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Stay: A History of Suicide and the Philosophies Against Itby Jennifer Michael Hecht
Synopses & Reviews
Worldwide, more people die by suicide than by murder, and many more are left behind to grieve. Despite distressing statistics that show suicide rates rising, the subject, long a taboo, is infrequently talked about. In this sweeping intellectual and cultural history, poet and historian Jennifer Michael Hecht channels her grief for two friends lost to suicide into a search for historys most persuasive arguments against the irretrievable act, arguments she hopes to bring back into public consciousness.
From the Stoics and the Bible to Dante, Shakespeare, Wittgenstein, and such twentieth-century writers as John Berryman, Hecht recasts the narrative of our “secular age” in new terms. She shows how religious prohibitions against self-killing were replaced by the Enlightenments insistence on the rights of the individual, even when those rights had troubling applications. This transition, she movingly argues, resulted in a profound cultural and moral loss: the loss of shared, secular, logical arguments against suicide. By examining how people in other times have found powerful reasons to stay alive when suicide seems a tempting choice, she makes a persuasive intellectual and moral case against suicide.
"Suicide as a concept has been praised, defended, and vilified in various contexts throughout history as poet and scholar Hecht (Doubt: A History) painstakingly illustrates in this nuanced and unsettling work, whose title acts as a rallying refrain throughout. Hecht's scrutiny of 'despair suicide' begins with the personal — the destabilizing deaths of two poet friends in quick succession. Though the word 'suicide' wasn't invented until the 17th century, the discussion carefully follows attitudes from myth, religion, philosophy, and literature as Hecht welcomes the voices of an impressive cast of thinkers. Hamlet's 'To be or not to be' soliloquy is examined as well as the thinking of Socrates, John Milton, and Anne Sexton. While the statistics are harrowing — one suicide can influence others as research emphatically shows — the book's conclusions are hopeful. Gratitude is owed to those who reject suicide, according to Hecht, not only by the community but also by one's 'future self' who may be days, months, or years away. Like death, life can inspire, because one's 'ideas matter.' (Nov.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
A leading public critic reminds us of the compelling reasons people throughout time have found to stay alive
How can we forestall the rising tide of suicides in the United States and worldwide? In this invaluable book, the author combs through the history of suicide to recover the most powerful arguments against the irretrievable act.
About the Author
Jennifer Michael Hecht is the author of three history books, including the best-selling Doubt: A History, and three volumes of poetry. Her work has won major awards in intellectual history and in poetry. Hecht teaches poetry at the New School University in Manhattan and lives in Brooklyn, NY.
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Health and Self-Help » Health and Medicine » Death and Dying