Grief (and its Witnesses) Can Be Fickle, Too

Grief, it turns out, is not only a cruel muse.  She’s a fickle one as well.

–Bill Morris, “Grief, the Cruel and Fickle Muse

The essay that this quote is taken from was published in The Millions in 2011. It’s an odd piece, though, in that what author Bill Morris says he’s writing about seems to be at odds with what he’s actually writing about. He points to a budding grief market marked by the publication of several “grief memoirs,” particularly those about writers who have lost a spouse. Soon, however, he’s off reviewing three different lost-spouse works (published in 2011, 2007, and 1989 [???], respectively) as proof that lies by omission will help sink an account of grief, while full disclosure will buoy a work to the heights of literary greatness. After that are the three reviews–in sunk-masterpiece-sunk order–and in reading them, you start wondering if in fact what’s really bothering Morris is that two writers (the sunk ones) made new lives with other partners and neglected to tell their readers. All in all, Morris’s essay is a well-written and readable one, but it leaves me scratching my head. Another case of a writer ending where he should have begun?


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