February 25, 2005

Don't romanticize Thompson's suicide.

Under big red block letters that say "ENTERTAINMENT" over on CNN.com:
Thompson shot self while talking with wife

'He set the receiver down and he did it'

...She said her husband had asked her to come home from a health club so they could work on his weekly ESPN column -- but instead of saying goodbye, he set the telephone down and shot himself.

Thompson said she heard a loud, muffled noise, but didn't know what had happened. "I was waiting for him to get back on the phone," she said.

I have a hard time thinking of this suicide as a rational act, like that of a person in the advanced stage of a painful, fatal disease. He kills himself while he's in the middle of talking to his wife and trying to get her to come home and help him do his work. He doesn't say goodbye. And he shoots himself in the head, leaving the gory remains to be cleaned out of the kitchen. And meanwhile, his son, daughter-in-law, and 6-year grandson are in the house, doomed to come upon the scene before the wife comes home from the health club. That seems like a sudden, impulsive act that expressed some strong feelings toward the wife. The wife characterizes things this way:
"He wanted to leave on top of his game. I wish I could have been more supportive of his decision," she said. "It was a problem for us."

The wife is 32. He was 67.

UPDATE: Ambivablog adds her thoughts. And here's news of family and friends sitting at around the kitchen table with the hours-old corpse, drinking Chivas Regal and exchanging stories.
"It was very loving. It was not a panic, or ugly, or freaky," Thompson's wife, Anita Thompson, said Thursday night in her first spoken comments since the icon's death Sunday. "It was just like Hunter wanted. He was in control here."

Anita Thompson also echoes the comments that have been made by Hunter Thompson's son and daughter-in-law: That her husband's suicide did not come from the bottom of the well, but was a gesture of strength and ultimate control made as his life was at a high-water mark.

"This is a triumph of his, not a desperate, tragic failure," Anita Thompson said by phone, recounting that she was sitting in her husband's chair he called his catbird seat in the Rockies.

She added: "He lived a beautiful life and he lived it on his own terms, all the way from the very beginning to the very end."
And so begins a new legend, a story spun by the survivors. I repeat the point from my title: do not romanticize a suicide. I'm sure the family needs to find ways to deal with their own loss and their own sense of responsibility and, less sympathetically, has an interest in preserving and promoting the reputation of the author, but statements like this are reckless and dangerous. How many young (and older) people read and admire Hunter S. Thompson and sometimes have thoughts of suicide? Portraying it as a beautiful thing, a triumph, and an act of sublime control over destiny is profoundly wrong!

ANOTHER UPDATE: Bebere joins the plea not to romanticize suicide and reminds us of the Werther effect.

5 comments:

series4832 said...

Suicide is not the result of someone who has any sort of grip on his own mind. He lived his life on the edge, and he had "true grit", but if you teeter there long enough this sort of thing happens.

RumDiary said...

You are an insult to true journalism. Hunter was a person who was not effected by the way people living a life for other people viewed him. He lived his life, like a true human being. He did not sit around wondering or intaking others experiences, he lived them. Who the fuck are you to say his family was just trying to cope with his death by making those comments? You were not close with him or anyone like him, you cannot understand a person with a true, open mind. Perhaps you have let the
fact that he surrounded himself with like minded beings escape you.
His suicide was not romanticized,
he left on truly honest terms, In fashion with how the great doctor wrote.

RumDiary said...

You are an insult to true journalism. Hunter was a person who was not effected by the way people living a life for other people viewed him. He lived his life, like a true human being. He did not sit around wondering or intaking others experiences, he lived them. Who the fuck are you to say his family was just trying to cope with his death by making those comments? You were not close with him or anyone like him, you cannot understand a person with a true, open mind. Perhaps you have let the
fact that he surrounded himself with like minded beings escape you.
His suicide was not romanticized,
he left on truly honest terms, In fashion with how the great doctor wrote. I believe you should go ahead and follow in his footsteps, as you are everything he disgusts.

mark said...

The REAL reason people spew the dogma
"Suicide bad- Life good" is because the living envy the dead.

mark said...

The reason people spew the dogma
"suicide bad- life good" is because life is a prison sentence, and misery loves company.
The living envy the dead. Unless , of course, your're filthy rich. The rich need all the slaves they can get.