Autodidact: self-taught

Apr
16
2012

D

by V. L. Craven

‘A Death of One’s Own’ about Carolyn Heilbrun by Vanessa Grigoriadia in New York
-01- Then there was Heilbrun’s most problematic notion, the one she believed was everyone’s moral right: a death of one’s own—suicide…
-02- Not many people came by the apartment [and she] announced late in life that she would no longer give any of her own [dinner parties] . Her clothes came from catalogues and dressmakers, and groceries from orders called in to the supermarkets.
-03- Heilbrun’s suicide was an act of will, an idea brought to life. It was something she chose, by herself, for herself.
-04- [Her friend Joan Ferrante:] We had agreed for a long time that [suicide] was the sensible way to face things.
And Heilbrun was nothing if not sensible: She made what she considered informed decisions, and seldom second-guessed herself. She disliked idle chit chat, so, at age 50, she took a Maoist approach to her social life, ordaining that her meetings with friends should he almost wholly restricted to one-on-one affairs.
-05- It is this courage to choose—to live life as you want, and to hell with everyone else, even those who love you—that both enriched Heilbrun’s life, and hastened her death. E.M. Forster writes, ‘It is difficult, after accepting six cups of tea, t throw the seventh in the face of your hostess,’ but Heilbrun made a life of, as she writes, ‘flinging the conventional tea.’
-06- Death, on the other hand, she invested with no meaning at all. She left up instructions for her memorial, or about what to do with her body: Her family knew only that she had once commented, after the death of the family cat, that she didn’t have any feelings on that topic. ‘You can flush my ashes down the toilet, for all I care,’ she said.
-07- …there is a history of it among prominent modern women writers, from Woolf (rocks in pockets, walks into lake) to poet Anne Sexton (carbon-monoxide poisoning in garage) to Sylvia Plath (head in oven).

D Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris
01. I settled back in my chair, drunk with the power of a second home. When school began, my classmates would court me, hoping I might invite them for the weekend, and I would make a game of pitting them against one another. This was what a person did when people liked him for all the wrong reasons, and I would grow to be very good at it.
02. My parents were not the type of people who went to bed at a regular hour. Sleep overtook them, but neither the time nor the idea of a mattress seemed very important. My father favoured a chair in the basement, but my mother was apt to lie down anywhere, waking with carpet burns on her face or the pattern of the sofa embossed into the soft flesh of her upper arms. It was sort of embarrassing. She might sleep for eight hours a day, but they were never consecutive hours and they involved no separate outfit. For Christmas we would give her nightgowns, hoping she might take the hint. ‘They’re for bedtime,’ we’d say, and she’d look at us strangely, as if, like the moment of one’s death, the occasion of sleep was too incalculable to involve any real preparation.
The upside to being raised by what were essentially a pair of house cats was that we never had any enforced bedtime.
03. Usually when I was forced to compete, it was my tactic to simply give up. To try in any way was to announce your ambition, which only made you more vulnerable. The person who wanted to win but failed was a loser, while the person who didn’t really care was just a weirdo–a title I had learned to live with.
04. [About a classmate’s father meeting his father for the first time.] While most handshakes mumbled, his spoke clearly, saying both ‘We’ll get through this as quickly as possible and I’m looking forward to your vote this coming November.’
05. She was the sort of person who could talk to anyone, not in the pointed, investigative manner that the situation called for, but generally, casually. Had she been sent to interview Charles Manson, she might have come away saying, ‘I never knew he liked bamboo!’ It was maddening.
06. Her face was like the weather in one of those places with no discernible seasons.
07. As children we’d been assigned certain roles–leader, bum, trouble-maker, slut–titles that effectively told us who we were. As the oldest, smartest and bossiest, it was naturally assumed that Lisa would shoot to the top of her field, earning a master’s degree in manipulation and eventually taking over a medium-size country.
08. Lisa’s a person who once witnessed a car accident, saying, ‘I just hope there isn’t a dog in the backseat.’ Human suffering doesn’t faze her much, but she’ll cry for day over a sick-pet story.

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