October 16, 2013

"I come from 7 suicides, perhaps more."

Said Mariel Hemingway, who's in a new documentary called "Running From Crazy," the trailer for which I've embedded below:
The granddaughter of Ernest Hemingway, Mariel has had to contend with a lot during her life. While millions celebrate her father as one of the all-time greatest writers, Mariel has struggled with the history of mental illness in her family.
Note the headslappingly bad error in that passage, which is in USA Today, where they seem to be running from editing.



There's some New Age-y spirituality in that, but it seems to be mostly about a wholesome experience in the mountains and earnest* physical exercise. What would you do if substance abuse, depression, and suicide seemed to "curse" your family? Just to call it a "curse," which MH does, is to give it a spiritual quality, as if one — like Scalia — believed in the Devil. If you think something is engrained in your genetic structure, it might be preferable to conceive of that thing as a separate entity that you could fight.

***

That Scalia business got me to download "The Screwtape Letters," and searching for "suicide," I came up with this, as the devil Screwtape talks about how to use love to turn "an emotional, gullible man" away from God:
[F]eed him on minor poets and fifth-rate novelists of the old school until you have made him believe that ‘Love’ is both irresistible and somehow intrinsically meritorious. This belief is not much help, I grant you, in producing casual unchastity; but it is an incomparable recipe for prolonged, ‘noble’, romantic, tragic adulteries, ending, if all goes well, in murders and suicides. Failing that, it can be used to steer the patient into a useful marriage....
I love the happenstance of "novelist" appearing in that passage, but no one would put Hemingway at the 5th rate level. Even Hemingway haters. Here's a Hemingway quote:
Dying was nothing and he had no picture of it nor fear of it in his mind. But living was a field of grain blowing in the wind on the side of a hill. Living was a hawk in the sky. Living was an earthen jar of water in the dust of the threshing with the grain flailed out and the chaff blowing. Living was a horse between your legs and a carbine under one leg and a hill and a valley and a stream with trees along it and the far side of the valley and the hills beyond.
That chimes with Mariel's less-well-put thoughts on walking the hills.

***

*  No pun intended. Noticed only on proofreading.

40 comments:

traditionalguy said...

She is being a realist. Sadness and depression are heavy duty spiritual forces that can usually be linked to suicides.

What to do about those forces requires more than pretending that they don't exist.

Rusty said...

I know old Earnest liked to set out a deck chair and sip his strawberry daiquiris while watching Che execute the enemies of the state.
So yeah there are some real sickies in that family.

The Roller said...

New age, sewage.

carrie said...

It is my understanding that the many Hemingways who committed suicide were bipolar, not just depressed. Although I don't think that the genetic link has been conclusively established yet, it is definitely implied since bipolar disorder is more common in people who have a blood relative with the disorder. I think that cursed is a good word for a genetic disease. Unfortunately, the suicide rate for people who suffer from bipolar disorder is extremely high so suicide is part of the curse that is bipolar disease.

madAsHell said...

I see the Oprah Winfrey brand. It's going to be a tear-jerker for women. I can miss it.

Crunchy Frog said...

I blame George W. Bush.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Oh, yeah, that's some seriously bad editing.

richlb said...

She's 51 and she looks amazing. Like the Kennedys, the Hemmingways certainly breed well.

cassandra lite said...

How long before the DSM lists suicide as a recognized medical condition?

Does anyone know whether life-insurance actuaries rate applicants down if there's a history of suicide in the family?

My father died at 32 from a rare cancer he almost certainly got, along with hundreds of others, as a soldier during WW2 forced to witness atomic blasts in NM. Nothing I do can convince the actuaries that I'm a good risk, even though everyone else in my family has lived into their 90s.

David Blaska said...

Yes, Mariel's grandfather was Ernesto. And His father committed suicide, as did Mariel's sister. My own sister was bipolar, and she died from it, too.

Unknown said...

The way that is written sounds like the movie "China Town."

Edward Lunny said...

Suicide....yes, because it's so effective at solving your problems ? Never mind the corrosive and catastrophic effects it has on those that you have abandoned. I suppose those don't count. Seems, no, it is a horrific thing to do to your family, your loved ones, your children, absolutely horrific.
I guess once someone in the family breaks the ice, it becomes easier to follow the example than to set a precedent. Still, what a shitty, horrific thing to do to your children, your family. Unforgivable ,even.

