I am convinced that a thousand years from now, once human civilization has recovered from its impending doom, some future citizen of the world will discover this tome, marvel at its heft and gilded pages, show it to their peers, and declare that they have found one of the more significant finds in literary archaeology. This book is an anthology chronicling the first twenty-one years of the seminal humor website, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and it is no exaggeration when I say that reading this book is an enterprise in hilarity and a balm for our troubled times.
For those trying to make sense of the death of a loved one, they will find in Rilke’s letter of condolences a balm for pain and suffering of loss. We already know through his poetry that Rilke has both special connection to the spiritual essence of the world and the unparalleled ability to string the most beautiful and profound sentences out of this connection. In these letters, he shows a different side of his twin talents as he consoles and uplifts the acquaintances, friends, and family members who have sought him for comfort in the aftermath of loss.
“I have not a desire but a need for solitude,” one entry of Barthes' Mourning Diary reads. That interiority, the desire to be alone, runs through the rest of this singular work of Barthes. In this very intimate work, we see how Barthes suffered through the period of his life that followed his mother’s death. Mourning Diary does not necessarily provide answers about the mysteries of death and grief. What it does provide is a companion to those who are grieving the death of a loved one and is a portrait of a man suffering covered in the shroud of a loved one’s death.