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The Black Mirror: Looking at Life through…
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The Black Mirror: Looking at Life through Death (2015)

by Raymond Tallis

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Curious might be the best term to describe Raymond Tallis’ unique third-person biography of RT, who bears a strikingly resemblance to Raymond Tallis. Curious both in its interests and its execution. Its interests being the varieties of ways and means in which RT has interacted with the world around him. The ‘world’ includes other people but they, like stones, are largely opaque to RT and only the passionate encounter of Mrs RT reaches over that horizon of unknowability (or at least possibly). Curious also in its execution in that Tallis maintains this apparently disinterested interest in himself at length. It is a style that is oddly captivating at first, then a bit tiresome, then somewhat excruciating, and eventually oddly captivating again.

Why write such a book? We can ignore the bookseller labelling of this as philosophy. No practising philosopher would acknowledge it as such. It bears greater affinity to the elegy or perhaps a tone-poem. It is characterized, inordinately, by lists of things. Indeed, any sentence with less than 10 commas separating nouns or noun phrases is positively terse. I couldn’t help but wonder what it was like to write such a work. After all it is surprisingly lengthy. It isn’t particularly driven by any narrative. And its organizing superstructure is less than convincing, as though perhaps a publisher insisted on chapter headings to make it more palatable to the general reader. But what would it be like to sit down day after day and write in this manner? Even someone with Tallis’ prolixity might find it boring, wouldn’t he? Not that Tallis is unaware of the challenges his writing poses. There is a useful coda in which he brings himself to task for his failures. Though given that it is written in precisely the same manner, it rather seems as though he may not be fully serious about his self chastisement.

And so I’m left without much of anything to say about this. I suppose, as Tallis hopes, there might be someone who will find this inspirational. I’m just not sure that I’d want to meet that person at a dinner party. For my own part, I found it tedious despite fleeting moments of near wit.

And so, not recommended. ( )
  RandyMetcalfe | Jul 24, 2017 |
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Epigraph
Lucem demonstrat umbra
Mutato nomine et de te fabula narratur

Horace
The darkness shows forth the light
Change only the name and this story is about you

Horace
Dedication
To Julian Spalding - in friendship, gratitude and admiration
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Book description
"Inspired by E. M. Forster's thought that 'Death destroys a man but the idea of it saves him', The Black Mirror takes death as an external viewpoint from which we may see our lives more clearly. Raymond Tallis looks back on his world from the standpoint of his future corpse. He reflects on the senses that opened up his late world, the elements they reveal, the distances, divisions and intimacies of space, the multifarious activities that occupied his days, his possessions, his utterances, his relationship to others, the extinguished flame that was his self, his journey towards the end, and his after-life either side of the grave." [Amazon.co.uk]
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0300217005, Hardcover)

In this beautifully written personal meditation on life and living, Raymond Tallis reflects on the fundamental fact of existence: that it is finite. Inspired by E. M. Forster’s thought that “Death destroys a man but the idea of it saves him,” Tallis invites readers to look back on their lives from a unique standpoint: one’s own future corpse. From this perspective, he shows, the world now vacated can be seen most clearly in all its richness and complexity.
 
Tallis blends lyrical reflection, humor, and the occasional philosophical argument as he explores his own postmortem recollections. He considers the biological processes and the senses that opened up his late world and the million-nooked space in which he passed his life. His inert, dispossessed body highlights his ceaseless activity in life, the mind-boggling inventory of his possessions, and the togetherness and apartness that characterized his relationships in the material and social worlds. Tallis also touches on the idea of a posthumous life in the memories of those who outlive him. Readers who accompany Tallis as he considers his life through death will appreciate with new intensity the precariousness and preciousness of life, for here he succeeds in his endeavor to make “the shining hour” shine more brightly.
 

(retrieved from Amazon Sun, 30 Aug 2015 19:58:22 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

In this beautifully written personal meditation on life and living, Raymond Tallis reflects on the fundamental fact of existence: that it is finite. Inspired by E. M. Forster's thought that "Death destroys a man but the idea of it saves him," Tallis invites readers to look back on their lives from a unique standpoint: one's own future corpse. From this perspective, he shows, the world now vacated can be seen most clearly in all its richness and complexity. Tallis blends lyrical reflection, humor, and the occasional philosophical argument as he explores his own postmortem recollections. He considers the biological processes and the senses that opened up his late world and the million-nooked space in which he passed his life. His inert, dispossessed body highlights his ceaseless activity in life, the mind-boggling inventory of his possessions, and the togetherness and apartness that characterized his relationships in the material and social worlds. Tallis also touches on the idea of a posthumous life in the memories of those who outlive him. Readers who accompany Tallis as he considers his life through death will appreciate with new intensity the precariousness and preciousness of life, for here he succeeds in his endeavor to make "the shining hour" shine more brightly.… (more)

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