The latest article here on ReadySteadyBook is novelist Alistair McCartney's essay On the Subject of Literary Suicides in General and David Foster Wallace’s Suicide in Particular. The essay is actually an excerpt from a novel in progress, The Death Book: A Comedy:
...between the 18th and 20th centuries, the suicide of a writer was a significant and meaningful gesture. This notion was heralded in by the era of romanticism, specifically the suicide of the 17-year old poet Thomas Chatterton in 1770, to be later immortalized in a painting by Henry Wallis, which depicts the pale redheaded poet lying prostrate after imbibing some arsenic.
Like a signature and wax seal on a document issued by a notary, suicide legitimized the writer, gave him posthumous authority. Suicide carved out a territory or space for the writer’s name and the writer’s memory, launching him into immortality. And as we see in the painting of Chatterton, lying there on the bed in his garret in his blue knickerbockers and his white blouse, taking one’s own life was a profoundly aesthetic gesture; it made one beautiful (more...)