BarrySanders20 said...

Mariel liked to show her lovely tush in gratuitous nude scenes. Maybe that was a way to build self-esteem, or maybe she just liked the thought of lots of people seeing her naked and enjoying it.

mrs. e said...

Glad she's found a solution instead of swimming at the bottom of a bottle.

T J Sawyer said...

Hemingway only committed suicide after being treated with electroshock "therapy" at the Mayo Clinic. He returned home and discovered that he could no longer write.

I'd call him a victim of "settled science."

David said...

So what's the editing error? The first sentence is awkward but I don't think it's ungrammatical. Nor is it ambiguous even though the construction is unusual and slows you down. My recollection is that constructions like "The President of the United States, Barack Obama went golfing today" were quite common 50 plus years ago. So the construction is archaic if nothing else.

So if editors are supposed to correct awkward writing, it's an error. (I do think that's part of their job.) But if they want to give their writers the freedom to be grammatical bad writers, it was not an error.



Don M said...

Editing error. Ernest Hemmingway was her grandfather, yet her father is said to be one of the all time greatest writers. Should have been 'grandfather' used twice.

"The granddaughter of Ernest Hemingway, Mariel has had to contend with a lot during her life. While millions celebrate her father as one of the all-time greatest writers,...."

FleetUSA said...

@David. USA Today called Earnest her father.

Don M said...

Her father, Jack Hemingway published an autobiography, Misadventures of a Fly Fisherman: My Life With and Without Papa, in 1986. A second volume of autobiography was released posthumously in 2002: A Life Worth Living: The Adventures of a Passionate Sportsman.

He also finished his fathers 'A Moveable Feast' but his own work is not the stuff to get him ranked as an all time great writer.

Don M said...

Editing error. Ernest Hemmingway was her grandfather, yet her father is said to be one of the all time greatest writers. Should have been 'grandfather' used twice.

"The granddaughter of Ernest Hemingway, Mariel has had to contend with a lot during her life. While millions celebrate her father as one of the all-time greatest writers,...."

John Constantius said...

Easy there Edward. Suicides happen for a reason. Telling someone it's a shitty thing to do to their families isn't going to stop someone who has that reason.

Carl Heppenstall said...

It's in my family, and it is certainly genetic - I have some, maybe most of it, but while the disease is genetic, the solution is often spiritual. Unless you've had it, it seems you won't understand it.

Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

You could have found many better passages in The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, the short stories, ad A Moveable Feast. For Whom the Bell Tolls was when he was going Hollywood-syrupy, with "Did the earth move for you?" and so forth.

Chosen nearly at random:

“But sometimes when I was starting a new story and I could not get it going, I would sit in front of the fire and squeeze the peel of the little oranges into the edge of the flame and watch the sputter of blue that they made. I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, 'Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.' So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there.”

Smilin' Jack said...

Note the headslappingly bad error in that passage, which is in USA Today, where they seem to be running from editing.

Well, it's an error, but I wouldn't say it's headslappingly bad. After all, the Hemingways could have come from West Virginia.

gbarto said...

Edward,
I suppose it's also pretty crappy to drink too much, eat too much, smoke too much or even exercise too much and thereby come to an early end living the life you chose instead of the life your family needed you to live. And yet, free and fallible human beings make all manner of mistakes that have repercussions for those around them. A case in point: I tried to stand strong and deal with my suicidal thoughts on my own. I damn near came to my own end before seeking out a psychiatrist and getting proper care. A funny thing, though: When I see the GP for a cold, it's a $25.00 copay. When I see the shrink, they only pay 40%. The deadliest thing I have faced - mental illness - is viewed as a frivolity or weakness by many while other self-destructive approaches to life are treated very differently. Were mental illness treated like every other illness - a biosystem out of balance for reasons internal and external - there'd be a lot less nonsense and, I daresay, a lot less suicide and homelessness.

wildswan said...

