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How the dead read

February 4, 2008 |  6:00 am

Lydia Millet’s new novel, “How the Dead Dream” (Counterpoint: 244 pp., $24), has been racking up its share of coverage, including here and here. But what’s gone largely unremarked is its membership in what we might call the Book of the Dead club — a small subcategory of volumes that seem to suggest the dead may not be so ... well ... dead.

In May, Serpent’s Tail will reissue Derek Raymond’s “How the Dead Live” (256 pp., $14.95 paper), a virulent bit of British noir with an introduction by Will Self. That’s only fitting because in 2001 Self stole the same title for a novel of his own, although at the time, he admits, he had not yet read Raymond’s book.

That’s not all: There’s also William Greenway’s “How the Dead Bury the Dead” (University of Akron Press: 94 pp., $25.95) and Katherine Bates’ “How the Dead Depart” (Kessinger: 48 pp., $15.95), as well as what may be the earliest of all these books, Judith Johnson Sherwin’s 1978 poetry collection “How the Dead Count” (Norton: 132 pp., $26.95).

Who knew the dead could be so active? Perhaps there’s more to dying — and to living — than we might at first suspect.

David L. Ulin