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Field Notes from Elsewhere: Reflections on Dying and Living

Mark C. Taylor

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Paper, 288 pages, 113 illus
ISBN: 978-0-231-14781-1
$20.00 / £14.00

October, 2009
Cloth, 288 pages, 113 illus
ISBN: 978-0-231-14780-4
$26.95 / £18.95

In the fall of 2005, Mark C. Taylor, the controversial public intellectual and widely respected scholar, suddenly fell critically ill. For two days a team of forty doctors, many of whom thought he would not live, fought to save him. Taylor would eventually recover, but only to face a new threat: surgery for cancer. "These experiences have changed me in ways I am still struggling to understand," Taylor writes in this absorbing memoir. "After the past year, I am persuaded that I have done enough fieldwork to write a book that combines philosophical and theological reflection with autobiographical narrative. Writing is not only possible but actually seems necessary."

Field Notes from Elsewhere is Taylor's unforgettable, inverted journey from death to life. Each of his memoir's fifty-two chapters and accompanying photographs recounts a morning-to-evening experience with sickness and convalescence, mingling humor and hope with a deep exploration of human frailty and, conversely, resilience. When we confront the end of life, Taylor explains, the axis of the lived world shifts, and everything must be reevaluated. As Taylor sorts through his remembrances, much that once seemed familiar becomes strange, paradoxical, and contradictory. He reads his experience with and against ghosts from his past, recasting the meaning of mortality, sacrifice, solitude, and abandonment, along with a host of other issues, in light of modern ways of dying. "You never come back from elsewhere," Taylor concludes, "because elsewhere always comes back with you."

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About the Author

Mark C. Taylor is professor of religion and chair of the Department of Religion at Columbia University. He is the author of twenty-five books, most recently After God, Mystic Bones, and Confidence Games: Money and Markets in a World Without Redemption.

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