Pagination November Book Club - THE UNDYING by ANNE BOYER
An intellectually exhilarating memoir-meets-examination of cancer (both illness and industry) in the age of data, from an award-winning poet and essayist
A week after her forty-first birthday, Anne Boyer was diagnosed with highly aggressive triple-negative breast cancer. For a single mother living payslip to payslip who had always been the caregiver rather than the one needing care, the catastrophic condition was both a crisis and an initiation into new ideas about mortality and the gendered politics of illness.
A twenty-first-century Illness as Metaphor, as well as a harrowing memoir of survival, The Undying explores the experience of illness as mediated by digital screens, weaving in ancient Roman dream diarists, cancer hoaxers and fetishists, cancer vloggers, corporate lies, John Donne, pro-pain 'dolorists', the ecological costs of chemotherapy, and the many little murders of capitalism. It excoriates the pharmaceutical industry and the bland hypocrisies of 'pink ribbon culture' while also diving into the long literary line of women writing about their own illnesses and ongoing deaths: Audre Lorde, Kathy Acker, Susan Sontag, and others.
Genre-bending, angry, profoundly humane and deeply affecting, The Undying is an unmissably original book of heart, intellect and fierce insight into the sicknesses and, occasionally, the perverse glories of our contemporary world.