How to Survive Death and Other Inconveniences

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 31 Mar 2020

Member Reviews

This collection of thematically linked essays centres around Sue William Silverman's fear of death. Death is the ultimate unknown and Silverman has had good reason to fear the unknown throughout her life. 

How to Survive Death and Other Inconveniences does not shy away from the complexities of dealing with trauma in all its forms, particularly the trauma associated with sexual assault. 

Silverman's writing is poetic and full of more humour than you might expect given the subject matter. But if there is one thing you should know about Silverman, apart from the fact that she is a survivor, it is that she isn't afraid of experimental writing. And she is bloody good at it.
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Sue William Silverman has seen, endured, and survived some intense trauma. She has died multiple times in her life and has come back as a phoenix rising from the ashes. In this harrowing memoir, Silverman shares her deaths and resurrections in a poetic and artful way that almost off-sets the horrific nature of the stories.

While I admire Silverman's strength and prose, it was just not constructed in a way that resonated with me. The stories and certain chapters were beautifully written and kept me incredibly engaged, but the transitions and the tough formatting made it hard for me to stay wrapped up in the story. I felt like I was going every direction and found myself reading about one thing that felt seemingly not connected to the previous. 

On the other hand, maybe that's a beautiful way to describe trauma and the life after.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read an ARC of this story.
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I loved the synopsis of this book. Since losing someone very close to me, I have been fascinated with death and learning/understanding more about it. 

However, I really struggled with this one. Straight away I just could not connect with the book. I had to DNF I’m afraid and I very rarely do this.
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Sue William Silverman has earned a reputation for biting wit, potent language and imagery, and radical transparency. Her latest book, "How to Survive Death and Other Inconveniences," provides a series of memoir essays that take us to the edge of pain and despondency, yet offer hope through recovering the shattered shards of her life and struggling to insert them into a narrative of survival.  Silverman draws on the powers of archaic words, black humor, and powerful biographic images to confront and challenge echoes of mortality throughout her life cycle. She exposes us to her father’s sexual violations, the knife-thin stranger who assaults her at the Jersey shore, an ecstatic experience of Adam Lambert, and multiple encounters with violation, illness, and death.  The journey ends with her declaration:  “So this is my confession, my testament, because if I have to go, I’m not going quietly.”
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Probably the most surprising thing about Sue William Silverman’s new book is how funny it is.  After all, it’s a book about death.  About the inconvenience of death, and how to survive it.  Since many of these memoir-essays stress the importance of art and language to transcend our mortality, it should be no surprise that the prose here is luscious.  Her diction ranges from faux-noir gun moll swagger to fan-girl concert swoon.  Like her previous memoir, "The Pat Boone Fan Club: My Life as a White Anglo-Saxon Jew," Silverman pushes the boundaries of creative nonfiction.  She is a fearless literary stylist – which makes sense if you’re relying upon words to save your life.  In addition to the humor and experimentation, this is a book of the #MeToo moment.  Some of the most powerful scenes in the book have to do with violence against women – the writer herself, a murdered aunt, a high school girlfriend gunned down in her drug-dealing boyfriend’s apartment.  What sets Silverman apart from other memoirists is her willingness to laugh until she cries, and then cry until she laughs.  In the end, if you have to go, then you should, like Silverman, do it in style.  Except, she’s not planning on going.
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I wanted to love this because being someone terrified of death myself, the synopsis intrigued me. Unfortunately I had to DNF it shortly into the book due to the awkward setup. The lack of chapters makes it near impossible to follow along. I'd love to give it another chance in the future.
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