Requiem for the Living
Autobiography and Memoir
After nine years of keeping his prostate cancer at bay, the drugs were no longer working. The doctors told him his time was nearly up. Jeff Metcalf used this diagnosis as motivation to dive deeper into writing, tasking himself to write one essay each week for a year. His collection of fifty-two essays was chosen by the Utah Division of Arts and Museums as the winner of their 2012 Original Writing Competition. Requiem for the Living contains the best of these essays, selected and reworked by the author, who continues to defy his medical prognosis.
The essays form a memoir of sorts, recounting good times and critical moments from Metcalf’s life. Often funny, sometimes moving, profoundly personal, they draw from Metcalf’s rich experience. He does not describe a life defined by cancer but writes to discover what his life has been, who he has become, and what he has learned along the way. Ron Carlson, author of A Kind of Flying, says, “This is a truly unusual book! What Jeff Metcalf has accomplished in his collection of essays is to write an intimate and frank book about a life well lived. It is a dear and personal book that increases the supply of affection in the world and adds mightily to our shared kindness. Requiem for the Living is a memoir with a unique wavelength—it should be on everyone’s night stand.”
Jeff Metcalf is a professor of English at the University of Utah and has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the Outstanding Faculty Award, the National Council Teachers of English Outstanding Teacher Award, and a Writers at Work Lifetime Achievement Award. His fiction and essays have appeared in local and national magazines. His plays have been widely staged.
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Praise and Reviews:
“I like this book first for what it is, a cleanly written and fascinating story of a life spent paying close attention to the miracles, and muddledness. But I also like it very much for what it isn’t and could so easily have been—a work of self-pity, a litany of ills and blaming.”
—Brian Doyle, editor of Portland Magazine and author of Two Voices.
“Perhaps Jeff Metcalf cured himself by what he wrote. When I read the stories I think this might be possible. They are lovely, beautifully written, like a composer writing his own requiem.”
—Scott Carrier, Peabody Award-winning radio producer and author of Running after Antelope and Prisoner of Zion: Muslims, Mormons, and Other Misadventures
“The best memoirs allow us to acknowledge our own truths, as well as to remind us that most truths, like most lives, are not simple but complex constructions of experience, memory, and hope. Metcalf’s memoir is one of those books that readers will read straight through only to come back, again and again, looking for what is true.”
“The memoir is a thoughtful rendering of life events. [Metcalf] blends together the happy and the hopeless with whim and vigor.”
“This is truly an unusual book! What Jeff Metcalf has accomplished in his collection of essays is to write an intimate and frank book about a life well lived. It is a dear and personal book that increases the supply of affection in the world and adds mightily to our shared kindness. Incisive, personal, and brave, this is a book that will prove bracing company for years to come. Requiem for the Living is a memoir with a unique wavelength—mine and it should be on everyone’s night stand.”
—Ron Carlson, author of: Return to Oakpine, Five Skies, The Signal, The Hotel Eden, and A Kind of Flying
“Requiem for the Living does what writing, from the ancient to the modern, ought to inspire to do. It demonstrates how one might lead a good life with the recognition that it can all turn bad in a moment and that gratitude and bravery are both renewable resources from which one should never fail to liberally draw. It says to the reader, 'Enjoy me but then put me down. Go outside. The world is waiting but it won’t wait forever.'”
Utah Division of Arts and Museums 2012 Original Writing Competition