The Undying

Anne Boyer

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Award-winning poet and essayist Anne Boyer delivers a one-of-a-kind meditation on illness in the age of data—sharing her true story of coping with cancer, both the illness and the industry, in The Undying.

A week after her forty-first birthday, the acclaimed poet Anne Boyer was diagnosed with highly aggressive triple-negative breast cancer. For a single mother living paycheck to paycheck who had always been the caregiver rather than the one needing care, the catastrophic illness was both a crisis and an initiation into new ideas about mortality and the gendered politics of illness.

A twenty-first-century Illness as Metaphor, as well as a harrowing memoir of survival, The Undying explores the experience of illness as mediated by digital screens, weaving in ancient Roman dream diarists, cancer hoaxers and fetishists, cancer vloggers, corporate lies, John Donne, pro-pain ”dolorists,” the ecological costs of chemotherapy, and the many little murders of capitalism. It excoriates the pharmaceutical industry and the bland hypocrisies of ”pink ribbon culture” while also diving into the long literary line of women writing about their own illnesses and ongoing deaths: Audre Lorde, Kathy Acker, Susan Sontag, and others.

A genre-bending memoir in the tradition of The ArgonautsThe Undying will break your heart, make you angry enough to spit, and show you contemporary America as a thing both desperately ill and occasionally, perversely glorious.

Praise for The Undying:

“This is a powerful, timely, and troubling book. Boyer’s unflinching account of the market-driven brutality of American cancer care sits beside some of the most perceptive and beautiful writing about illness and pain that I have ever read.”
—Hari Kunzru, author of White Tears

“Anne Boyer is an essential voice, and this is an essential book: one body’s urgent attempt at finding a language to tell us what it knows.”
—Jonathan Lethem, author of The Feral Detective

Anne Boyer is a poet and essayist. She was the inaugural winner of the 2018 Cy Twombly Award for Poetry from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts and winner of the 2018 Whiting Award in nonfiction/poetry. Her books include A Handbook of Disappointed Fate as well as several books of poetry, including the 2016 CLMP Firecracker Award–winning Garments Against Women. She was born and raised in Kansas, and was educated in its public schools and libraries. Since 2011, Boyer has been a professor at the Kansas City Art Institute. She lives in Kansas City, Missouri.