Book #27 Death Be Not Proud

John Gunther was a well-known journalist and author whose career spanned almost five decades, beginning in the 1920’s and continuing until his death in 1970. Though he wrote several novels, his renown came mostly from his Inside books, a series in which he amassed information about people and places in different regions of the world, and then presented it in a readable and enjoyable format. However, his most enduring book is one he wrote about the illness and death of his beloved son, Johnny. In Death Be Not Proud he details Johnny’s fifteen-month battle with a brain tumor, ending in his death at the age of seventeen.

I was really amazed at this book, and at the author/father’s ability to present the information practically and with great feeling, but without sappiness or being overly-emotional. I guess there is a fine line in writing between writing with emotion, and being overly-emotional. John Gunther seems to know where to draw that line. The writing is simplistic – he tells the facts about the events and their reactions. But it is detached enough that the reader, while empathizing with the family, does not become distraught.

Johnny had an incredible mind. He was a teenager who did physics and chemistry experiments for fun. He corresponded once with Professor Albert Einstein about an idea he had with regard to one of his experiments. He was extremely interested in the sciences, and he excelled in some of the best schools in the country. Upon his graduation from Deerfield Academy, he was accepted to Harvard University, though he died before enrolling. The irony that this brilliant brain was where the cancer occurred is not lost.

It would be insensitive to say that I enjoyed reading this book. While it was intriguing and inspiring, and I am glad that I read it, it was not a book that I would recommend to just anyone. I can certainly appreciate the author’s simplistic writing style, rich and full of content. However, it is a heartbreaking story in every way.

Speak Your Mind

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.