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This Wild Darkness: The Story of My Death Hardcover – 4 Nov 1996

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate; First Edition edition (4 Nov. 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1857025466
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857025460
  • Product Dimensions: 24 x 2 x 15.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,568,857 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

Brodkey’s short stories for the New Yorker were collected in his 1957 First Love and Other Sorrows. A second collection of short stories, The Abundant Dreamer, appeared in 1988, and his long-awaited novel The Runaway Soul three years later.

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Andy Bullivant on 17 July 2005
Format: Hardcover
A very good book, try it. Harold Brodkey cites himself as outside the American literary establishment. It seems that this is partly due to a directness which has at times been little more than bluntness. In this book his directness is an asset as it engages and disarms the reader. The prose is in the fluent uncluttered style of an academic writing for pleasure. He reveals his journey as he lives out the traumas of AIDS, he is offering his experiences for others to share. Humour, irony, anger and emotional risktaking make this a disarming and moving read with Brodkey consciously evading sickly sentimentality. A very good read, try it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 7 reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Achievement enough 12 Mar. 2002
By Eric Krupin - Published on
Format: Paperback
Sitting in the office of an English professor whose opinions I respect, I noticed he had Harold Brodkey's chef d'oeuvre - the 30 years in the writing "The Runaway Soul" - wedged in his crowded shelves. Remembering how my initial fascination with that novel was drowned by the bewildering and ultimately awful *too-muchness* of that book, I asked the professor what he made of Brodkey. "He's insane, of course," was the ready reply.
Well, that might be oversimplifying the matter, but on re-reading "This Wild Darkness" recently, I decided that, for all its occasional brilliance in describing what it feels like to be inside a dying body, the professor's comment tells more of the story than it might seem at first glance - enough certainly for anyone who approaches Brodkey with a not unreasonable degree of skepticism. All too often, the author's observations about others and - his great subject - himself, have a strong whiff of delusional unreality about them. When he says that his "irresistability" as a young man was such that it led to people trying to abduct him, I simply don't believe him. The great James Salter, in his own memoir, remembers the younger, on-the-make, Brodkey-in-the-Sixties as a "troublemaker" and that sounds convincingly right.
And yet Brodkey must have had something going for him all those years when he managed to convince a few influential tastemakers that he was an unheralded genius and I believe he did. His mature style - a heterogenous mix of colloquial intimacy and ambitious abstraction - was truly unique and, at its occasional best, as surpassingly expressive as his literary padrones claimed. "This Wild Darkness", composed during a terminal illness, understandably does not represent this style at its highest pitch but it is still something that absolutely no one else could have written. That just might be achievement enough.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Not a typical memoir about dying. 22 Aug. 1998
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
Harold Brodkey admits that he is not an easy person to like. It also appears that it was not easy for him to live inside his own skin. But during the three years that he lived with the knowledge that he would die from AIDS, he strove to look, unflichingly, into the face of death. Like the rest of us, he could not always endure the truth. He did, however, write a report from the land of the terminally ill that is unsentimental and painful, with occasional flashes of illumination.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
We're all human, after all. 17 May 1998
By Kristin Summerlin - Published on
Format: Hardcover
And Brodkey's humanity shines foremost in this simple book. Knocked off-balance by his diagnosis, Brodkey uses words to find his way through the "death experience." Sometimes tongue-in-cheek, more often matter-of-fact, Brodkey examines his impending death as he lives it. Without excessive sentimentality, clear-eyed. And not always "attractive." But honest as dirt.
It seems Brodkey learns that style matters little. And that is the source of true style.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Brodkey's heroic stoicism is a truly fabulous thing 26 Jun. 2005
By Gooch McCracken - Published on
Format: Paperback
From Julian Barnes's introduction to IN THE LAND OF PAIN: "When Harold Brodkey's heroic--and, it seemed, heroically self-deceiving--account of his own dying was published in THE NEW YORKER, I congratulated the magazine's editor for 'leaving it all in', by which I meant the evidence of Brodkey's impressive egomania. 'You should have seen what we took out', she replied wryly."

Leave it to Barnes to turn up his needlenose at Brodkey's self-described sexual "irresistibility". As far as I'm concerned, if Little Sexpot Brodkey was constantly pawed at by his adoptive father, that alone gives Brodkey the right to call himself irresistible. I'm impressed that Brodkey endured *that* scenario (let alone AIDS) without succumbing to suicide. I just wish he had omitted the pointless sidetrip to Venice.

From THIS WILD DARKNESS: "For a day I had a kind of fever with chills and sweats but with body temperature *below* normal, at 96 degrees." Technically, that couldn't have been a fever but rather a case of mild hypothermia. Or maybe not. I'm not up on the subject.

Ya know how boremongers like Steve Martin & Woody Allen are always doing that New-York-versus-Los-Angeles shtick? Well, Harold took the cake with the following generalization: "New York was the capital of American sexuality, the one place in America where you could get laid with some degree of sophistication, and so Peggy Guggenheim and Andre Breton had come here during the war, whereas Thomas Mann, who was shy, and Igor Stravinsky, who was pious, had gone to Los Angeles, which is the best place for voyeurs."

Life is a big blank. That's the most overwhelming impression that I've gotten from life. The fact that life is a big blank. The fact that there are no theological answers. I call it The Big Blank-Out. Harold said: "Death is a bore. But life isn't very interesting either. I must say I expected death to glimmer with meaning, but it doesn't ... I find the silence of God to be very beautiful, even when the silence is directed at me."
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
More a dissertation on Living rather than Dying 13 Jan. 2010
By Grady Harp - Published on
Format: Paperback
Harold Brodkey, now fifteen years after his death, remains in the highest category of writers of the English language. And this is a fine time to return to his memoirs THIS WILD DARKNESS: THE STORY OF MY DEATH simply to be reminded about how completely involved in the cycle of life Brodkey lived. There is nothing maudlin about these 177 pages of thoughts about his history of being diagnosed with AIDS and succumbing to it, and though the reader does feel the author's flirtation with the idea of the joy of being alive, Brodkey freely talks about the act of dying as a rather ordinary part of the cycle of being on the earth.

While some author's faced with the act of dying fill pages of memoirs with remorse, Brodkey instead shares his own experiences freely - from a very honest account of his contraction of the disease, to a discussion of his sexuality, a discussion that spends the majority of time in praise of his wife Ellen, to his thoughts on the act of dying. His discussions about his physician Barry who informs him of his diagnosis is a story within a story and one not at all unlike the author's novels. But perhaps those of us who deeply admire Harold Brodkey's gifts can find special meaning in some of his last thoughts: 'I regret having been so polite in the past. I'd like to trample on at least a dozen people. Maybe I will live long enough to do just that before I waste away to the point where I can't trample on a goose feather. Anyway, I have been in bed, in the fetal position, for two weeks. I wish were young. I am sick of leaves and fresh air. Nature doesn't seem serious enough, or rather it seems TOO serious on the death front.' And the final sentences from this book: 'Peace? There was never any in the world. But in the pliable water, under the sky, unmoored, I am traveling now and hearing myself laugh, at first with nerves and then with genuine amazement. It is all around me.'

This book is a gift for the living: reading it makes the ordinary aspects of living so divine. Grady Harp, January 10
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