The Atlantic

Living Longer, Dying Differently

The average human lifespan has nearly doubled over the past two centuries. How does that affect how people feel about death?
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If the prevalence and commonality of death has had any positive side effect on Louisiana—which has one of the lowest life expectancies in the U.S.—it’s that residents have attuned themselves to its context. “Early on, I got some sense of history and how ages compare, and how one of the responsibilities we face in this age is to be conscious of what’s unique to it,” says author Anne Rice, one of New Orleans’s most famous daughters. “If you’re aware that in 1850 people starved to death in the middle of New Orleans or New York, that’s a dramatic difference between past and future.”

Rice’s classic novels—, , , and many more—predate the current vampire craze. Her oeuvre still stands above most of the genre, however, because it represents a unique approach not replicated even decades after many of the books first appeared: New Orleans framed Rice’s perspective as she grew up there. Modern metropolises have transformed their environs into finely tuned systems of order, but

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