June 11, 2003

Day of Dying

Twelve Years, Nine Months, and Seven Days by Barbara Dockery --
A Brief Review by Fred First

This is another 'prize winner' among student essays. It hits hard. You may have a day in your life that could be set out in a chronology in this manner. Do you think the writing out of this day lead to any 'laying to rest', any resolution for the author?

The most immediate impression of this tale is that it is taking place in real, moment by moment time at a particular day in the life struggles of one man dying and those he is leaving behind. The narrative is from the bewildered point of view of a twelve year old confronting adult matters as grave as death, yet told through memory of an adult and in adult sentences and the introspection of a grown-up looking back at their childhood selves.

The author interweaves the mundane details of that day in time with the profundities of anticipated loss. Ordinary items are seen through this lens of after-death altered reality, and hence they take on added significance-- the oval placemat, for instance. The ordinary becomes a pale solace, routine a thin vapor of consolation.

The father briefly appears in real time, going about ordinary life in a slice of the past, then returns in the story to his deathbed. Both father and family try to be for each other what they know is needed in this time. Both fail. Both 'are strong, yet weak'. Both father and narrating daughter-child are in transition-- he from life to death, she from child to adult.

The thread of time and its impact on the author, the life lessons learned compressed by emotional weight into a fixed circle of the clock, is a literary tool the essayist wields with great skill, creating an intensity that builds in this chronology that ends in death, while life ticks on.

Posted by fred1st at June 11, 2003 06:05 AM | TrackBack

Wonderful piece.

Posted by: Cacique at June 11, 2003 03:44 PM

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