It’s not long before the subject of death comes around again. Again! Well I guess death is a constant if one thinks of life and death flowing together, moment to moment. Anyway my good walking companion told me about an interview, presumably Radio 4, with John Humphreys talking about a recently published book contemplating death. He is well known on the Today programme, a week-day bonanza of debate and news, and not without it’s heated moments.
JH always says it like it is, how he sees it anyway. Now on death he is his own self on this one too. (I blush to think what he would make of my writing ‘style’. He’s red hot on the English language, and how it’s currently being abused.)
Here is a slice of the Telegraph review of the book:
Humphrys’s narrative is compelling. He is determined to tell it like it is: “My father’s last years cast a shadow over what had been a good life and those of us who knew and loved him feel a mixture of resentment and guilt to this day.” There is none of the self-indulgence of Julian Barnes’s Nothing to Be Frightened of, or even Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, because Humphrys is more interested in others than in himself.
He writes about how his own thinking has evolved as a result of these experiences, for example on the advantages of a sudden death over prolonged illness. “It might be perfect for the person who does not wake up in the morning, but it is a savage blow to the loved one left behind,” he says. And he is pleasingly ruthless on the absurdities of a system where “it is possible that [a doctor] may kill a patient, but if you have done so in the process of trying to relieve suffering you cannot be held to account”. The worry for the doctor, he points out, is that relatives will not believe this to be the case.