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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Book Review: Death Be Not Proud

(If you must have politics, please scroll down)

Some books are unforgettable and beg to be read time and time again.  John Gunther's Death Be Not Proud (1949) is one such book.

The story of Johnny Gunther, who died of a cancerous brain tumor — glioblastoma multiforme — at the age of seventeen, illustrates the meaning of the oft-used phrase "dying with dignity."  The book, however, goes far beyond that basic theme.

Yes, the reader knows the outcome from the introductory pages: Johnny Gunther, a young man of incredible promise, is going to die.  In fact, he dies some four months before his eighteenth birthday.

But what that young man taught and still teaches about the importance of committing one's life to living fully! A powerful multi-leveled message which deserves to be read over and over again.

Johnny Gunther's father (1901-1970), a successful author in other genres, penned other long-ago bestsellers: continental surveys and novels. Instead, he is now remembered today as the author of a short memoir which can be read in one three-hour sitting — the author of a memoir which causes readers of all ages to step back and say, "Could I possibly be as noble and as good as Johnny Gunther?" and "Were I the parent of a child dying of brain cancer, could I possibly be as strong as these parents were?"

If you have never read the memoir Death Be Not Proud, you should do so! My 2013-2014 high-school literature class read this book and urges you to do the same.

The only available photograph of Johnny Gunther (at approximately age seven):


  1. There is no Frigate like a Book
    To take us Lands away,
    Nor any Coursers like a Page
    Of prancing Poetry –

    This Traverse may the poorest take
    Without oppress of Toll –
    How frugal is the Chariot
    That bears a Human soul!

    ~ Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

  2. Are you familiar with The Death of Mary White by William Allen White? White was a noted editor and publisher in his day. When his daughter was killed when thrown from a horse, he wrote her obituary, himself, and published it in his own newspaper. It's been nearly sixty years since I became acquainted with the piece in a high school English class, but I remember it as an incredibly moving testament of a father's love for his daughter.

    What we say may never bring back the dead, but depending n the quality of our thoughts and the depth of our devotion, our loved ones never die as long as we remember them with affection, respect, gratitude and dignity.

    "For the though the body die, the soul shall live forever."

    Wasn't John Gunther the author of "Inside USA," or have I confused him with another author of the period?

    1. FT,
      Wasn't John Gunther the author of "Inside USA," or have I confused him with another author of the period?


      I'm not familiar with the other book you mentioned.

    2. FT,
      Oops! I see that it's not a book but rather an essay. It's online, too.

      Thanks for pointing that out to us, FT.

    3. Certainly welcome, AOW. I love posts of this sort. They are so much more nourishing to Mind and Soul than the incessant barrage of Bad News and ll Will.

      I was sorry to see you quickly override this piece with dismal news about human trafficking, etc. Should we be aware of evil in the world? Yes, but it is wring to WALLOW in it ALL the TIME, which is exactly what we tend to do here in the "blowhardsohere." Harping on negativity literally makes us ill -- mentally and physically.

      I believe our National Malaise has been caused by TMI -- of the discouraging, enervating, depressing, infuriating variety.

      We have let ourselves lapse into Rage Addiction as as substitute for genuine thought and constructive activity.

    4. The people of Murrieta, California, proved that there is something that WE THE PEOPLE can do to stop the human trafficking on the part of our federal government.

      Unless I miss my guess, we're going to find ourselves in a helluva mess in the next few weeks -- particularly as we approach the time that schools open.

      If dormitories move into our neighborhoods, what will happen to our property values? Our personal safety?

      So, yes, posts such as this one about John Gunther's memoir are so much more nourishing to Mind and Soul than the incessant barrage. However, if we are going to be able to find that nourishment, WE THE PEOPLE must make a stand. Now.

    5. Addendum...We have a MORAL obligation to put a stop to this human trafficking, which is closely akin to slave trading.


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