View Full Version : The Final Joke

November 19th, 2011, 12:01 AM
Some of you may remember that I wrote a college admissions essay on a zombie apocalypse a few weeks ago, but I've got another for review. Your critiques are most appreciated.

The prompt asks to talk about someone who has influenced you.

No one expects a thirty year old man to pass away in his sleep. His family doesn’t expect to stand over his pale body, framed in a silk-lined casket. They don’t expect a he to become an it, a corpse, another grave marker in a field of many. Yet this was how I first met death, as an eight year old at her uncle’s funeral. Because of his death, I learned how to truly live.

I couldn’t fathom the idea that my uncle was little more than an abandoned building; at any moment I expected his hand to tighten around mine and laugh off such a convincing hoax. What I realized is that death is only final in a physical sense – I still have the memories of our midnight kitchen raids, and the fish dinners he made with the leftover bounty of his summer fishing job – and in that way, he has been immortalized. Part of the comfort of writing, and being a writer, is knowing that pen and paper are sometimes more effective in record keeping than memory, and that thoughts can be forever preserved on paper; to keep a person living in ink makes death a little more palatable.

Being preserved in this way makes the future of physical decay easier to accept in others, but not in ourselves. Most of us find it difficult to deny our inner Dorian Gray – while we obsess over the aging process, or more accurately, our expiration date, we overlook the valuable years we’re given. To live is not trudging to one’s nine-to-five job, paying the bills, doing the laundry, meticulously cleaning an over-priced car. To live means following my uncle’s example: secretly drinking out of the milk jug, wearing shorts in the middle of an Alaskan winter just to feel the cold – to live is more than existing at the most biological level, it is, as Steve jobs once said, staying hungry and foolish.

Death must not only be acknowledged, but accepted. Death and its deadline shouldn’t be feared, but rather, the days in between should be welcomed as a gift. To truly live means accepting the beauty, the opportunity, and the risk of every day living; it means having an excellent sense of humor, and laughing with death when the punch line of his final joke is delivered.

Jon M
November 19th, 2011, 04:54 AM
Very good writing. The comparison of the dead uncle to an abandoned building is superb and very accurate.

November 20th, 2011, 07:16 PM
Very well-written piece, with a positive, accepting attitude towards death. Personally, the idea of my being ceasing to exist is a terrifying notion, but I like how you use its finality to explain why it's important to live, rather than to just get by.

Only thing I can suggest is putting "he" and "it" into quotes, in the second line or what have you. Was slightly confusing the first time I read the sentence, and I think that'd clear it up a bit. If not, well, it's a great piece anyway.

November 22nd, 2011, 04:55 AM
I think you weakened it when you brought in other quotes. You should keep the writing as your own, otherwise it seems like you couldn't come up with enough yourself.

I think the subject is interesting, but demands a stronger more in-depth look. It will probably work for the prompt, but I'd be interested to see this as a fictional story with a more focused point rather than the vague topic of living. People live every day, so most of us have learned and accepted this maxim. What lies deeper is the true interest. What are the specifics? That's what I would like to see.

Ol' Fartsy
November 22nd, 2011, 05:57 AM
What I think is that you brought a sense of reality to your writing. Yes, you were comparing a body to a building, but we are buildings ourselves, temples as the Bible says. It doesn't matter if you use quotes of others, you felt that certain quotes were right for this writing. Thank you.

John Brightman
November 22nd, 2011, 07:13 AM
They don’t expect a he to become an it ----Might want to fix that. typos pull me out of the story. Fix that. Unless you were going for some humor I missed but it lost me. Ah, I got it now but it was a weird read.

Anyway, good stuff but I don't like zombie writing. I moved past that when I was twelve. I wish I could write zombie horror and vampire. I just feel there is nothing more to add to the genre. Hey that's just me. Keep up the good work in the undead field.

November 23rd, 2011, 02:05 PM
Very well written piece and I too love the analogy of a 'vacant building' to describe your Uncles body after death, gets you thinking. I also agree with your comments on the benefits of writing, not only for memory but it can completely change one's view of the world around them. I find that in trying to find the most apt words to describe something you get a far deeper understanding of what you're observing, you start to look at things very differently. Like you say it can even be helpful with bereavements and other traumatic events in life.

November 24th, 2011, 08:45 AM
Nicely written, I did not grasp the building comparison at first but after re-reading a few times, it is a very elegant way of describing death. Well done.

December 2nd, 2011, 07:40 AM
I liked this quite a bit. I would agree with the sentiments of those that posted before me, with only one additional comment. I would rework the last sentence of the first paragraph (Because of his death, I learned how to truly live). Perhaps I am completely off on this, but I feel as if I've read variations of this sentence many, many times. It's not quite cliche, but compared to the other paragraphs and sentences, where there are some unique and visual pieces (the building comparison, as others have noted, being in my view the best), it seems out of place.

Just my two cents, in general I thought it was very well written.

December 6th, 2011, 07:50 PM
Excellent stuff. A little bleak at first glance, but quite the opposite on further thinking.

River Girl
December 6th, 2011, 09:26 PM
I really enjoyed your piece. I think your description of how the living often feel when viewing the "vacant building" of a loved one is an accurate one--part of the mind expects the deceased to "wake up" and tell them it was all just a joke. The introduction was sad and dark, but you then moved the reader from a dark, negative place to a lighter, positive, and possibly more enlightened place. In a subtle way, you've fast-forwarded the reader through the grief process--from denial to acceptance. As a longer work, I'd like to see more descriptions of uncle's approach to life (wearing shorts in winter, etc.). However, as a short work, I think the two examples you provide in third paragraph along with the two examples in the second para (kitchen raids, fish) paint a thorough picture of your uncle's personality and perspective on life. Nicely done.

December 11th, 2011, 10:19 PM
In the second paragraph you mixed two subjects (your uncle's memory and your position as a writer) and I feel those should be separated since they are somewhat exclusive of each other.
Besides that, I think you desribed a good way to envision and accept someone's passing as only a physical thing, and not necessarily one to carry remorse over throughout your life. It calms the fear of the finality of death without glossing over the importance of losing someone from your life.
I'm not one to focus much on the metaphysical, and this gave me a good balance of that and reality. In that regard, very well done. :)