Thursday, October 8, 2009

Essay: "The Doomed in Their Sinking." William H. Gass. 1973.

10-second review: The author provides a number of thought-provoking ideas on the subject of suicide. It may sound silly or callous to suggest that this essay is an antidote to thoughts on suicide, but that’s what it is. I remember a poem once that listed all of the gory ways that one could commit suicide and concludes, “You might as well live.” That’s about what happens in this essay. The author gives the reader some serious thought about the topic of suicide.


“…and many who court death have no desire to wed her….”

“…desire isn’t adultery whatever Jesus preached.” [Thinking about suicide is not a sin so long as the suicide doesn’t commit it. RayS. ]

“The Kamikaze pilot intends his death, but does not desire it.”

“Soldiers charging the guns at Verdun neither wished for death nor were bent on it, though death was what they expected.”

“Some simply think of death as the absence of their present state, a state which pursues them like a malignant disease and which cannot be otherwise escaped.”

“The question of whether it is better to be or not to be arises with real relevance for the first time….”

“…but to be sick of life is not the same as having a painful illness or suffering a shame so denobling that life is no longer endurable.”


“…most [would-be suicides] can be expected to mess up their deaths exactly as they’ve messed up their lives.”

“…the ironic thing about suicide…is that it is a wholly empty act.”

“Death will not fill up an empty life….”

“The world of the suicidal is…a private and impenetrable one, hence the frustration of those who are trying to help.”

“…and succeed at failure one final time.”

Comment: This essay is a thought-provoking meditation on life and suicide. RayS.

Best American Essays of the Century. Editors: Oates and Atwan. Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company. 2000.

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