Death may be unchanging, but the human experience of it isn’t. If every age has its style of dying, its moral-ethical and literary view of it, from the “tame death” to the “beautiful death,” ours is surely the age of the “protracted death” — a slow, medicalized end, portrayed in documentary detail. The author finds himself in the predicament of feeling vividly alive — perhaps more alive than ever — while facing imminent demise. It is a classically ironic state. Because today’s sophisticated medical diagnoses and treatments have led to slower deaths, writers have, as never before, the opportunity to leave behind a considered record of their final détente.