So you can read my books

Monday, July 2, 2012


Ghost of Hemingway here.

On this day in 1961, I committed suicide at the age of sixty-one.

If you are considering suicide ...


It is a long term solution to a short term problem.

The good thing about suicide is that you can alays do it tomorrow.

The overlooked thing about suicide is that it is infectious.

There have been five suicides in the Hemingway family over four generations --

my father, Clarence;

my siblings Ursula, Leicester ... myself;

saddest of all, my granddaughter Margaux.

The generation skipped was not. Not really:

My youngest son, Gregory, died in 2001 as a transsexual named Gloria, of causes that make a mockery of the term "natural."

I recall the time that I, in one of my arm-around-shoulder moods,

congratulated him for his fine attempt at a short story, which Greg had stolen word for word from Turgenev --

one of the masters I prided myself on knowing.

Yes, I knew he had done it.

But I was trying to ... to build a bridge I had torn down with my own actions and words.

One moment cast a shadow, one long enough for Greg to write that he was glad that I was dead so "I couldn't disappoint Papa any more."

The moment came on Greg's last visit just after the death of Greg's mother, Pauline.

She died suddenly, about the time Greg had gotten into trouble for taking drugs. I was raw with the loss.

His visit to my home in Cuba went well for a time only because I kept biting my tongue.

Greg confided his plans for medical school. If only he had kept his mouth shut after that, but no, he always had to speak that one word too many.

He spoke of his drug incident.

"It wasn't so bad, really, Papa," he said.

"No? Well, it killed Mother," I said.

He left. I never saw him again.

Anger. Depression.

Those are the monsters you have to kill, not some mindless elephant or lion.

I remember those heads of tigers and lions I kept on my wall. I can still see in my mind the Marlins mounted next to them.
Why? I told reporters because they reminded me of their fierce beauty.

A lie. I thought my mother beautiful. I kept photographs of her.

I felt a man when I looked at the evidence of my skill, my bravery.


If they held rifles that could shoot back, then I would have been brave.

Tame the anger, the depression in your own soul.

You will bag the biggest, deadliest game in the world.

That is how you prove your worth ...

and save those around you from the poison you would otherwise feed into their souls.


  1. Everyone says it's a long term solution to a short term problem, but that depends on why you're doing it. Obviously if you're 15 and do it because someone broke up with you then that's true. If you're 75 and living in horrible pain from various ailments then it's not the same. Which is why I believe in assisted suicide in those cases. I mean we'll do that for our pets but let our relatives endure horrible pain for years out of some misplaced sense of morality. That doesn't seem right.

  2. PT:
    I was speaking statistically. Adolescents make up a staggering percentage of suicides.

    You make the same point that Hemingway made before he committed suicide.

    Memoirs written by those close to Hemingway convey different impressions of his suicide.

    Mary Hemingway does not refuse the idea that it was a noble, destroyed-but-not-defeated act, but she stresses the sure fact that her husband was mentally ill, and getting worse.

    Brother Leicester chooses the heroic interpretation:

    "Like a samurai who felt dishonored by the word or deed of another,

    Ernest felt his own body had betrayed him."

    Having hunted with his big brother, and heard him talk about giving animals "the gift of death,"

    Leicester believes that Hemingway chose to give it to himself.

    Greg categorizes his father's death as "semi-voluntary," an act born of lifelong defiance and momentary delusion.

    Simple answers are most often wrong ones.

  3. PT:

    I meant to say also:

    Suicide is infectious and lethally so, flowing down the generations to offer the precedent to youngsters who make an eternal decision on a momentary crisis.

    If you care about your loved ones, children, and grandchildren to come, you would be wise to consider what your suicide would do to them.

  4. So tragic. It makes you wonder whether that kind of genius has some link to the instability that allows one to take their own life.

  5. Knowing about the correlation between artistry and mental illness, I wouldn't doubt Hemingway was suffering from Major Depressive Disorder or Bipolar Disorder. Too bad they didn't know much about therapy and medication back then. Suicide is so devastating to the loved ones left behind that it's hard to see the good in it. Interesting info about Hemingway's family!

  6. Johanna:
    I believe Ernest was bruised by the suicide of his father, further bruised by the hell he saw in WWI. His attentive mind saw too clearly not to be scarred. Those left behind tend to be victims themselves, much like children of abusive parents become abusive parents or abused spouses themselves.

    Yes, when I went to school, it was called Manic Depressive Disorder, now called Bipolar Disorder. I feel a dinosaur at times. LOL.

    There were excellent medicines even in the "Stone Age" of the sixties. Some of the major thinkers of psychology were alive then, too.

