David Rieff, who wrote about mother Susan Sontag’s life and death for us last year, explains why he had to lie to his mother about her impending death in The Observer:
[S]he could not keep up this determination to fight for her life against all odds on her own. That was where the people closest to her came in, where, without immodesty, for it was a position I found it almost unbearable to be in, I came in. In order for her to believe that she would be cured, my mother needed to believe that her loved ones were convinced of this as well. Virtually from the onset of her illness, what I felt she wanted from me - she never said this explicitly but the message was clear enough - was to find hopeful things to say about her prospects. She wanted optimistic or, at least, less pessimistic ways of construing even bad news, and - a kind of moral cheerleading, I suppose, and support for her hope, belief, call it what you will - that despite her advanced age and the spectacularly difficult cytogenetics of her specific case that she would be special, as she often put it, one more time and beat the odds.
Rieff wrote more about this in “Swimming in a Sea of Death: A Son’s Memoir,” published earlier this year.
Cartoonist and illustrator Charles Burns has a new book coming out, “Permagel.” The 12”x16”, black and white book is just 32 pages long, put out by French publisher United Dead Artists. (Here are another half dozen spreads.) Burns contributed his paired photographs to our Winter 2007 issue, demonstrating that he is a man of many talents.