How We Die, How We Live

Richard Goldstein in The Nation complains that Joan Didion's celebrated The Year of Magical Thinking and Philip Roth's latest novel, Everyman tell us "that death is an insular experience that transcends social circumstance. This ultimately conservative message is part of the same process that has put self-obsession front and center in American politics." We middle and upper-middle class Americans have a "hermetic approach to dying." He adds that during the 1980s AIDS crisis in the U.S. "each casualty was situated in a suffering community." As it is in Africa now.

Agreed? And how does this view -- very much from the cultural left -- agree or disagree with Catholic understandings of death?

John T. McGreevy is the I.A. O'Shaughnessy Dean of the College of Arts and Letters and Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame.

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