Tuesday, December 10, 2013

What is Jennifer Michael Hecht reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Jennifer Michael Hecht, author of Stay: A History of Suicide and the Philosophies Against It.

Her entry begins:
I’m reading The Great Enigma: new collected poems by Tomas Tranströmer, translated by Robin Fulton. Tranströmer won the 2011 Nobel in literature, though he’s still not that well known in the US. I teach a course in the graduate program at the New School called “Poets and Philosophy” and this year it centers on psychology. Tranströmer’s poetry is deeply concerned with the hidden workings of the mind, and he himself worked as a psychologist, so he was perfect for our reading list. Now rereading the poems on this cold blue-skied day I’m moved not only by his insight but by his patience. He’s...[read on]
About Stay, from the publisher:
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 history’s 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 Enlightenment’s 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.
Learn more about the book and author at Jennifer Michael Hecht's website.

The Page 99 Test: Stay: A History of Suicide and the Philosophies Against It.

Writers Read: Jennifer Michael Hecht.

--Marshal Zeringue