When Herbert Kramer was told at age sixty-seven that he was doomed to die of metastatic prostate cancer, he decided to make use of his remaining time to give meaning to his personal tragedy by writing a book. He was fortunate in being married to a woman who has specialized in grief therapy for many years. Herbert Kramer writes well; he was a communications consultant for private and public service organizations before his disease forced him into retirement.
Death is a subject few people want to talk about or even think about; yet the Kramers probe every corner of this dark subject in their dialogues. Kay Kramer is a follower of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, whose book ON DEATH AND DYING (1969) has been of inestimable help to healers, therapists, patients, and bereaved. She assures her husband that pain is the least of his worries because of the development of drugs for treating even the most gruesome terminal diseases. Herbert asks all the questions most people ask under the circumstances, and his wife provides intelligent answers based on the latest scientific knowledge as well as eclectic religious and philosophic thought.
CONVERSATIONS AT MIDNIGHT, as the title suggests, is a somber book which will not appeal to a mass audience. It is a sincere, rational, and very serious last opus of a dying man who is trying to make the best of a tragic situation. Like Leo Tolstoy’s THE DEATH OF IVAN ILLICH (1899), it forces the reader to face the grimmest reality of life: that death is inevitable for everyone and must be accepted as the price of existence.