Reviewed by Tomoé Hill
In Julio Cortázar’s eighth guest class on literature at Berkeley in 1980, he draws a distinction between eroticism and pornography in literature: in essence, the former encapsulates the personal, while the latter reflects the impersonal, or as he puts it, commercial. While the nuances and sometimes necessary integration of the two in successful writing may be argued, generally speaking what can be applied to the writing of sex can also be said to apply to the writing of death. In its most unsuccessful iterations, death on the page translates either to indifference or else to a spectacle in the Debordian sense: as numbing as it is violent, or saturated with misjudged emotive overflow, neither making any point beyond the act itself—regardless of any degree of passivity or activity. Even though there is no such thing as a predictable response to death in everyday life, on the page such imbalances end up showing what could be called the “ultimate authentic experience” as one stripped of its humanity. And so attempts at writing the end of life become fraught with the paradoxical problem of imbuing it with too much. . .