Clancy Martin in Harper's Magazine:
The recent brouhaha over a spread in Vice magazine featuring artistic representations of women writers who took their own lives has me thinking about suicide. For years, growing up, I was obsessed with the thought; among my earliest memories is the desire, at age three or four, to run in front of an oncoming bus. Not because I wanted to see what would happen, but because I was sure I knew what would happen: I wouldn’t have to live any longer. I suspect there may be a suicide gene. My elder brother reports of wanting to kill himself from a very early age, and of having had to battle with the desire many times in his life. We know that suicide often “runs in the family”; three of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s four brothers killed themselves, and Wittgenstein at various points contemplated doing so — this despite his family’s enormous wealth and intelligence and its privileged position in Viennese society.
We tend to talk about suicide most when a famous person kills himself. There was, we all remember, the flurry of argument about suicide — much of it indignant, even outraged — when David Foster Wallace took his own life. His friends were deeply hurt, and many of them were writers, so they wrote about it. “[E]very suicide’s an asshole,” wrote Mary Karr, in a poem about Wallace’s death. “There is a good reason I am not/ God, for I would cruelly smite the self-smitten.” Suicide, seen as among the most selfish of acts, pushes a button in us that even murder doesn’t.