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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not swimming, but drowning before extinction, 7 Mar 2013
A son writing about his mother's dying. The mother is Susan Sontag, the son a writer. As such you expect this book to be well written, it is. To be a reflection of the blistering honesty that was Susan Sontag. There is a core of looking straight on into the process of dying and the fight to stay alive no matter what. It was difficult to read, although accurately it is a meditation on mortality, death and the process of dying, but does not paint a vivid portrait of the last year of Ms Sontag's life. The portrayal of Ms Sontag remains private in that she is a minefield of no go areas for family and friends. Mr Rieff appears to barely contain disdain for Annie Liebowitz, the photographer and her images Of Susan Sontag's last days. The book reads to me as a description, an intellectual dance of dealing with illness where the participants refuse to accede mortality. "Do not go gentle into that good night" the rage burns so strongly that other competing emotions, grief, compassion, acceptance are subsumed to a sideline or to emerge post death as guilt and incredible sadness of the loss of what might have been said, done and experienced. I was left thinking we all die. We all have conflicting responses to what appears as the last drawn breath before extinction. But from my experience of those going through this process, this book and its attendant philosophy of extinction of ego as the end place was arid. I have seen what Mr Rieff poses as the Buddhist acceptance of the inevitable, enormous dignity and courage and the almost feral battle to hold on to each breath no matter what the cost. Each to their own end and as Mr Rieff rightly identifies, it is something few of us can control in that we all die of something and cancer is certainly one of the hardest something to battle. In that Ms Sontag had great courage. But at the end of this book I was left feeling sad that such fine minds appeared trapped in a torturous labyrinth, unable to express the fundamental love that may have provided some solace in this experience.
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Swimming in a Sea of Death: A Son's Memoir
Swimming in a Sea of Death: A Son's Memoir by David Rieff (Paperback - 6 April 2009)
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