconventional though captivating blend of memoir and biography. It’s a slim volume of remembrances of the author’s deceased friends and influences who, in one way or another, affected her. Chief among these is her mother, whose chapter is titled “The Alpha,” and Winik describes her as believing herself impervious to danger, including getting lung cancer from smoking for 65 years, which is what killed her in 2008. In “The Thin White Duke,” Winik writes of being a teenager “with mild gender dysphoria” and being captivated by David Bowie’s various personae, while in “The Artist,” she recounts taking her daughter to one of Prince’s last concerts before his 2016 death. The stories of other people are plucked from the various places the author has lived—“The Neatnik,” a young software designer who died of uterine cancer in 2013 in Austin, Tex.; two friends’ daughters, killed in car accidents in 2008 and 2012 in Texas and Pittsburgh; “El Suegro,” her son’s late father-in-law, who died from pancreatic cancer. Throughout these understated portraits, Winik writes with a delightfully light and nuanced hand. (Oct.)