    Carl Rogers His findings and theories appeared in Client-Centered Therapy (1951) and Psychotherapy and Personality Change (1954). In 1956, Rogers became the first President of the American Academy of Psychotherapists.

    Medication for mania and depression was introduced in the 1950's. As you, of course, know Lithium carbonate, a natural mineral salt, was then, and is still occasionally used to help control both mania and depression in bipolar disorder.

    Not for you, Jennifer, who already know this but for those who are scratching their heads right about now ...

    The drug generally takes two to three weeks to become effective. People with bipolar disorder may take lithium during periods of relatively normal mood to delay or prevent future episodes of mania or depression.

    Lithium is still the best researched medication for this condition; no other medication has been shown to be superior in controlling depression, suicidal thoughts, or long-term mood stability.

    It also has been shown to decrease anger and sudden impulse decisions in people who do not have bipolar disorder.

    As with any medication, there are side effects: weight gain, edema, nausea. Too high a dose can cause kidney damage.

    Whew! I went on, didn't I? Sorry, Jennifer, but it is rare I get to talk to someone who has a similar background as mine.

  7. Suicide is poison. It is also a sign that the person never grew out of the phase where they believed they were the center of the universe. It absolutely disgusts me, makes me angry -- but I can't say I've never been in that dark place where it almost seems reasonable.

  8. Erin:
    Life has a way of becoming a very dark place. Sometimes the light never seems to come. Still so many are influenced by us of whom we are not aware. For them, we must learn to walk in the dark.

    You're right: suicide is poison. So many are on the edge. If we give in to despair, the news of what we do may be enough to shove those struggling souls over that edge.

    We must be strong for those others in the valley of the shadow of whom we are unaware ...

    although we are all too aware of the pain of that anguish which torments them ...

    for it torments us as well.

  9. I didn't know suicide was so rife in Hemingway's family. It makes you think that it really can be hereditary, like a disease. So, the person who started that chain would have a lot to answer for. It must be terrible to get to the point where, despite having loved ones around you, you're in so much pain that they get forgotten or marginalised.

  10. Nick:
    Any major dysfunction tends to infect the following generation in some form or fashion. It is not so much hereditary -- though Bipolar Disorder and other chemical imbalances are often inherited -- but dysfunction shapes the psyches of the children in often crippling ways.

    Pain has a way of making us all tunnel-visioned until we lose sight of others as emotional or physical pain fills our horizon.

    Thanks for visiting and commenting! Roland

  11. I couldn't get passed the "you can always do it tomorrow" line without a guffaw, and then fell like a horse's ass as I continued reading.

    Maybe I'm just shallow.

  12. Holly:
    The ghost of Ernest Hemingway meant for you to laugh at his line. He was infamous for gallows humor. No, you are not shallow. No friend of Ernest and me is that!

    The Yin Yang of human anguish is always laughter amidst tears it seems. Thanks for visiting and caring enough to chat!

  13. The saddest thing is that so many of the Hemingway family killed themselves. Maybe there is a suicide gene? In Ernest's case how many great stories did he take with him? I guess he lived large and died large, but I'm forever a fan.


  14. Ack!! You and your "I can't click over fast enough" blog titles. They're not for the faint at heart.

    I've known two people to commit this selfish act. One, a boy in high school, whom I didn't know, but killed himself in his classroom, in a room full of freshmen.

    And, two, my next door neighbor. The neighbor had been a heavy drinker and depressed. One Sunday morning, after his wife and son arrived home from church, he shot himself in the back bedroom.

    We heard the shot here at our house, but living in the "country" we never thought anything of the noise, until the ambulance arrived.

    I can't grasp what goes through a person's mind when making that ultimate decision. I don't think I'll ever understand the whys and hows.

    Shivering post.

  15. Denise:
    Hemingway cast such a large shadow that his children and grandchildren were shaped by it as he was bruised by the suicide of his father.

    Like you, I wonder how many great stories he would have written if only he had rallied enough to seek therapy or face another day.

    The title is the first thing potential readers will see of your post or your novel ... make it count ... for you may lose them at the front door.

    Yes, it is a selfish act ... many times it is a "Look what you made me do" gesture.

    The high school freshman did it in front of his classmates. The husband waited until his wife and son came back from church.

    The inner world of a person considering suicide is a dark, lonely place filled with anger towards himself and others, shrouded in the mists of despair.

    Angst and loneliness have the feel of eternity to them while you're suffering. However, most things change as most things things hurt a bit less after a night's sleep ... you just have to find the resolve to hang on through the midnight of the soul to the dawn of a new chance of something better.

    Thanks for visiting. Sorry to have given you an "Ack!!" moment with the title. :-)