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What is Death’s Configuration?

I’m in the middle of reviewing Mary Caponegro’s new collection All Fall Down. I highly recommend this book, any of her books, for that matter. Anyway, in one story, “Ashes Ashes We All Fall Down,” Carter, a man driven to momentary madness because of the pressure of taking care of both his terminally-ill mother and his almost full-term pregnant wife , asks:

And at what point does death yield grief? When, exactly when, does grief commence in earnest? And what is its configuration: mountain, ocean, column, vector, black hole? A revolutionary universe with its own laws, its own specific gravity? A world without end, Amen?

Death is something we rarely talk about in “polite” conversation. So today, after encountering this passage again (and also, I suspect, because Claude Lévi Strauss’s death is on my mind), I thought I’d open up a dialogue about death and dying. What, to use a word from Caponegro, is death’s “configuration” for you?

  • John Madera is the author of Nervosities (Anti-Oedipus Press, 2024). His other fiction is published in Conjunctions, Salt Hill, The &Now Awards 2: The Best Innovative Writing, and many other journals. His nonfiction is published in American Book Review, Bookforum, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Rain Taxi: Review of Books, The Believer, The Brooklyn Rail, and many other venues. Recipient of an M.F.A. in Literary Arts from Brown University, New York State Council on the Arts awardee John Madera lives in New York City, Rhizomatic and manages and edits Big Other.

3 thoughts on “What is Death’s Configuration?

    1. Hi David,

      It’s a great book. From the opening story about a couple whose marriage is falling apart to the last where you get to peep into the dusty mind of a scholar, Caponegro’s lyricism delights and pleasurably overwhelms.

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