Recommended Reading

The Violet Hour: Great Writers at the End

By Katie Roiphe

2016, 306 pages

 End-of-life anecdotes/accounts of a half-dozen famous people.

  • Susan Sontag: Influential lesbian. Beat cancer once. Fought to the bitter end. Arrogant to the point of finding it hard to believe she would ever die.
  • John Updike: Took his cancer stoically.
  • Sigmund Freud: Wanted to die rationally. Smoked 20 cigars a day.
  • Dylan Thomas: Romantic infatuation with death. Drank himself to death.
  • Maurice Sendak: Never felt loved by his parents, brought a dark sense of death and danger into his illustrated “children’s” books.
  • James Salter: Another American writer with a stoic approach to death. “Don’t dwell on it,” he told Roiphe during their interview. (He was her only living subject.)

With every passing year, I spend more time thinking about – or trying not to think about – death. Here’s a chance to discover how six of the more interesting minds of the 20th century thought about the topic.

Their deep thoughts on death are presented in a very easy but literary way, which makes the book a rewardingly quick read. And there are some good insights. Nothing new or profound, but heartfelt and unpretentious.