A Commonsense Book of Death: Reflections at Ninety of a Lifelong Thanatologist


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Thirty-five years ago, in 1973, the author, then in the middle of life, age 55, wrote Deaths of Man, a set of essays about death. The book was nominated for the National Book Award in Science and recently the American Psychological Association selected it as a "classic" and provided a retrospective review. Now, in 2008 the author, age 90, revisits some of his original concepts with the experience of thirty-five years of clinical perspective and personal travail and what it is to face his own death.

This book touches on provocative topics such as some proposed criteria for a good death, a variety of ways in which we seek to survive our own death in our postself; the world-wide coarsening of death, and a chapter on suicide in which the author discusses his theory that the black heart of suicide is psychological pain. The book contains ideas like subintentioned death in which the individual, unbeknownst to the self, plays an indirect, unconscious role in bringing the death date forward. Perhaps the most dramatic feature of this new revision is an essay by the author's psychotherapist (about what he was like as patient discussing his own death). It is an essay which the author will not have seen.
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