Did not win the lottery after all. I’d probably be in the Caribbean if I had. No, I’d still be here trying to figure out where I’m going in the current novel. I entered the first 8K words in Narrative’s Story contest – mostly to force me to finish the thing. Did I resolve to write 3 pages a day? How foolish. No, there’s a lot of writing, deleting, writing, rewriting, adding a few words to a sentence, sometimes taking them out and general staring out the window. Right now it’s sunny and there are 2 small clouds to the left. A slight breeze ruffles the trees, well, the trees that are left. There are a lot of hacked off branches since the tree trimmers showed up a couple weeks ago. I like the light though, so no complaints. Gave up complaining for Lent anyway. Finished ELEGANCE OF THE HEDGEHOG and what a disappointment at the end. Come on, do the hard work and write a decent ending. Endings have been pissing me off lately, like the end of the profile on David Foster Wallace in the New Yorker. Really, a choice? You go right ahead perpetrate media stereotypes on depression and mental illness, New Yorker. No heavy lifting required.
Here’s a letter that was published in Salon about the poor use of language around suicide:
Suicide and ‘choice’
Discussing causality in suicide is a tricky business, both both in psychological and existential terms. Suggesting that David Foster Wallace “chose” to kill himself presumes that his choice-making faculties were intact, that he was David Foster Wallace as those who knew him had always known him. I didn’t know DFW and am only glancingly familiar with his work, but for those of us who study suicide and treat people who are tormented (and sometimes, killed) by suicidal despair, it’s clear that the emotional agony sufficient to lead to the suicidal impulse is also extreme enough to have, in the same process, undone that person’s ordinary problem-solving and choice-making processes. The person who engages in the suicidal act is not the person we have known in other contexts. They person who dies by suicide is, in over 90% of cases studied by retrospective ‘psychological autopsy’, someone suffering from a particularly virulent form of mood disorder or other suicidality-engendering mental illness. It is not “Bob (or David, or Jane) choosing to kill himself”, but rather, “Bob, unraveled by the agony of illness, blindly seeking relief from pain”. The act, perceived from outside that agony, seems without reason, or even, as some of the other letters have suggested, intentionally malignant; from inside the seemingly endless and intolerable subjective pain and hopelessness of the suicidal individual, it is, in the moment of unendurable suffering, the only exit visible. Those left behind to mourn in the wake of a suicide often struggle greatly to come to terms with what seems to be a heartless or sadistic ‘choice’. Their suffering, which can go on and on, is made just a bit lighter if our discourse can acknowledge that what looks like a ‘choice’ was, in fact, a person killed being by their illness. —