Dark Mode

Writing About Your Own Death

Anne Boyer writes in The New Yorker:

In a note about prospective titles for what would become “Illness as Metaphor,” Susan Sontag wrote, “To think only about oneself is to think of death.” Being a writer makes me a servant of sensory details, issuing forth page after page. I am certain that my illness would make a better story if it were someone else’s. Who would want to hear the hammer always complaining about its meeting with the nail? The slightly ill but undiagnosed are better narrators than the truly ill. Their suffering is not so overdetermined. They can be lavishly self-defined, poetic with the glamour of the sick person’s proximity to finality.

To write about oneself may be to write of death, but to write about death is to write of everyone. As Audre Lorde wrote, in “The Cancer Journals,” after she was given a diagnosis of breast cancer, at the age of forty-four, “I carry tattooed upon my heart a list of names of women who did not survive, and there is always a space left for one more, my own.”

Love this passage.