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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

Not Fade Away

1. In his preface, Laurence Shames admits that he initially resisted writing Not Fade Awaya with Peter Barton, who was dying from terminal stomach cancer. Why do you think Shames felt this way? How did he overcome his resistance? To what extent is Shames's reaction part of our culture's larger discomfort with death?

2. Peter Barton discusses his skepticism for organized religion and contemporary spirituality in his introduction. How does he choose to inhabit his spiritual side? Do his attitudes change in any way by the end of the book, as the end of his life draws near?

3. What role does music play in Peter Barton's life? Discuss some of the figures from the music world (Sha-Na-Na, Frank Sinatra, Eric Clapton, Rolling Stones) that Peter Barton encounters, and how they impact his life.

4. In what way does the title, Not Fade Away, reflect on Peter's connection with music?

5. Throughout Not Fade Away, Peter Barton makes connections between the story of his life and the story of his illness. What does each of these journeys have in common? How are the three phases of life -- childhood, adolescence, and adulthood -- reflected in Barton's denial and acceptance of his illness?

6. What did you think about Barton's decision to tell his family and colleagues that he had an ulcer after his diagnosis of cancer? What motives might be behind such an impulse?

7. What are Peter Barton's views on taking risks in life? What risks has he taken, and what were some of the outcomes of those risks?

8. Laurence Shames describes himself as "a friend for [Peter's] dying." Are there friends you have had at various points of your life who have known an entirely different side of you? What elements of Barton's personality during the last months of his life does Shames witness?

9. How does Peter's sense of time change at the end of his life? How does he come to appreciate the present tense? What did you think of this transformation, and do you think it connects to his acceptance of his death in any way?

10. When Peter Barton writes that he did his best, what do you think that means to him? What do you think sustained him in his final days?

11. What messages did you take away from his story that you will apply to your own life?

Not Fade Away
Laurence Shames and Peter Barton

  • Publication Date: September 14, 2004
  • Genres: Nonfiction
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial
  • ISBN-10: 006073731X
  • ISBN-13: 9780060737313