Friday, 4 April 2014

Who's afraid to read about death?

I was talking publishing the other day (a conversation that could go on until the cows some home, go out and come home again) with Mary McCallum who's just published through Mākaro Press the extraordinary journal of Harriet Rowland, who records her last two years, living with osteosarcoma, in The Book of Hat. We touched on the difficulty of 'selling' books in which the author is facing her own death (as Annie also was in co-authoring Fields of Gold). We acknowledged the deep-rooted anxiety that to read about death and think about it is tantamount to inviting our own. All of us and especially those facing their mortality through illness are more inclined to seek stories of healing and second chances.

However, it seems that when we lay aside this natural but primitive fear, the contemplation of death and difficulty can deepen and intensify our experience of life — that's the curiously joyous truth radiating from these two books. One initially reluctant reader of Fields of Gold, told co-author Pam Morrison that through her engagement with the story she was extraordinarily and entirely released from her own (very present and pertinent) fear of death.

That's powerful writing, and it's what comes from writers who have courageously entered the darkness and found there inextinguishable light.

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