The Suicide List
by Alex Carnevale
I have always found suicide a fascinating subject.
We are an increasingly atheistic people, and for a non-religious people, suicide is going to be a part of life’s theater of events. After all, when Galactus, the devourer of worlds, visits Earth the first sign is people beginning to take their own lives. I guess that’s post-apocalypse, per Jeff’s piece on Friday.
l. ron must be a huge galactus fan…his belt looks like an e-meter
It has been somewhat assumed Walter Benjamin killed himself on the run from the Nazis. This is now largely believed to be untrue, with the theory that Stalin’s people murdered him seeming far more likely. While often people do kill themselves after overcoming trauma, this did not smack of Walter anyway. The great tragedy was this:
One further mystery remains. As Benjamin fled he was hugging a manuscript. The American writer Jay Parini has suggested this was the masterwork he had been working on in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. But the briefcase was entrusted to a fellow refugee who lost it on a train from Barcelona to Madrid.
Andy wrote more about the Arcades Project in his review of Wayne Koestenbaum’s Hotel Theory here.
After the war he joined the Italian Communist Party and worked on the party’s newspaper L’Unità. The bulk of his work was published during this time. Towards the end of his life, he visited frequently Le Langhe, the area where he was born, where he found great solace. However, love frustrations (Constance Dowling, to whom his last novel was dedicated) and political disillusionment led him to his suicide, by an overdose of barbiturates, in 1950 – the year in which he won the Strega Prize for ‘La Bella Estate’, comprising three novellas: ‘La tenda’, written in 1940, ‘Il diavolo sulle colline'(1948) and ‘Tra donne sole’ (1949).
Leslie Fiedler wrote of Pavese’s death “…for the Italians, his death has come to have a weight like that of Hart Crane for us, a meaning that penetrates back into his own work and functions as a symbol in the literature of an age.” The circumstances of his suicide, which took place in a hotel room, grossly mimic the last scene of ‘Tra Donne Sole’ (Among Women Only), his penultimate book.
Hart Crane’s suicide inspired several Jasper Johns paintings:
While on a Guggenheim Fellowship in Mexico in 1931-32, his drinking continued while he suffered from bouts of alternating depression and elation. His only heterosexual affair—with Peggy Cowley, the wife of his friend Malcolm Cowley—was one of the few bright spots, and “The Broken Tower,” one of his last published poems, emerges from that affair. Crane still felt himself a failure, though, in part because he recommenced homosexual activity despite his relationship with Cowley. Just before noon on April 27, 1932, on a steamship passage back to New York from Mexico—right after he was beaten up for making sexual advances to a male crewmember, which may have appeared to confirm his idea that one could not be happy as a homosexual—he committed suicide by jumping into the Gulf of Mexico. Although he had been drinking heavily and left no suicide note, witnesses believed Crane’s intentions to be suicidal, as several reported that he exclaimed “Goodbye, everybody!” before throwing himself overboard.
Periscope, by Jasper Johns.
Mark Rothko killed himself too, he took a shitload of meds and cut his arms open.
“Lost Someone” – Cat Power (mp3)
A gunshot is a very writerly thing to do. It’s what Hunter S. Thompson did, after all. Hunter also let his suicide note out which I find very brave. It was sort of always coming with him.
Thompson’s son (Juan), daughter-in-law (Jennifer Winkel Thompson) and grandson (Will Thompson) were visiting for the weekend at the time of his suicide. Will and Jennifer were in the adjacent room when they heard the gunshot, though the gunshot was mistaken for a book falling, and so they continued with their activities for a few minutes before checking on him: “Winkel Thompson continued playing 20 questions with Will, Juan Thompson continued taking a photo.” Thompson was sitting at his typewriter with the word “counselor” written in the center of the page.
They reported to the press that they do not believe his suicide was out of desperation, but was a well-thought out act resulting from Thompson’s many painful medical conditions. Thompson’s wife, Anita, who was at a gym at the time of her husband’s death, was on the phone with Thompson when he ended his life.
What family and police describe as a suicide note was delivered to his wife 4 days before his death and later published by Rolling Stone Magazine. Entitled “Football Season Is Over”, it read:
- “No More Games. No More Bombs. No More Walking. No More Fun. No More Swimming. 67. That is 17 years past 50. 17 more than I needed or wanted. Boring. I am always bitchy. No Fun — for anybody. 67. You are getting Greedy. Act your old age. Relax — This won’t hurt”
Thompson may be more of a case of a guy doing so many drugs, he had to crack sometime. But I actually didn’t think he would ever do it himself; it’s no surprise the main motivating factor was serious health problems.
sean penn, heath, aaron eckhart
Heath Ledger’s death was a suicide-it was the death of a man who wished to kill himself. It doesn’t really matter whether he intended it or not. He willfully took medication that ought to have killed him taking it as he did.
Anne Sexton had lunch with Maxine Kumin and then locked herself in her garage and died in the most humane way I can think of, carbon monoxide poisoning. She was bipolar all her life.
