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The Violet Hour: Great Writers at the End

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by Katie Roiphe
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The Violet Hour: Great Writers at the End by Katie Roiphe

From one of our most perceptive and provocative voices comes a deeply researched account of the last days of Susan Sontag, Sigmund Freud, John Updike, Dylan Thomas, Maurice Sendak, and James Salter??"an arresting and wholly original meditation on mortality.

In The Violet Hour, Katie Roiphe takes an unexpected and liberating approach to the most unavoidable of subjects. She investigates the last days of six great thinkers, writers, and artists as they come to terms with the reality of approaching death, or what T. S. Eliot called “the evening hour that strives Homeward, and brings the sailor home from sea.”

Roiphe draws on her own extraordinary research and access to the family, friends, and caretakers of her subjects. Here is Susan Sontag, the consummate public intellectual, who finds her commitment to rational thinking tested during her third bout with cancer. Roiphe takes us to the hospital room where, after receiving the worst possible diagnosis, seventy-six-year-old John Updike begins writing a poem. She vividly re-creates the fortnight of almost suicidal excess that culminated in Dylan Thomas??s fatal collapse at the Chelsea Hotel. She gives us a bracing portrait of Sigmund Freud fleeing Nazi-occupied Vienna only to continue in his London exile the compulsive cigar smoking that he knows will hasten his decline. And she shows us how Maurice Sendak??s beloved books for children are infused with his lifelong obsession with death, if you know where to look.

The Violet Hour is a book filled with intimate and surprising revelations. In the final acts of each of these creative geniuses are examples of courage, passion, self-delusion, pointless suffering, and superb devotion. There are also moments of sublime insight and understanding where the mind creates its own comfort. As the author writes, “If it??s nearly impossible to capture the approach of death in words, who would have the most hope of doing it?” By bringing these great writers?? final days to urgent, unsentimental life, Katie Roiphe helps us to look boldly in the face of death and be less afraid.

Advance praise for The Violet Hour

“In this elegant and beautifully written set of elegies, Katie Roiphe looks death squarely in the face, describing how people evanesce, how others lose them, how they lose themselves, how writing is a means to negotiate for immortality. This courageous, generous, intimate book is suffused with affection, and therefore provides comfort even when its topic is the loneliness that inheres in finality.”??"Andrew Solomon, author of Far from the Tree

“Katie Roiphe??s The Violet Hour is ambitious and tender. Her subject is urgent and so is her prose??"pressurized, curious, vibrating. Death in these pages is also an account of how gravity takes up residence in pragmatics: edits from a hospital bed, wanting a certain kind of pie, what to do with the dog. The book is not simply about facing death??"imagining it, fearing it, fighting it, craving it??"but a sensitive exploration of caregiving: the labor it demands, psychic and otherwise, and the deep intimacy it permits.”??"Leslie Jamison, author of The Empathy Exams

“Beautiful and haunting . . . Never overly sentimental, this is a poignant and elegant inquiry into mortality.”??"Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

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Ebook Details
Pages: 320
Size: 4.6 MB
Publisher: The Dial Press
Date published:   2016
ISBN: 9780812988499 (DRM-EPUB)

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This product is listed in the following categories:

Nonfiction > Literary Criticism
Nonfiction > Biography & Autobiography > Literary
Nonfiction > Psychology > Grief & Loss

This author has products in the following categories:

Nonfiction > Biography & Autobiography > Literary
Fiction > Literary
Fiction > Historical
Fiction > Biographical
Nonfiction > Literary Collections > American
Nonfiction > Literary Collections > Essays
Nonfiction > Social Science > Feminism & Feminist Theory
Nonfiction > Literary Criticism
Nonfiction > Psychology > Grief & Loss

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