The Undying (Hardcover)
Pain, vulnerability, mortality, medicine, art, time, dreams, data, exhaustion, cancer, and care
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 9780374279349, 320pp.
Publication Date: September 17, 2019
"The Undying is a startling, urgent intervention in our discourses about sickness and health, art and science, language and literature, and mortality and death. In dissecting what she terms 'the ideological regime of cancer,' Anne Boyer has produced a profound and unforgettable document on the experience of life itself." —Sally Rooney, author of Normal People
A week after her forty-first birthday, the acclaimed poet Anne Boyer was diagnosed with highly aggressive triple-negative breast cancer. For a single mother living paycheck to paycheck who had always been the caregiver rather than the one needing care, the catastrophic illness 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.
A genre-bending memoir in the tradition of The Argonauts, The Undying will break your heart, make you angry enough to spit, and show you contemporary America as a thing both desperately ill and occasionally, perversely glorious.
Includes black-and-white illustrations
About the Author
Praise For The Undying: Pain, vulnerability, mortality, medicine, art, time, dreams, data, exhaustion, cancer, and care…
Praise for The Undying
"Anne Boyer’s radically unsentimental account of cancer and the 'carcinogenosphere' obliterates cliche. By demonstrating how her utterly specific experience is also irreducibly social, she opens up new spaces for thinking and feeling together. The Undying is an outraged, beautiful, and brilliant work of embodied critique." —Ben Lerner, author of The Topeka School
"Boyer returns with a beautiful memoir about her battle with breast cancer . . . [The Undying] puts into sharp focus the economic toll cancer takes on women of limited means . . . and is stacked with revelatory observations . . . Boyer’s gorgeous language elevates this artful, piercing narrative well above the average medical memoir." —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"This elegant and eviscerating memoir . . . cuts like a righteous blade through the familiar bland heroics of the breast cancer 'industry' . . . Call it a battle cry, call it a fury-fueled elegy, call it the work of a woman who will not be denied. In every way, The Undying should not be missed." —Colleen Mondor, Booklist (starred review)
"[The Undying is] a passionate and eloquent memoir about one woman's battle with breast cancer . . . [Boyer] takes us on a deeply personal journey into 'my body in pain,' 'eviscerating sadness,' and profound loss . . . Told with brutal clarity, this is a haunting testimony about death that is filled with life." —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"The Undying is the pink ribbon's undoing, a methodical and exquisite refusal of the contemporary moral and medical narratives pinned to the sick. Boyer explores near death and not-dying with a transfixing lust for life, drawing upon the cancer writings of Sontag, Lorde and Acker, as well as the accounts of YouTube vloggers, to construct this astonishingly generous work about her illness and the world's. It's a very important book." —Johanna Fateman
"A classic—a book that expands in all directions to fill an empty space in the literature of illness. I have long thought of Boyer as a genius against genius, speaking from the sea of people in a voice that cannot help but be heard above the others, it is so clear and strong. And The Undying is a book that is beautifully against: against cancer, against easy metaphors, above all against 'the pink ribbon on the for-sale sign on the mansion.'" —Patricia Lockwood, author of Priestdaddy
"This is a powerful, timely, and troubling book. Boyer's unflinching account of the market-driven brutality of American cancer care sits beside some of the most perceptive and beautiful writing about illness and pain that I have ever read." —Hari Kunzru, author of White Tears
"Anne Boyer is an essential voice, and this is an essential book: one body's urgent attempt at finding a language to tell us what it knows." —Jonathan Lethem, author of The Fortress of Solitude