The Violet Hour: Great Writers at the End
The last days of five great thinkers, writers and artists - as they come to terms with the reality of approaching death Katie Roiphe's extraordinary book is filled with intimate and surprising revelations. Susan Sontag, consummate public intellectual, finds her rational thinking tested during her third bout with cancer. Seventy-six year old John Updike's response to a fatal diagnosis is to begin a poem. Dylan Thomas's fatal collapse on the floor of a Greenwich Village tavern is preceded by a fortnight of almost suicidal excess. Sigmund Freud understands his hastening decline. Maurice Sendak shows his lifelong obsession with death in his beloved books. The Violet Hour - urgent and unsentimental - helps us to be less afraid in the face of death.
In this elegant and beautifully written set of elegies, Katie Roiphe looks death squarely in the face, describing how people evanesce, how others lose them, how they lose themselves, how writing is a means to negotiate for immortality. This courageous, generous, intimate book is suffused with affection, and therefore provides comfort even when its topic is the loneliness that inheres in finality -- Andrew Solomon, author of Far from the Tree [A] beautiful and haunting work. Never overly sentimental, this is a poignant and elegant inquiry into mortality Kirkus Elegant ... courageous, generous, intimate -- Andrew Solomon author of Far from the Tree The Violet Hour is a revelation, at least to me. Her case studies-of Susan Sontag, Sigmund Freud, Dylan Thomas, John Updike, and Maurice Sendak - focus on the last months of life, using each writer's final struggle as a key to his or her character. This is the best book Roiphe has written. She shows that our interest in dying is not just an interest in endings, or in final things, or in posterity. Instead, it has to do with how we get along, how families and friendship work, in short, how we live -- Lorin Stein Paris Review Moving and insightful Washington Post Her technique is never anything less than insightful ... on every page, she turns up something interesting, lets in some astonishing shaft of light. Her writing is elegant, cool, unforgettable -- Rachel Cooke Observer Engrossing ... Such an immersive book is testament to her remarkable literary skills. This is an immensely sympathetic and satisfying read -- Andrew Holgate Sunday Times These elegant, moving elegies are full of riveting insight and poignant detail Simple Things The controlled and steady tone of all these portraits holds the book together, and makes it more than the sum of its parts: a contemporary, uncomfortably familiar study of death in the modern age Evening Standard Roiphe is an acute reader and listener with antennae tuned to pick up every nuance, and to penetrate the meaning behind meaning -- Craig Brown Daily Mail Roiphe sheds fascinating light on the mystery of the end of life and her book offers a comfort of sorts Financial Times Each essay reads like an intelligently speculative biography with the boring bits left out Daily Telegraph The Violet Hour is an unflinching but meditative look at a topic that may be the last real taboo and I found it challenging, moving and even hopeful Red
Katie Roiphe is an important voice in non-fiction. Her articles have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Esquire, Harper's and The New Yorker. She has also written widely for the UK press.