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Posts Tagged ‘suicide’

Going Dark

August 12, 2014 | by

Vittorio_Reggianini_-_A_Shocking_Announcement

Detail from Vittorio Reggianini’s A Shocking Announcement

I have been trying for some time now to write this post, but it’s been very hard for me. Not emotionally, I mean—physically. My hands go funny, my vision blurs, my legs get weak, and I start to feel sick. In short, I get woozy. Allow me to explain.

Not that I really can explain; if I do, I’ll pass out. Just this morning, I started to read a review of a film that mentioned the protagonist’s “suicide attempt” and “bandaged wrists” and I felt shaky and had to immediately close the paper and, what is more, put it down the garbage chute so it couldn’t torment me. At least with books, you have some control over these things; to date I have fainted in The Virgin Suicides, Swing Kids, The Royal Tenenbaums, and Sunset Boulevard. With The Three Faces of Eve, Harold and Maude, and Little Miss Sunshine, I managed to get out in time. I also got woozy once in a college history class; we were discussing the death of Seneca.

It sounds funny, until you see it in action. It is never fun to see reason give way to blind panic, nor to have a friend pass out at your feet. Sometimes, before they understand, people will tease me, exploit my weakness—as a result, I usually try not to mention it. (Also, if I talk or think about it, I will get faint.) Like someone with an allergy, I am ever vigilant, but the vigilance has become second nature. I tend to avoid anything that I know for a fact contains a suicide, just in case they do it that way. If I sense one might be coming, I will page ahead or ask a sympathetic friend for a warning. Sometimes, I have to reread or re-watch something because I realize after the fact that my tension and apprehension ruined the experience for me.

I can’t tell you when this started, or why it’s so very specific. There’s the time I spent in the ER waiting room seated across from a girl with bandaged arms, my eyes desperately glued to the television screen on the wall; she must have been okay, but to this day I can’t watch Charles in Charge (not that I’m so wild to). If you want to get mystical about it, there are the generations of family suicide to contend with. I can’t talk to a shrink or a hypnotist about it; I’d faint. Writing this alone has taken me four tries, and a large, sugary iced tea; I’m doing it as a sort of aversion therapy.

Do other people have these sorts of neuroses and aversions? Do they impact your quality of life—and, especially, your ability to enjoy books and movies? I’d love to know how to better cope. For now, I’m going to have to lie down—I’m feeling distinctly faint.

10 COMMENTS

A Screaming Comes Across the Tongue, and Other News

June 26, 2014 | by

Paul_Klee_Mumon_sinkt_trunken_in_den_Sessel

Paul Klee, Mumon sinkt trunken in den Sessel, 1940.

  • For seven years in the sixties, Dennis Hopper disappeared from Hollywood. What was he doing? Attending the Fonda-Vadim nuptials, hanging around LA’s Love-In, watching Martin Luther King Jr. speak, and photographing all of it.
  • Today in brave souls and/or fool’s errands: “I’m drinking everything mentioned however peripherally in every Pynchon book and jabbering a bit about what it’s like … So what is Chivas Regal like? I’m tempted to say that a screaming comes across the tongue.”
  • Amazon is demanding concessions from publishers that are tantamount to “assisted suicide for the book business” …
  • … And a new, “fiercely independent-minded” book, The Everything Store, reminds of Amazon’s considerably less-incendiary early days: “Bezos hired writers and editors who supplied critical advice about books and tried to emulate on Amazon’s website ‘the trustworthy atmosphere of a quirky independent bookstore with refined literary tastes.’” Years later, these people were replaced by an algorithm called AMABOT, which, given the meaning of amatory, sounds sort of like an animatronic sex doll.
  • But it must be said: “When Anne Campbell of the Open University in Scotland looked at how students used Kindle readers and paper books, she found that the electronic devices promoted more deep reading.”
  • Soon before her seventieth birthday, a woman named Sandy Bem found that her mental faculties had deteriorated enough that she wanted to take her own life—so she planned her suicide with her family. “We looked at the calendar and said, ‘OK, if it’s going to be next week, what day is it going to be?’” her husband said. “I wouldn't have had it any other way,” her daughter said.

