Monday, September 28, 2009

Writers killing selves

So, I've just about finished reading Brief Interviews With Hideous Men, as noted on my Literary Supplement, and tonight I started thinking about just exactly WHY I am so mad at David Foster Wallace for killing himself.

I suppose that one should respond with sadness and compassion to the tragedy of suicide, or maybe be galvanized to do something to try to alleviate such suffering that would drive another to that desperation. Well, I do feel sad, but I have also been furious at DFW since that day last September when Brian and I, sitting on the couch in our Greenpoint apartment, first saw the news as it scrolled across the bottom of the television screen one quiet Sunday morning.

As I have stated, I get angry because DFW was so smart, and I felt like no one that smart should succumb to something so desperate. Plus, he had so ably deconstructed the whole thing: depression, medication, therapy, despair, drug addiction and countless other demons, and, well, life itself. He, if anyone, seemed to have triumphed over whatever the world could throw at us because he could throw back. Harder. And smarter. But no - he hung himself. AND he was married. That hurt my brain then, and it hurts my brain again now, as I read Brief Interviews.... and relive all that Infinite Jest-like deconstruction of abject human misery and what psychotherapy does with said misery.

Tonight, I thought about why it pisses me off a little bit more clearly. I was feeling a little cranky and dejected earlier this evening; my self-pity party went something like this: no one wants to publish me, no one wants to hire me/us, I can't afford to travel anywhere, we're trapped in Grand Rapids, no good movies play here (including John Krasinki's film adaptation of Brief Interviews With Hideous Men, which opens this week), this sucks, it's cold, and so on. After only a few minutes of that, I got annoyed with myself. However, I did think about the fact that years ago I had a much harder time snapping out of depression. (Or possibly "depression.") Tonight, it was fairly easy: I reminded myself that half of my current problems are almost entirely my own fault, and the other half just need to continue to be tackled, and that there is always Netflix.

And that's when I started thinking about one of my favorite parts of one of my favorite movies ever, The Hours, when Meryl Streep frantically and fiercely argues to her ailing friend Richard, "Well, that's what people DO. They stay alive for each other." I love when she says that. (I love every second of her in that film, but that is beside the point.) Life is hard, but we just keep going, because we should. And goddamn those who give up. In a way, I decided, they are giving up on all of us. Maybe that is what resonates with us as so profoundly unfair. When DFW hangs himself in the middle of a life of brilliance and acclaim, those feeling slightly less brilliant and acclaimed (not to mention less published) might stand here thinking, "Oh. Well, then. Thanks a lot."

And then, lest the irony should be lost, it hit me that I was thinking about The Hours, beloved The Hours, creation of Michael Cunningham channeling Mrs. Dalloway and Virginia Woolf -- Virginia Woolf the writer who experimented with fiction and was crazy intelligent and wrestled with madness and then killed herself. Yikes. And as Virginia Woolf says in the film when asked why a character in her book has to die, "Someone has to die, that the rest of us should value life more."

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