Swimming in a Sea of Death: A Son's Memoir and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more
Buy Used
$3.99
FREE Shipping on orders over $35.
Condition: Used: Like New
Comment: Used, but looks brand new. Only very slight signs of use. Cover and binding are undamaged, and pages are crisp and unmarked. Unbeatable customer service, and we usually ship the same or next day. Over one million satisfied customers!
Add to Cart
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See this image

Swimming in a Sea of Death: A Son's Memoir Hardcover – Deckle Edge, January 8, 2008


See all 7 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price New from Used from
Kindle
"Please retry"
Hardcover, Deckle Edge
"Please retry"
$2.00 $0.01
--This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.
NO_CONTENT_IN_FEATURE

Hero Quick Promo
Browse in Books with Buzz and explore more details on the current pick, "The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee" by Marja Mills.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 180 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1 edition (January 8, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743299469
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743299466
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 6.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,016,436 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

At age 70, Susan Sontag was diagnosed with a virulent form of blood cancer, her third bout with cancer over the course of 30 years and one she would not win. Her son, journalist Rieff (At the Point of a Gun), accompanied her through her final illness and death, and offers an extraordinarily open, moving account of the trial and journey. Sontag's avidity for life had prompted her to beat the advanced breast cancer that devastated her in 1975; she now resolved to fight the statistical odds of dying from myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), despite the pessimistic prognosis from doctors. Rieff, who admits he was not close to his mother over the preceding decade, is silenced by Sontag's refusal to reconcile herself to dying and unable to console her. Both mother and son are by turns angered by doctors' infantilizing treatment of terminally ill patients and by their squelching of hope. Anxious, chronically unhappy and obsessed with gathering information about her disease, Sontag was unable to be alone, and Rieff becomes one in a circle of devotees who rotate staying with her at her New York City apartment. A doctor is found who does not believe her case is hopeless, and in Seattle she undergoes a bone-marrow transplant. In this sea of death, Sontag took her son with her—conflicted, wracked, but wrenchingly candid, Rieff attempts to swim out. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

"Susan Sontag was fiercely, exuberantly alive, and uncompromising in her life no less than her work. David Rieff's fine, tender, and unflinching portrait of her final illness brings home her absolute determination to survive to the last -- to survive against the odds and live creatively despite a devastating disease and an unproven cancer treatment. At once a report from the frontlines of experimental oncology and a moving, absorbing personal account of his mother's last illness, Swimming in a Sea of Death is a courageous and darkly beautiful book." -- Oliver Sacks --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Discover books, learn about writers, read author blogs, and more.

Customer Reviews

In addition, the narrative portrays Rieff's experiences in detail but with little insight.
C. Hartmann
This short and well written, sometimes eloquent, memoir is an extended reflection on the death of Rieff's mother, the great critic Susan Sontag.
R. Albin
Since the book is essentially about the author's thoughts(we hear almost nothing from his mother),we feel more sympathy for him.
Mitchell E. Davis

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By R S Cobblestone VINE VOICE on January 20, 2008
Format: Hardcover
How does a son respond when told that his mother is dying? Is there a difference when this is not the first time? What does it mean to the soul when the cure itself kills?

American writer Susan Sontag died in 2004 of a form of cancer brought on by her earlier aggressive treatments for advanced breast cancer. She was told of her fatal condition as she was accompanied by her son, David Rieff. Nine months later she was dead.

Is there any difference between fighting for life and fighting against death? In Sontag's case, it seems that her goal was to survive and to live life to the fullest. She was a believer in a "take no prisoners" approach to her cancer treatments... a serious disease required an equally serious treatment, and a dedication to this treatment. For her, according to Rieff, death was not an option.

"But with the greatest respect [for her oncologists], the brute fact of mortality means that there are limits on how much better we can realistically expect to do" (p. 166).

This is a book of two viewpoints: what Rieff as a son saw of his mother and himself as the MDS progressed, and how Sontag approached life and death during this period.

Both were brave, and reflective.

"During the months I watched my mother die, I was increasingly at a loss as to how I could behave toward her in ways that actually would be helpful. Mostly, I felt at sea" (p. 103).

"She told me at one point that she was tormented by the amount of time she had wasted during her life on what she called her 'Girl Scout-ish' obsession with doing 'worthy' things" (p. 106).
Read more ›
1 Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Grady Harp HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 27, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Memoirs written after the death of a loved one can either be elegies radiant with poetic inspiration or they can be self-serving eulogies. David Rieff, a thoughtful and intelligent writer, happens to be the son of Susan Sontag, one of America's most brilliant authors and essayists, a woman of great courage with the gift of exploring concepts of our society that she found in need of our attention while at the same time a being novelist able to spin meaningful tales about the indomitable human spirit. SWIMMING IN A SEA OF DEATH: A SON'S MEMOIR is far more than a rehash of an artist's life and exit from life: this book is a work of sensitive evaluation of not only a great woman but also of the myriad aspects of our healthcare system, both good and bad, and the delicate yet coarsely bumpy path that begins with the diagnosis of a terminal disease and ends with the sigh that completes mortality. From this book we learn not only the trials of Susan Sontag's battle with three attacks of cancer (breast cancer in 1975 with radical surgery and chemotherapy, uterine sarcoma in 1998, and Myelodysplastic Syndrome in 2004), but we also learn about the relationship of a son and mother and the challenges to each in coping with threatening diseases and ultimately death.

What makes this 'memoir' so different is the frank honesty of the author David Rieff. He reflects on the avid love for living that ruled Sontag's life, her refusal to give in when she felt that fighting the odds was better than the alternative of doing nothing.
Read more ›
6 Comments Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
35 of 44 people found the following review helpful By N. King on April 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This book is one of the most depressing and pessimistic books I have ever had the misfortune to read. Fortunately, I borrowed it from the library - having finished it, I wouldn't have it in my house.

This is not to say that, purely from the perspective of language and construction, it is not largely well-written, although the numerous rather self-conscious attributions to largely obscure personalities (intellectuals all, no doubt) interrupt the flow at times. Rather, it is the lack of insight into character - Rieff's and his mother's - that leaves me cold.

I have to emphasize that I am not a disciple of Susan Sontag - I think that is the appropriate word. In general, I tend to distrust people who claim, by dint of superior intelligence, education, or reasoning power, to have some special avenue to "the truth", particularly when they broadcast it as widely as she did. All she really provided was (usually) well-reasoned opinion.

I prefer evidence of wisdom. And I do not believe that she was wise.

She loved life? Well - in truth - most of us do. No. She was PASSIONATE about life. Well - many of us are, though we may express that passion differently than she did. We all fear death? Well - no, we don't. Not in the way she did. I don't accept that her overwhelming fear of death - and apparently her son's, for that matter - sprang solely from her putative passion for life.

The living always fail the dying? Well - no, they don't. Sometimes, the dying fail the living.

Where is the personal responsibility in all this rending of cloth?

Rieff maintains that to have told his mother that she was terminally ill would have sent her spiraling into an abyss of despair and madness. But where has she sent him?
Read more ›
2 Comments Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again

Customer Images

Most Recent Customer Reviews

Search

What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?