I’ve spoken to very few people about what it was like to be in a room watching my mother take her last gulps of air. It was dinnertime, dark. We’d just had pizza. We’d been taking turns sitting by her side when there was a change in her breathing. All the oxygen drained from the room. When my mother died, it was just my family in a semicircle, alone together with what moments ago had been “her,” but in the span of seconds had become “her body.” She was 63.
Zadie Smith on Love, Death: "I was in mourning and it was winter, and the city was all stone and diagonal rain to me"
At the New York Review of Books, Zadie Smith has a beautiful essay up about two trips to Italy, the first taken with her father:
It is not easy for a white man of almost seventy and a black girl of seventeen to go on a mini-break to Europe together; the smirks of strangers follow you everywhere. We did not like to linger in restaurants or in the breakfast room of our tiny hotel. Instead, on that first, exploratory trip, we found our pleasure in walking. Through the streets, through museums—but more than anywhere else, through gardens. No money has to be spent in a [...]
“Rest in peace, Gram. So happy you’re finally home. We love you!” read my Aunt Patty’s Facebook post. I was sitting in LaGuardia airport with my cousin, Shauna. I read it aloud to her.
We were confused. We had buried “Gram,” my great-grandmother, in 1987. I remember all the funerals I went to as a kid because Gram was on the Irish side of my family, and at Irish funerals I made approximately zero dollars simply for showing up. This was in direct contrast to funerals I attended for the Italian side of my family. At those, every relative I said hello to told me what a beautiful young woman [...]
"I walked in and he gave me one of his looks, dropping his jaw and crossing his eyes as he rolled them back in their sockets. It was a look he assumed in all kinds of situations but that always meant the same thing: can you believe this?" —The Guardian excerpts a section from John Jeremiah Sullivan's 'Blood Horses: Notes of a Sportswriter's Son' (out March 14 … in the UK, and — updated to include — out about eight years ago here in America. Sorry about that. Still a good read!).
Zadie Smith: "If I truly believed that being a corpse was my only guaranteed future, I'd get rid of my iPhone"
Zadie Smith's done it again: her latest New York Review of Books essay, "Man vs. Corpse," is a gentle, vivid meditation on the impossibility of imagining yourself dead.
Walking corpses—zombies—follow us everywhere, through novels, television, cinema. Back in the real world, ordinary citizens turn survivalist, ready to scale a mountain of corpses if it means enduring. Either way, death is what happens to everyone else. By contrast, the future in which I am dead is not a future at all. It has no reality. If it did—if I truly believed that being a corpse was not only a possible future but my only guaranteed future—I’d do all kinds of [...]
In January 1985, Pizza Hut aired a commercial in South Carolina that featured a condemned prisoner ordering delivery for his last meal.
The essay covers many angles of this alternately compassionate, perverse and titillating idea—the paradox of "marking the end of a life with the stuff that sustains it," the plain fact that "eating and dying are universal and densely symbolic human processes." There's of course a lot of great history: in Rome, gladiators were feasted well on the night before the arena, and the Aztecs, as part of a [...]
Today the oldish-and-witchy Tumblr The English Ladye highlights Queen Tomyris, pictured, who reigned in Central Asia around 530 B.C. and apparently "defeated and killed the Persian emperor Cyrus the Great during his invasion and attempted conquest of her country." She also apparently "had his corpse beheaded and then crucified," and then "shoved his head into a wineskin filled with human blood." Furthermore, "She was reportedly quoted as saying, 'I warned you that I would quench your thirst for blood, and so I shall.' " (!)
“The face alone has launched a thousand think pieces. So now the question is not one of basic selfie-justification, but rather, why must a photo of my face be justified when a photo of my bookshelf is not?” -Sarah Nicole Prickett
I went to a Catholic parochial school. This means the things you expect it to mean. There was a crucifix in every room: a wall-length stone-cut crucifix in the entryway; in the gymnasium, high up, a crucifix that was enormous, but not quite to scale.
At my school, grades 7 through 12 dedicate a class to a [...]
At 74, after a short illness, the Irish poet and Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney is dead. He is survived by his wife and three children, and by his plainspoken, incandescent body of work. "I like a touch of rough and readiness in the language," he once told the Paris Review. "Something in words that makes you realize all over again what Louis MacNeice means when he says 'world is suddener than we fancy.'"
In the long poem "From Station Island," his famous lines:
Your obligation is not discharged by any common rite. What you must do must be done on your own
So get back [...]
The Rumpus conducted this interview with (the tremendous) Aleksander Hemon prior to the events in Boston, but, as the interview touches on his own experience of "unimaginable" loss (a child, to cancer), it really resonates today.
Hemon: This is a culture that continuously, consistently refuses to deal with the fact of death, on so many levels. From zombie and vampire movies, to the insane amount of death you can see at any moment on television or in the movie theaters, which makes it unreal, to the steady supply and pool of dreadful clichés when people talk about death. When the children in [Newtown] were killed and Obama [...]