The Last Word
Reviving the Dying Art of Eulogy
A lively examination of why the modern eulogy should rest in peace.
Finding the right words to reckon with a loved one’s death is no easy task, and the pressure to grieve in a timely fashion only makes the difficulty of saying a meaningful goodbye that much harder. We are continually instructed to contain our grief to a limited period, to promptly ‘get over it’ and return to business as usual – is it any wonder that, when the moment for speaking directly to death arrives, we so often grasp at clichés in order to avoid examining our sorrow?
In turning a critical eye toward the act of eulogy, Julia Cooper manages to perceptively, even playfully, create a new space for the bleak act of mourning. Examining fictional eulogies in The Big Lebowski and Love Actually alongside teary speeches at celebrity funerals and reflections on mourning from Roland Barthes and Jacques Derrida, The Last Word is a light in the dark. Braiding her delightful, lively cultural analysis with her own personal experiences of loss, Cooper makes a stunning and compelling case for a more compassionate approach to grief.
‘I lost myself in [The Last Word] … I am grateful that Cooper is pushing against the eulogy as we hear it, a kind of speech that we fear to admit has degraded to positive-thinking cliché. Critique is a sort of compassion.’
– New Yorker
‘[Cooper's] slim book transcends the eulogy; it is, itself, a eulogy for grief in a moment when grieving has become commodified & truncated …’
– Washington Post