2 COMMENTS

Orwell at the BBC, and Other News

January 24, 2013 | by

  • It was all the rage! On the eighteenth-century literary vogue for suicides.
  • “It’s pretty much all hopeless,” and other advice on writing a memoir. (Personally, I would say: throw in a few recipes.)
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four has never been dramatized by BBC Radio 4 before now. Why? Maybe this has something to do with it: “Orwell partly based the book’s torture area, Room 101, on a meeting room in the building he remembered from his time at the BBC.”
  • “The day will come when there’ll be private publishing houses in the Soviet Union.” A previously unpublished interview with Joseph Brodsky.

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    Horror Story

    September 5, 2012 | by

    This month marks Stephen King’s sixty-fifth birthday, more than half a lifetime since he released The Shining, a novel inspired by the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. I’ve passed by the Stanley Hotel two times, between which I lived a scene that Stephen King could have written.

    The first time, a Saturday morning a few weeks before my graduation from the University of Colorado, I was riding in my roommate Julie’s car toward an Estes Park hiking trail. The hotel was grand, white, old-timey, and supposedly haunted, although not as isolated as the hotel in the movie. As we passed, our ponytails blowing out the open windows, the Rocky Mountains encircling us like a hug, I rested my feet on the dash, happy. Three years earlier, driving cross-country together, Julie and I had become best friends. Now, we hated separating even to sleep. Every morning, we woke up, turned on the TLC channel, one of the only channels we got, and danced in our living room while watching shows about makeovers and brides. Throughout the day, unless we were in class, we were together. We believed that this was life. Once, a guy took us both on a date. “I thought I had to,” he told us later. In Julie’s car, the familiar smell of the interior soothed me. Out the window, the day was perfect, the sky huge. When it’s cloudless, a Colorado sky resembles a great, empty aquarium.

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    Time Out

    July 10, 2012 | by

    Late in the third quarter of a blowout loss at North Torrance High School my junior year I woke up in a blurry huddle. Grids of stadium lighting were smeared on the South Bay night sky as if they’d been moved before they dried. My teammates stood around me in their away whites, the sateen jerseys looking smudged and shabby in the dark. I shouldn’t have been surprised if a star suddenly dilated just to wink at me, such was my loopy state of mind—and my self-regard as a high school quarterback.

    A timeout had been called, apparently. There was no apparent rush to get back to the line of scrimmage, run another play. And our coach was in the huddle with us. Oh, thank god, I thought, Coach is playing. I’d never seen him in uniform before, but didn’t think to question it—we needed all the help we could get. Though, standing next to the star receiver with whom he’d traded outfits, he did look a lot taller than normal.

    Reassuring counsel was given by someone, maybe me, as we gathered ourselves to go back on.

    We settled on a simple play: everyone run as far as you can as fast as you can, and I’ll throw the ball to one of you, ready, break. I stepped under center in a kind of euphoria, took the snap, dropped back and threw our coach—or, rather, the receiver onto whom I’d transposed Coach’s face—a forty-two-yard touchdown, and walked off the field, vindicated and giggling.

    A blink and it was two hours later. Read More »

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    Finding Francesca Woodman

    May 23, 2012 | by

    Francesca Woodman, Caryatid, 1980, diazotype, 7' 5 in. x 3'. Courtesy George and Betty Woodman © 2012 George and Betty Woodman

    We’re fascinated by artists who die young. Something about the unnaturalness of an early death gives us a kind of morbid thrill. We hail their genius, attracted by the mystery of the unknown (and unknowable). Maybe we’re envious—at least, the parts of us that seek fame and approval. For the dead, everything is fixed and frozen; there’s no more work and no more pressure to perform. Pore as we will over their output, what they’ve left behind in the world will never change.

    Francesca Woodman was an artist who died young. She committed suicide, jumping from a window when she was twenty-two. I was thinking of waiting to tell you that, of trying to withhold the information until later in this essay, but the effort seemed futile: if you’re in art school, or read the New York Times, or have looked at the Guggenheim’s Web site lately, or even if you get the Skint, a daily New York events e-mail, you already know.

    The Skint mention is particularly curious. Somehow, in a newsletter composed of brief, one-line descriptions of featured events, Woodman’s suicide merited inclusion: “Thru 6/13: 120 works of photographer francesca woodman (nsfw), who committed suicide at age 22 in 1981, go on display at the Guggenheim.” The implication seems to be that her suicide either makes her more interesting or more worthy of an exhibition.

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