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IN BRIEF

Nonfiction

February 04, 1996|SUSAN SALTER REYNOLDS

THE DOUBLE LEGACY: Reflections on a Pair of Deaths by Rachel Hadas (Faber and Faber: $19.95; 165 pp.). "To know love," writes poet Rachel Hadas in this collection of essays about many things but mostly the deaths of her mother of cancer and of her close friend of complications of AIDS, "is to be reminded of death. The sequence is a familiar lesson, but humanly hard to learn, impossible to retain. . . ." I'm not sure that in the course of this book Hadas learns it so much as grapples with it, trying to find the people she has loved and lost in her new life without them. In this way it is a book, like many books about loss, that is more about the survivor than it is about those who died. Still, she looks for them, clearly distracted and distraught, seeking wisdom and solace from her own vast literary imagination and from the favorite authors of her mother and her friend, like this passage from "Agricola" by Tacitus: "Images of men's faces, like the faces themselves, are empty and mortal, but the form of the mind is eternal, and you cannot capture that shape in bronze or marble but only in yourself, by the way you live."

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