In Sylvia Plath’s famous poem “Lady Lazarus,” written shortly before the poet’s death in 1962, a dead woman returns from the grave. She displays her resurrected body like the object it almost became, seeming to derive a sly satisfaction. “Dying / Is an art, like everything else,” she says. “I do it exceptionally well.”
The 1969 novel Divorcing, by Susan Taubes, reissued this month by New York Review Books, unsettles with the same gruesome craft. Taubes’s close friend, the writer Susan Sontag, is said to have considered the book a “rehearsal” for its author’s self-destruction; sure enough, Taubes died by suicide a week after Divorcing was published.