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T. Cochrane (Sheffield, United Kingdom)

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When I Die: Lessons from the Death Zone
When I Die: Lessons from the Death Zone
Price: £5.99

48 of 52 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars hope that you'll see it coming, 22 April 2012
I became intrigued by this when I saw the interview on youtube, so I bought the book, and now I've read it.

The main part of the book is about his cancer treatment, and is very interesting. I would read a whole series of similar books on 'what it's like to die from x'. The main value Gould conveys here is that even though he was neurotic about pain and suffering to begin with, he discovered that one can endure it and still often enjoy life. The implication is that we should believe it of ourselves as well.

The part about the 'death zone' was the part I most wanted to read about however. The main intent of the book is ostensibly to 'change the narrative about dying'. Dying need not be about gradual decline and irrelevance. It is a time where everything is much more intense, and genuine joy and reconciliation can occur at the same time as fear and sadness. Certainly it convinced me that when I die, I want to see it coming with as much advance notice as possible. Here is a typically nice passage:

"Life becomes completely precious, not just because there is so little of it left but because the actual nature of experience is more fulfilling, more protean than it was before. I feel there are somehow more molecules moving around the room now."

Gould then says that the most important thing is to be honest and accept that you are dying. He doesn't say much about how one manages to accept death exactly. And it is clear that he feels fear, and is constantly battling against death right to the end. I think what he means is to accept death in the sense of genuinely believing that you are dying, and never ignoring it. Personally speaking, while I don't always think about death, I think I do genuinely believe that I am going to die. I'd rather know how to overcome the fear. Still, he is constantly focused on the value of life, and I think this is the right attitude. Life is a good thing and should be maximised, though I was concerned that towards the end he was too desperately battling for extra days.

The main disappointment of the book is that it turns out Gould is religious, but he hardly ever mentions it. Most particularly, he never once specifies (and neither do any of his relatives) whether he believes in an afterlife or not. The last words in his narrative (not his actual last words) are:

"I am approaching the door marked Death. What lies beyond it may be the worst of things. But I believe it will be the best of things."

Given that he doesn't make an issue of it, I think he was probably agnostic. But overall, this is all extremely disingenuous. And frankly I don't agree that one is being honest about death if one thinks one might survive it.

Another qualm is that Gould was part of the political elite in the UK. Most people dying don't get two prime ministers visiting them in support. Death is the great equaliser, but Philip Gould gets to craft his own narrative of having a meaningful death partly because his connections ensure that his thoughts about dying, and all the details of his experience will be published to the wider world. This kind of meaning is not available to most people. So I'm not sure how much we can really learn from his experience. Nevertheless, this is really just a qualm. His loving and joyful attitude and desire to embrace the fact of his death are inspiring and moving regardless of his social status.

My final qualm is that we don't get his words in the last few days of life. He was apparently dictating right up until the end, and a lot of might have been repetitive and occasionally nonsensical. But I think if it is really supposed to be an honest portrayal of death, we should get this as well.

Anyway, I'm glad I read the book and I'm glad for him that he was apparently lucid right up the end. And where before I was concerned that after completing life projects, the rest of one's life may be meaningless, ther book is convincing that one's dying can be meaningful if one takes the chance to be open and loving to the people close to you and also in simply showing them what it is to die.

And Another Thing ...: Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Part Six of Three (Hitchhikers Guide 6)
And Another Thing ...: Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Part Six of Three (Hitchhikers Guide 6)
by Eoin Colfer
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars not funny, not intelligent, not original, 18 May 2011
The phantom menace of the series.

apparently amazon doesn't like people to write short pithy reviews, so I must add some more pointless text here.

Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson: All and Everything: AND All and Everything (Arkana)
Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson: All and Everything: AND All and Everything (Arkana)
by G. I. Gurdjieff
Edition: Paperback
Price: £19.99

23 of 67 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars worst book ever?, 10 Jun. 2004
Excrutiating masturbatory theosophy of the most boring kind. Way too long, horribly verbose and full of irritating 'clever' 'neologisms' in 'quotes' (and he wants you to read it 3 times!). Ok, there are some entertaining anecdotes here and there but they are buried in a world of unreadable pap. Oh right, it's supposed to be deliberately hard to read. But if you look at anything for long enough you should derive some value from it. In my opinion you'd be better off reading James Joyce for the many-level style insights into the human condition he seems to be aiming at here.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 22, 2009 5:24 PM BST

Price: £50.86

11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Reluctantly critical, 2 Dec. 2002
This review is from: Play (Audio CD)
It's great that Joanna is recording contemporary composers and the concept/layout/text/design of the cd is very cool. Getting the South Bank show documentary about it was obviously a master stroke. We had dozens of people coming in (I work in a well known high street music shop) to buy it the next day, though lots of them were only interested to know if she had more Bach recordings. Her performance of the older music has a sensitivity that maybe some of the newer pieces lack, but she is also a very powerful performer. Yes, Joanna is definitely a first rate pianist (though her composition lacks depth I'm afraid) and it's such a valid thing she is doing here. However I was annoyed by the production quality here and there (surely we cannot tolerate fuzz on new recordings) oh and some of the sampled 'beats' that she plays along to are just terrible, sorry. I just don't understand why someone with an obvious understanding of rhythm would use 80s style beats. The Piazzolla piece with the recording of his voice within it is puzzling. It sounds as if they just have it playing in the room where Joanna is performing. Why didn't they mix it with the recording more confidently? It doesn't sound like a purposeful part of the performance at all here, just a superficial gimmick to distract from the repetitive nature of the track. You may want it vague and fuzzy but at least it should really intergrate with the piece. Too much style/attitude and not enough perfectionist craft I think. Mostly the musical content is of a high standard I just have big problems with the production overall. I haven't decided yet whether to keep it or return it...

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