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Killian Mansfield: a holiday lament

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Before the Thanksgiving holiday, we step away from the future of story and transmedia discussions to offer a classic print narrative. David Amsden’s “Never Mind the Pity” traces the elegant arc of the last year of a boy’s life and the musical collaborations that transformed his final days.

The story, from the October issue of New York magazine, resists many of the clichés of the “death-of-a-child” genre, with Killian’s physical trauma unfolding in understated ways. “Christmas dinner turns out to be a punishing affair,” Amsden writes. “Killian finds himself sitting at a table covered with beautiful food that he cannot touch.”

The musicians who record with Killian—including Dr. John and Levon Helm—add wattage to the narrative. But what drives the story is the race to preserve Killian’s voice and improbable mastery of the ukulele—allowing a key part of his self to remain in the world, even as his body falls away.

One comment

  1. John Bonitz
    posted November 27, 2009 at 11:23 pm | permalink

    I appreciate that you highlighted my nephew’s story. Amsden’s story is indeed a very special rendering of an extraordinary life, lived deeply.

    The name of your blog struck me as apropos in a way you would not know: A few years ago Killian dabbled in cartooning and studied storyboarding. He was a storyteller, for sure.

    I’m so pleased how many people have recognized what an inspiring and constructive story was his final years of life.

    I’m amazed that I have been unable to persuade any journalists to explore the linkage between Killian’s most passionate cause ( http://killianmansfield.org/aboutKillian.html ) and the healthcare reform debate that has raged this year. If only more people knew how profound are the opportunities to increase wellness and reduce medical costs through integrated therapies…

    But that’s another story for another day.

    Today I’ll simply end with gratitude: Thank you.

    Uncle John

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