Mystery and Mortality


O’Connor and Ferrante. Franzen, McCarthy, Brian Allen Carr. Kathy Acker and Wallace—Mystery and Mortality is a collection of essays about literature. Paula Bomer focuses on the hardest things in life that inspire great writing, like the pain of loss in death, loss in love, loss in memory. Kierkegaard writes of the poet whose tortured screams from the dungeon sound like beautiful music to the king, so far removed. Here, Bomer’s essays bring us back to what we’re supposed to derive from literature: compassion.

Read a sample essay at New York Magazine.

Mystery and Mortality: Essays of the Sad, Short Gift of Life penetrates our scars and distills Bomer’s unfiltered self-examination of love, family, sex, and grief through an exhaustive research of some of our most vital authors. No one is off the hook.” —Meg Tuite, from the Introduction

Praise for the work of Paula Bomer

“Paula Bomer writes the kind of women’s fiction that critics like to call ‘raw.’ Her stark portrayals of biological womanhood have been described as raw and angry, raw and darkly funny, brutally raw and urgent. …Bomer offers her characters no outs.” The New York Times

“One third of the way into Nine Months, by Paula Bomer, I jotted in a page’s margin, ‘If you write about this book, do not use the cliche “unflinching.” (But that is the right word.)'” The Atlantic

“If calling a writer “unflinching” weren’t such a cliché, it would be the perfect word to apply to Paula Bomer.” —Open Letters Monthly

“Bomer’s prose is crisp and breezy, often deceptively plain, her narrative voice veering from wise remove to a closeness that seems to jut an elbow outward, nudging the reader into complicity.” HTMLGiant

“… a fascinating hybrid of personal narrative and literary criticism that’s absorbing and intelligent. In writing about books that draw her in, Bomer creates intimate reflections on the intersection of literature and life.” JMWW

“The redemptive powers we possess, and the enemies of our own nature are what Bomer’s book revolves around … While she feels grief as deeply as we all do, the book is her redevelopment of connections sundered by loss. She heals through text, through communion with other writers, likeminded souls. For readers, there’s a lot to learn.” Lit Pub

Paula Bomer is skilled “at describing and dissecting human relationships.” Vol. 1 Brooklyn

View tons of reviews, and much more, at Paula’s website:

Additional information

Weight6.8 oz
Dimensions5 × 7.5 × .625 in



Paperback, 5 x 7.5"