Bequest and Betrayal: Memoirs of a Parent's Death

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9780195091304: Bequest and Betrayal: Memoirs of a Parent's Death
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"My mother's death was a shock--an athletic non-smoker, she was diagnosed as having lung cancer days after her sixty-eighth birthday and died a few months later. It was only in the years following her death, when my father became physically and mentally crippled by Parkinson's disease, that I began to think and to write about the end of life." So notes Nancy K. Miller in the opening pages of Bequest and Betrayal, an innovative form of memoir that blends astute literary criticism and gripping autobiographical passages as it illuminates an experience that is both universal and intensely private: the death of a parent.
Bequest and Betrayal is composed like a tapestry, weaving together insightful readings of books like Philip Roth's Patrimony with harrowing autobiographical material about the last years of Miller's own parents. By incorporating her own deeply felt memories into the text, the author gives weight to her examination of the central themes that emerge: the relations between mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and fathers and daughters; the crisis of aging and of bodies in decline; what it means to write about someone else's suffering; how questions of class and religion shape the relationship between parent and child. With great sensitivity, she shows how the adult child--confronted with the loss of parents--comes to terms through autobiographical narrative. To do this, Miller examines a series of autobiographical works in which a parent's death is central to the family plot, including Simone de Beauvoir's A Very Easy Death, Susan Cheever's Home Before Dark, and Art Spiegelman's Maus. Telling the story of a parent's death, Miller demonstrates, is a way of rewriting one's own sense of history, one's present self in relation to childhood.
Whether she is shedding light on the memoirs of other contemporary writers or relating a detail of her father's struggle with Parkinson's disease, Miller captivates us with her fearless, original intelligence. Combining Miller's broad knowledge of literature, her wry sensibility, and engaging prose style, Bequest and Betrayal is a book of outstanding grace and complexity, highly readable and often very moving.

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About the Author:


About the Author:
Nancy K. Miller is Distinguished Professor of English at the City University of New York. She is the author of Getting Personal and Subject to Change.

Review:

"Aspiring memoirists, literature students, and those simply interested in the story of a childless adult dealing with the death of her parents will find something worth thinking about in these pages."--Publishers Weekly

"Bequest and Betrayal is an absorbing examination of memoirs by contemporary writers about their parents' deaths. With her own experimental form--part criticism, part autobiography--Nancy K. Miller reminds us that when we read stories about other people's lives, we see our own lives in new
ways and rewrite our own stories. The ethics of memoir writing, the limits and limitations of parental and filial love and identification, aging, and childlessness are issues that emerge in sharp focus in this hard-biting book."--Alice Kaplan, Duke University

"In Bequest and Betrayal, an esteemed literary scholar speaks to a wider audience, reminding us that at its most basic and most powerful, reading is not just what we do with books, but how we live our lives, trying always to learn from the stories we find ourselves in. At times Miller's
stories--artfully distilled to the perfect, telling detail--brought tears to my eyes. At other moments her daring honesty about family relations made me imagine giving this book to my mother--perhaps, I fantasized, reading Miller, she might finally understand. Nancy K. Miller's latest book
eloquently demonstrates that literary criticism is not just an academic discipline but an art we need in order to live as wisely as we can."--Jane Gallop, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

"Many have grieved over the death of a parent, but few have told the story of these multiple stories with more clarity about their cultural and personal significance. Nancy K. Miller counterpoints lyrical introspection about her own grief with critical insight into contemporary memoirs. In the
process she produces astonishingly poignant revelations about what it means to live with a dying parent, how it feels to survive after a great loss."--Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, co-authors of The Madwoman in the Attic, No Man's Land, and the Norton Anthology of Literature by Women.

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9780253213792: Bequest and Betrayal: Memoirs of a Parent's Death

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ISBN 10:  0253213797 ISBN 13:  9780253213792
Publisher: Indiana University Press, 2000
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