by Maura Spiegel, co-editor of The Grim Reader

All creatures recoil from the threat of death, and all creatures die. Man alone, in addition to his moment of perishing has the lifelong expectation of death to contend with. Only man has mortality. Only man has death on his mind.

Each age has its idea of the good death--where it should occur, who should attend it, how long it should last, and what words should be spoken by and to the dying. The preferred death of the medieval Christian was a slow ceremony, penitentially painful, and semi-public; that of the enlightenment philosopher, a display of equanimity and disinterest. By the middle of our own century, the good death had become more or less instantaneous, sudden if possible, or at least unanticipated by the dying.

  animated euphemisms

We are all eventually going to die. Although mortality is something we all share, rarely does it seem to unite us in any way. Sure, we bond over death at a funeral, or on the battlefield, but it is in the novel that some of our most detailed and thoughtful ideas on death are disseminated. Death fascinates and mystifies; it is dreaded and fiercely fought against, though often it is a relief. The endless vagaries of death are things we as humans must contend with, and over the years they've provided quite a bit of inspiration for writers. In fact, the subject of death has been one of the most fascinating and frequently-covered subjects since the dawn of the written word.

From a heartfelt remembrance of novelist Bernard Malamud, to a George Bernard Shaw letter detailing the cremation of his mother, to a Dutch doctor's experiences navigating the corridors of physician-assisted suicide, this month's issue of Bold Type explores some of the many facets of this universal subject. Ghost stories, poetry, tales of murder, authors confronting their own mortality, we've got it covered.

Don't forget to check the Back of the Book for poetry from Emily Dickinson, Leo Tolstoy on the act of dying, two short stories from textual surrealist Barry Yourgrau, and more.

Next month's theme is travel, and we'll be featuring writers such as Gita Mehta, Barry Unsworth, Jon Krakauer, and more.

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Larry Weissman