PERSONAL: Male. Education: Washington University, M.F.A.
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Prometheus Books, 59 John Glenn Dr., Amherst, NY 14228-2197.
CAREER: Writer. Co-founder of Kalliope (literary magazine).
AWARDS, HONORS: Henry Sams Memorial Award, Pennsylvania State University; fellowship from Washington University.
Final Drafts: Suicides of World-Famous Authors, Prometheus Books (Amherst, NY), 1999.
SIDELIGHTS: Mark Seinfelt discusses some of the great figures in literary history who have taken their own lives in his book Final Drafts: Suicides of World-Famous Authors. Sylvia Plath, Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Woolf, and Jerzy Kosinski are some of the better-known authors covered in Seinfelt's study, but a total of more than fifty self-inflicted deaths is included in this analysis of psychic pain and desperation.
Seinfelt examines references to suicide or hopelessness in the selected authors' work and private papers. He includes those authors who killed themselves by a slow process of self-destructive behavior as well as those who took their lives in a single dramatic act. He examines various motives and mental illnesses that led to the suicides, including guilt, depression, feelings of extreme self-doubt, substance abuse, and frustration with the world's ills. Seinfelt also probes the fact that suicide was extremely uncommon among writers before the twentieth century; he suggests that the taboo against it has weakened considerably in an era that saw widespread genocide and carnage from high-tech weapons.
"Final Drafts is an intriguing bedside-table book, better for dipping into than for reading at a stretch," commented Randall Curb in a review for BookPage.com "The stories are necessarily grim and disturbing, but the subjects rarely fail to fascinate." A Publishers Weekly reviewer commented that while Seinfelt offers "nothing factually new," Final Drafts is a "handy source for checking … favorite authorial suicides," and Booklist contributor Mary Carroll believed that Seinfelt's short biographies will "send readers back to his subjects' own works." Curb echoed that sentiment, saying that Seinfelt "performs a more valuable service than merely rendering a downward spiral: He makes you want to read their work."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, September 1, 1999, Mary Carroll, review of Final Drafts: Suicides of World-Famous Authors, p. 58.
Publishers Weekly, August 2, 1999, review of Final Drafts, p. 67.