Sometimes I wonder whether drugs and alcohol are implicated in some of these "depressive" or "bipolar" suicides. Some people can't take drugs at all - one hit and they become heavily involved with drugs forever after. Then later they say they have a genetic mood disorder but they never talk about their heavy drinking or drug use as a cause, at least a contributing cause. I have seen this happen but I don't know whether it is common.

Carl Heppenstall said...

The propensity toward drug and alcohol addiction originates from that same bundle of genetic material that brings about the mental diseases. Environment may exasperate the condition, but it is clearly an inherited genetic disease.

William said...

My father and his father were alcoholics. I always expected that some day my own attraction to strong drink would rage out of control and that I would end up a drunk on skid row. Never happened, but a fair amount of psychic energy went into worrying about it. Fretting about the abyss is its own abyss....A lot of ACOAs try to make the past come out alright by marrying an addict and being their salvation. An addicted spouse is more like an abscess than an abyss, but, if you're looking for a fast ride to hell, that will serve.

rcocean said...

The Hemingway strain of suicide comes in two strands:

1) Getting old and sick and deciding to end on your own terms rather than playing out the string

2) Middle-age depression leading to suicide.

EH was clearly becoming mentally unstable around 60 - that's why he ended up at Mayo. Sadly, the "electro-shock" treatment probably killed him instead of curing him.

eddie willers said...

The way that is written sounds like the movie "China Town."

"He's my father..slap!...he's my grandfather..slap!...he's my father..slap!...he's my grandfather..slap!.

Rusty said...

Well. I hope he didn't use one of the matched Boss 12 bores or the presentation grade Parker. That would be bad form.

Ann Althouse said...

"You could have found many better passages in The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, the short stories, ad A Moveable Feast. For Whom the Bell Tolls was when he was going Hollywood-syrupy, with "Did the earth move for you?" and so forth."

I wasn't really looking for goodness, but something more relevant to love and the meaning of life.

I kind of liked the badness, actually.

Living was an earthen jar...

But don't kill your self.

Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

Oh, you want love and the meaning of life.

From The Sun Also Rises, the most universally applicable closing line in all of literature:

“Oh Jake," Brett said, "We could have had such a damned good time together."
Ahead was a mounted policeman in khaki directing traffic. He raised his baton. The car slowed suddenly, pressing Brett against me.
Yes," I said. "Isn't it pretty to think so?”

From A Farewell to Arms:

The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.

Althouse special: Hemingway on Fitzgerald:

His talent was as natural as the pattern that was made by the dust on a butterfly's wings. At one time he understood it no more than the butterfly did and he did not know when it was brushed or marred. Later he became conscious of his damaged wings and of their construction and he learned to think and could not fly any more because the love of flight was gone and he could only remember when it had been effortless.


Mid-Life Lawyer said...

That's a damn fine blog post.

betamax3000 said...

Things to Say, But Not as Comfortable as Before.

betamax3000 said...

Why Did the Suicidal Robot Cross the Road?

Hoping For a Train.

Why Did the Suicidal Robot Cross the Train Tracks?

Hoping for a Bus.

Why Did the Suicidal Robot Cross the T's and Dot the I's?

Algorithms.

Rusty said...

I have a picture of Hemingway. It is taken in the side yard of his house in Cuba. His last wife was the sister of my fathers business partner. Hemingway, his wife and Eddie-I only knew him as Eddie- are squinting into the camera. Hemingway is smiling, His wife looks uncertain, tentative. Eddie, much older than the other two has a huge grin. He just sold the family banana plantation. A business that never made any money. The revolution was just around the corner.

heyboom said...

I guess once someone in the family breaks the ice, it becomes easier to follow the example than to set a precedent. Still, what a shitty, horrific thing to do to your children, your family. Unforgivable ,even.

My brother committed suicide 12 years ago at the age of 40. None of what you say is true. Nobody else in the family has contemplated suicide because he "broke the ice". While his suicide was initially devastating for us, we never considered it a shitty thing, and we do forgive him and celebrate the life he lived. If anything, it made our family bonds even stronger.

Rusty said...

Gary Cooper was a better wing shot.

Rusty said...

The Two Hearted River isn't much of a trout stream anymore. Even up at the headwaters. Besides he was writing about the Escanaba.