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In all, it took seven years, and Roiphe found the long process to be, far from morbid or depressing, invigorating.“It took me to this place where you’re really on the edge of civilized conversation.You’re talking about things that are just barely socially acceptable, or not socially acceptable.

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She’s taken on a number of sacred cows: feminism, in her controversial debut, The Morning After; sex, in her follow-up, Last Night in Paradise; monogamy, in her study of marriages in literary London in Uncommon Arrangements; and parenthood in In Praise of Messy Lives, her collection of previously published essays.

And yet, she believes, The Violet Hour breaches new boundaries.

“I’ve written about all kinds of things you might think were taboo subjects, but there’s something about this that’s more of a taboo.

It is breakfast time at the Bowery Hotel and I am sitting with the writer Katie Roiphe, talking about death.

The occasion is the publication of Roiphe’s new book, The Violet Hour, which looks at how five writers — Freud, Sontag, Updike, Dylan Thomas, and Maurice Sendak — dealt with the end of their lives.

For those who think of Roiphe only as an unapologetic provocateur, perpetually irritating the women’s movement, the book’s subject may seem a departure.

For Roiphe herself, however, it has been brewing for decades. She describes, for instance, Susan Sontag’s decision, when diagnosed with a terminal cancer at the age of 71, to opt for an agonizing, against-all-the-odds treatment.

Sontag suffered for months in a hospital room in Seattle, and implicitly forbade conversation about what loomed, even when it became clear that the treatment had failed.

Freud, on the other hand, dying in London of cancer of the mouth and throat on the eve of World War II, refused painkillers in order to be clear-eyed and present for the last experience of his life.

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