Death becomes them

The Mysterious Romance of Murder is not meant as a replacement, or an updating, of critical surveys of the detective genre such as Julian Symons’s Bloody Murder (1972) or David Lehman’s own The Perfect Murder: A study in detection (1989), which covers a wide historical range and includes a reading list. Rather, as Lehman explains … Read more

Making a Life’s Work of Death: On Hayley Campbell’s “All the Living and the Dead”

AUGUST 27, 2022 “HURRAY THEN FOR FUNERALS!” exclaims Jean-Baptiste Clamence in Albert Camus’s 1956 novel The Fall. Camus himself was a fan of funerals, according to Olivier Todd in his 1996 biography of the Nobel Prize–winning novelist. As Todd details, Camus became obsessed with American funeral customs on his trip to the United States in … Read more

“A Language So Musical and Magical”: On Volodymyr Rafeyenko’s “Mondegreen: Songs about Death and Love”

AUGUST 1, 2022 ONCE, WHEN HER MOTHER was reading her poems from an 18th-century book of popular ballads, American writer Sylvia Wright had a curious auditory experience. The words “laid him on the green” were transformed in her ears into “Lady Mondegreen,” an error to which she admitted publicly in a 1954 article in Harper’s … Read more

A history of death

In her review of my book This Mortal Coil: A history of death (April 15), Emily Wilson writes that I make the “repellent assumption” that “disability is necessarily a fate worse than death”. Her only justification for this assertion is that I included a discussion of Down Syndrome, since this “is not a fatal condition”. … Read more