Saturday, June 10, 2017

the last book I ever read (Elizabeth Bishop: A Miracle for Breakfast, excerpt twelve)

from Elizabeth Bishop: A Miracle for Breakfast by Megan Marshall:

Since Lota’s death, thoughts of suicide had rarely been far from Elizabeth’s mind, though her concern was nearly always for the bereaved. Even with an ambiguous death brought on by an “accident of an unconscious-suicide kind, a sudden impulse,” as she’d judged Randall Jarrell’s fatal walk on the highway and possibly Lota’s overdose, Elizabeth knew how feelings of responsibility and guilt inevitably spread to survivors. After John Berryman leapt from a bridge in 1972 and Anne Sexton succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning in her garage in 1974, she’d moaned to Howard Moss, “Oh dear, oh dear—I wish people would stop doing this.” Yet Elizabeth harbored a recurrent desire, she’d once confided in Alice, “to pass quite out of the picture from time to time,” to perform a vanishing act without serious consequences. During the season of her double collapse in Ouro Prêto, she’d welcomed a “stupendous thunderstorm” that descended with biblical force on the town, she’d written to Alice, hoping “I might get struck by lightning—a dramatic demise, don’t you think--& so good for book-sales.” Alice had easily read the desperation in Elizabeth’s fantasy and scolded her: wishing to be struck by lightning was “not ok . . . . Cut that out!”

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