Cory Taylor wrote this remarkable book in the space of a few weeks before her death from melanoma-related cancer in July 2016. In a tremendous creative surge, as her body weakened, she described the experience of knowing she would soon die.
Her powerful and beautifully written book is a clear-eyed account of the tangle of her feelings, her reflections on her life, her memories of the lives and deaths of her parents. She tells us why it was important to her to have the ability to choose the circumstances of her death.
Dying: A Memoir is a breathtaking book about vulnerability and strength, courage and humility, anger and acceptance. It is a deeply affecting meditation on dying, but it is also a funny and wise tribute to life.
Cory Taylor was born in Queensland in 1955. She was an award-winning novelist and screenwriter who also published short fiction and children’s books. Her first novel, Me and Mr Booker, won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize (Pacific Region) in 2012 and her second novel, My Beautiful Enemy, was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award in 2014. She died on 5 July 2016, a couple of months after Dying: A Memoir was published.
Brisbane writer Cory Taylor’s Dying: A Memoir, written in her final weeks of life, is a slim but remarkable book. Taylor’s tone is conversational, but her questions and insights are profound. In this most lonely of situations, what possible comfort can we get from others? Why are doctors, who have the task of keeping people alive, so ill-equipped to help us through death? When we’ve witnessed bad deaths, how do we prepare ourselves to die well? Armed with reserves of anger, good humour and curiosity, Taylor doesn’t offer easy answers or sentimental stories. What she does offer the reader is a sense of solidarity. This is a rare book about dying that could be given to someone who is seriously ill, confident in its capacity to provide solace and comfort in shared recognition. It is also a book about the gift of writing and reading. In Dying: A Memoir, Taylor has made the concept of dying bearable, and given us something life-affirming.
‘What is the best that we can realistically hope for, at the end? If you subscribe to an organised religion, you might focus on living virtuously in the hope of a posthumous reward. The rest of us need to know how to go about dying with some dignity and grace, amid the grubby imperfection of the real world. The Australian writer Cory Taylor managed it, and she has left us her wisdom and experience in this book, which is part memoir, part critical examination of western society’s dysfunctional relationship with mortality.’ Alice O’Keefe, Guardian Australia
‘It takes courage to contemplate one’s death and extraordinary clarity and generosity to write about it like this. Dying: A memoir is a gift to us all, a book that is not afraid to navigate darkness and that sees us through to the end, to the “edge of words … to the place where they falter and strain in the face of dying’s terrifying finality”.’ Rachel Robertson, Australian Book Review
‘“Things live until they die,” she writes in this slim, intellectual memoir that serves as a reminder, amid the omnishambles of today’s world, that life is transient and death final. Her message is clear: Count. Your. Blessings.’ Jackie Annesley, The Times