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In 'The Violet Hour,' Katie Roiphe looks at five great writers shuffling off this mortal coil

In 'The Violet Hour,' Katie Roiphe looks at five great writers shuffling off this mortal coil

Mortality is hot. Although the act of dying has largely been moved from our homes and daily lives into the sequestered, antiseptic realm of hospitals and hospices, memoirs grappling with impending death have proliferated, bringing mortal knowledge home in a new way.

Two doctors, Oliver Sacks and Paul Kalanithi, recently wrote beautifully and unflinchingly about their struggles with insurmountable cancer, as did Christopher Hitchens. This year, Marion Coutts' "The Iceberg," an intense account of her husband's death from a brain tumor, joined a raft of gorgeous spousal tributes, including Joan Didion's "The Year of Magical Thinking," John Bayley's "Elegy for...

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