Death Becomes Them: Unearthing the Suicides of the Brilliant, the Famous, and the Notorious Reviewed By Jennifer Somerset Of Bookpleasures.com
Jennifer Murray Somerset:Â BFA in Graphic Design, and BS Legal Assistant Studies:Â Â Â Click Here To Read Jennifer'sÂ ReviewsView all articles by Jennifer Somerset
Author: Alix Strauss
Death is one of the great unknowns and because of this; it holds this mixture of fear, curiosity, fascination and dread in each of us. To the more tortured souls among us, the thought of continuing and day to day existence is much worse than the mystery of death. The law of averages also seems to dictate that the more creative and in touch you are, the harder life itself is. When the realization that love and happiness does not necessary go hand in hand with fame and fortune, that anchor that some famous held onto on their climb up vanishes, leaving them lost and adrift. Mix that with the loss of strength in the vices for numbing the pain, and the light of a shining star gets extinguished much too soon in our eyes.
Alix Strauss has focused on twenty such instances, covering genera’s such a writing, acting, music, as well as those known for their powerful presence in society in general. As Strauss points out, “As a culture, we are obsessed with death. As a population, we connect with one another by sharing the same experiences…we are also addicted to the drama. We crave their stories the same way they craved their pills, liquor, coke and heroin. We want to understand the sadness they felt and the depression they couldn’t live with.”
Through meticulous research, Strauss provides us with the details of the last few days of such individuals that span numerous eras such as Ernest Hemmingway, Sylvia Plath, Dorothy Dandridge, David Strickland, Kurt Cobain, Mark Rothko, Adolf Hitler and Abby Hoffman to name a few. The half truths that have been whispered around each of them are addressed and clarified. With some, unknown details are given that further help us understand the mindset of the individual and maybe understand a little better the why of the situation. The final section is devoted to what I think of as cocktail facts about the subject and a few “post mortem” about some of the individuals touched upon earlier.
Strauss handles such a delicate subject matter with a mixture of evenhanded mater of factness and compassion. The romantic notion that sometimes accompanies the thought of suicide has been removed and in its place are the statistical facts of the subject. With some of the people highlighted, we also learn that if they had been able to get past that last bleak day, the sun of good fortune would have indeed shined upon them once again.