Review: Dying: A Memoir

The Stella Prize shortlist celebrates the six best fiction and non-fiction books written by Australian women, noted for their excellent, original and engaging prose.

In the six weeks leading up to the winner’s announcement on April 18 Sinéad Fogarty reviews each of these books for Hatch.

This week, Dying: A Memoir by Cory Taylor.

Aside from a Pomeranz and Strattonian scrutiny of script and characters, sound and cuts, how do you know when you’re watching a great film?

First, trifle-sized scoops of buttery popcorn become paltry pinches. Then, the bobble-headed heathens of the front rows fade from view. Finally, the scratchy cherry red seats begin to sour, decomposing from the mind. Unknowingly you have fallen into a cinematic syncope, rapt and wrapped within the director’s world. Each breath and exhale instructed by the film’s ebb and flow. The biggest grossing meditation of all time.

Dying: A Memoir is more an effort of mindfulness. A brief reminder of the fickleness of life, and its oft forgotten frailty. Each page is turned with care, a quiet nod of respect to her experience and the pearls of wisdom beaded throughout.

“Of these fateful forks in the road are our lives made up. We are all just a millimeter away from death, all of the time, if only we knew it.”

Ms Taylor was diagnosed with melanoma-related cancer in 2005 just before her 50th birthday. She wrote this memoir in the weeks leading up to her death in July last year. Living with the disease for a decade has given her a fluency rarely heard in the literature of death; favouring a pragmatic approach over wistfulness and woe.

“For so many of us, death has become the unmentionable thing, a monstrous silence. But this is no help to the dying, who are probably lonelier now than they’ve ever been.”

The first sentence reveals her purchase of a euthanasia drug two years ago. The novel passionately delves into the assisted dying debate, yet rants are spared in exchange for considered commentary of her struggle to make the ultimate decision.

“A sorrowful goodbye, a chance to kiss each beloved face for the last time before sleep descends, pain retreats, dread dissolves, and death is defeated by death itself.”

Dying: A Memoir is an ode to the parents that shape us, the family we create for ourselves, and the lifetime of perfect accidents that are out of our hands. Best sipped with a rainy afternoon of reflection.

“I haven’t died before, so sometimes I get a bad case of beginner’s nerves, but they soon pass.” – Sinéad Fogarty

Dying: A Memoir
By Cory Taylor
Published by Text Publishing, 147pp. RRP $25

About Sinead Fogarty 18 Articles
Sinéad Fogarty is a Sydney-based writer and video journalist, interested in unearthing stories full of quirk and character. You'll often find her with her head in a book, or with ice speed skates on her feet.