“The Box” – Eastern Conference Champions (mp3)
Last year set the record for Army suicides.
String of Welsh suicides.
Goethe’s story The Sorrow of Young Werther inspired a series of suicides in Germany. Talking about suicide, it would appear, only leads more people to consider the possibility.
Suicide seems least glorious for the perpetrator. It is interesting that women, including many of the world’s finest, have taken suicide up. (Men are still more likely to commit suicide by a 4 to 1 margin, while women report that they have tried to kill themselves more than three times as often.) Suicide, for the most part, is not violent. It is simply cathartic. It ends the line of thought quicker, sooner, more completely, and the world left to the rest of us is what suffers, or is aided.
Yukio Mishima gave a speech and then had friends pull off the old seppuku, cutting out his intestines and then beheading him.
“This Heaven” – David Gilmour (mp3)
Virginia Woolf went a little batshit:
On March 28, 1941, Virginia Woolf placed a large stone in her pocket and walked into the River Ouse in Sussex, England. It was widely believed that her suicide was related to her distress over World War II, but that was not the case. The true cause is revealed to her husband, Leonard, in her suicide note:
I have the feeling I shall go mad. I hear voices and cannot concentrate on my work. I have fought against it, but cannot fight any longer. You have been so perfectly good. I cannot go on and spoil your life.
Virginia Woolf’s life had been riddled with illness and nervous breakdowns. Scholars believe that she feared this latest episode would be permanent. Leonard Woolf had been “perfectly good” to his wife. He cared for her during her illnesses and did his best to prevent future breakdowns, but, clearly, Virginia felt guilty for requiring so much care and attention. I imagine, however, that her husband was happy to comfort her and would have preferred that she live. Her assumption of her own lack of worth took away Leonard’s ability to help her.
Diane Arbus took a bunch of barbiturates and cut her wrists.
This couple kept a murder-suicide pact. How lovely.
Strangely, it’s a myth that the most amount of suicides occurs in the winter. The spring is the number one culprit.
Hemingway and his granddaughter both killed themselves, by gunshot and Klonopin, respectively.
The beautiful Dorothy Dandridge:
How many people of my generation will even know who Dorothy Dandridge is?
Elliott Smith of course was a drug addict, he was a great songwriter, his stepfather most probably abused him sexually or at least Elliott thought he did, and he killed himself via the stab wound. I remember the day it happened.
Usually the attempt is a cry for help. The successful attempt is the desire to end pain, no matter where that pain originated from.
Mike Awesome hung himself. His best match was probably an ECW match with Masato Tanaka in Chicago.
Megan Meier killed herself after getting dumped by a Myspace hoax.
Top UK suicide spot:
I never knew Freud killed himself. I guess actually he had someone kill him:
A heavy cigar smoker, Freud endured more than 30 operations during his life due to mouth cancer. In September 1939 he prevailed on his doctor and friend Max Schur to assist him in suicide. After reading Balzac‘s La Peau de chagrin in a single sitting he said, “My dear Schur, you certainly remember our first talk. You promised me then not to forsake me when my time comes. Now it is nothing but torture and makes no sense any more.” Schur administered three doses of morphine over many hours that resulted in Freud’s death on September 23, 1939.
“Lucky (live)” – Radiohead (mp3)
The Richard Brautigan archives:
Brautigan came out of nowhere, selling 2 million copies of his novel Trout Fishing in America (1967), riding the wave of the counterculture to success as the essential hippie novelist. He enjoyed a half-decade of success, then suffered a slow decline for another decade, a victim of changing fashions and his own alcoholism.In 1984, Brautigan committed suicide, shooting himself to death in his home in Bolinas, the holdout hippie enclave just north of San Francisco. He was 49, and if he is not exactly forgotten (most of his books are still in print, albeit in omnibus editions), his heyday certainly passed with the advent of the yuppies. Now, his novels are packed away in the attic with the tie-dye shirts and Strawberry Alarm Clock albums.
More RB poems.
Love’s Not the Way to Treat a Friend
by Richard Brautigan
Love’s not the way to treat a friend.
I wouldn’t wish that on you. I don’t
want to see your eyes forgotten
on a rainy day, lost in the endless purse
of those who can remember nothing.
Love’s not the way to treat a friend.
I don’t want to see you end up that way
with your body being poured like wounded
marble into the architecture of those who make
bridges out of crippled birds.
Love’s not the way to treat a friend.
There are so many better things for you
than to see your feelings sold
as magic lanterns to somebody whose body
casts no light.
Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.
BLOGS TO KEEP YOU GOING THROUGH ALL OF YOUR DAYS
“Daughters of the Soho Riots” – The National (mp3)
“Friend of Mine” – The National (mp3)
“Baby We’ll Be Fine” – The National (mp3)
“Karen” – The National (mp3)
“Secret Meeting” – The National (mp3)
The National at Drunken Stepfather
PREVIOUSLY ON THIS RECORDING
We paint the word winter on the door.
We reviewed Stardust.
Freud resolved a few things for us.