Some of the greatest writers in the history of the art-Hart Crane, Ernest Hemingway, Jerzy Kosinski, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, and Virginia Woolf-all chose to silence themselves by suicide, leaving their families and friends with heartbreak and the world of literature with gaping holes. Their reasons for killing themselves, when known, were varied and, quite often, unreasonable. Some were plagued by depression or self-doubt, and others by frustration and helplessness in a world they could neither change nor tolerate.Profoundly moving and morbidly attractive, Final Drafts is a necessary historical record, biographical treatment, and psychological examination of the authors who left this "cruel world" by their own hands, either instantly or over long periods of relentless self-destructive behavior. It is also a devoted examination of references to suicide in literature, both by those who took their own lives and those who decided to live. Mark Seinfelt has selected many well-known (mostly fiction) writers, from those whose work dates to over a century ago-when the medical community was ill-equipped to deal with substance abuse and depression-to more recent writers such as Kosinski, Michael Dorris, and Eugene Izzi, who have left a puzzled literary community with a sad legacy.Seinfelt reveals that many authors contemplated ending their lives in their work; were obsessed with destroying themselves; were unable-in the case of the Holocaust-to live with the fact that their contemporaries had been killed; believed death to be a freedom from the horrors that forced them to create; and, sometimes, were simply unable to withstand rejection or criticism of their work.Other noted authors discussed in this volume include John Berryman, Ambrose Bierce, Harry Crosby, John Davidson, William Inge, Randall Jarrell, Arthur Koestler, T.E. Lawrence, Primo Levi, Jack London, Jay Anthony Lukas, Tom McHale, Yukio Mishima, Henry de Montherlant, Seth Morgan, George Sterling, Sara Teasdale, Ernst Toller, John Kennedy Toole, Sergey Yesenin, and many others
Mark Seinfelt is a recipient of the prestigious Henry Sams Memorial Award from Pennsylvania State University, received of Master of Fine Arts degree in writing from Washington University, where he was also awarded a scholarship. He lives in Philipsburg, Pennsylvania.
NetGalley Review: 4 stars
Last updated on 05 Nov 2021
"My thank to NetGalley and the publisher Rowman & LIttlefield for a copy of this literary study on the lives and death of authors.
To be an artist means that the artist is answerable to a voice. The voice of critics doing there jobs, sometimes nasty, sometimes honest. The voice of editors or others trying to make that thing you labored so long and hard on, shorter, faster better more marketable, more bling making, more an intellectual property that can generate income long after the artist is gone. However it is the interior voices, the ones that never are quiet, the ones that make the artist create, or stop creating. Who make the art ugly and the artists life miserable, no matter if the art is good, or if things seem to be going well. Or cause the artist to end their existence, no matter the damage to those that love the artist.
In Final Drafts, Mark Seinfelt looks at the lives of many writers cut off way too early, by their own actions. The usual suspects are here, Sexton, Plath, Hemingway, but the book shines on the authors of less fame, poets, fiction and nonfiction writers like Trakl, Teasdale and Ross Lockbridge. All had different reasons, money, health, addiction, talent seeming to fade, editors with strange ideas, things that at another time could be ignored, or pushed away. However that voice never goes away, and even the strongest personality can feel its siren call.
Each chapter is a mini memoir of the writer, growing up, great works, feuds, problems, marriages, drinking, richer or poorer. There is a discussion of the works, with occasional examples if the works deal with self destruction or destructive thoughts. Even the history of the era the writer lived in is examined, especially in the authors whose lives have not been covered by numerous biographies.
This is not a book to be skimmed through. Mr. Seinfelt has done a lot of research and thought on each writer. There is no grand unifying theme on why these artists did what they did. What makes sense at the time, might not make sense later. However this is an important book not on just understanding why these artists did what they did, but why people opt for this solution to their problems. A very interesting books with quite a bit of information to think about."—Dan O'Leary, bookseller