Some say dentists have the highest suicide rate among all professions. Not so; it’s actually physicians. Try telling that to writers, though, those sensitive, sun-challenged, pale creatures who spend their days in isolation, staring at a blank screen, bleeding for their art, pitching their wares to an uncaring public. No wonder the following writers ditched their typewriters and hit the delete button on their lives. Makes you wonder why great art comes at such a high cost. The only upside? No one is better qualified to write a suicide note. Here are 11 famous writers who took their own lives.
Breece D’J Pancake
In 1979, Pancake took his life with a gunshot to the head. Known as a short-story writer often compared to Hemingway, he wrote short stories for The Atlantic Monthly. He was posthumously nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Chuck Palahniuk and Andre Dubus III claim Pancake as a strong influence on their own writing.
In 1941, at the age of 59, Woolf put stones in her pockets and walked in the River Ouse and drowned. That’s commitment; that could not have been quick. Nicole Kidman portrayed her in the film “The Hours.” She’s famous for her novels “Mrs Dalloway,” “To the Lighthouse” and “Orlando,” as well as her experiments with stream-of-consciousness writing.
Probably the most famous writer suicide in recent history, in 1961 Hemingway shot himself in the head with a shotgun. Winner of the Nobel Prize, many of his works are considered masterpieces. If you ever paid attention in high school, you probably read some of them. One of his best quotes: “Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.”
In the dead of winter in 1971, Berryman jumped off the Washington Avenue Bridge in Minneapolis and died. Known for poetry, he was the winner of the National Book Award, Pulitzer Prize and Bollingen Prize. He’s best known for “The Dream Songs,” a sequence of 385 extremely frank poems. His own father committed suicide when John was only 12, a recurring subject in his poetry.
A poet in the “confessional style” and winner of the Pulitzer Prize, in 1974 Sexton put on her mother’s old coat, poured herself a glass of vodka, removed all her rings, and started the engine of her car in a closed garage. She died of carbon monoxide poisoning. She suffered from mental illness most of her life.
Writer of “The Bell Jar” and posthumous winner of the Pulitzer Prize for poetry, in 1963 (and at the age of only 30) she placed her head inside an oven with the gas on. Sadly, the cycle of depression continued in her family. In 2009, her son Nicolas hanged himself. A controversy still rages today as fans of Plath scratch her husband’s last name “Hughes” off her headstone, leaving only “Sylvia Plath” (In 1962, Plath discovered Hughes was having an affair and they separated prior to her death).
Novelist, short story writer and poet, he’s best known for his novel “Trout Fishing in America.” In 1984, at age 49, he shot himself with a .44 Magnum. The exact date isn’t known as his decomposed body was found by a private investigator in October of that year. He left a suicide note that read, “Messy, isn’t it?” Yikes.
John Kennedy Toole
As any bookstore clerk will tell you, the “Confederacy of Dunces” author committed suicide in 1969 at the age of 31. He was posthumously awarded the Pulitzer Prize after his mother worked tirelessly to get his manuscript published. Toole died after attaching a garden hose to his tailpipe and ran it into the window of his car. He died as an unpublished writer.
Hunter S. Thompson
The king of road trips, Thompson is famous for "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" and gonzo journalism. In 2005, at the age of 67, he shot himself. Per his instructions, his ashes were shot out of a canon. His suicide note, later published by Rolling Stone, read, “No More Games. No More Bombs. No More Walking. No More Fun. No More Swimming. 67. That is 17 years past 50. 17 more than I needed or wanted. Boring. I am always bitchy. No Fun — for anybody. 67. You are getting Greedy. Act your (old) age. Relax — This won't hurt.”
If you don’t know who this is, shame on you. Read this list: actor, playwright, screenwriter, performance artist, pornographic film actor and monologist. In 2004, after a history of depression and slow recovery from a crippling car crash, he threw himself into the New York harbor. He had tried three other times to kill himself. His monologue, “Swimming to Cambodia,” gave him national attention.
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David Foster Wallace
An author best known for his door-stopping “Infinite Jest,” Wallace was a novelist, short-story writer and professor at Pomona College. Suffering from depression for most his life, in 2008 he committed suicide by hanging himself. In 2012, his unfinished novel “The Pale King” was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.