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Final Drafts: Suicides of World-Famous Authors Hardcover – December 1, 1999

3.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A collection of biographical essays for the morbidly curious, this pedestrian book relates, in term-paper fashion, the lives, works and self-inflicted deaths of about 40 reasonably memorable authors. (The term "author" is employed rather looselyAHitler earns a chapter courtesy of Mein Kampf.) Presented chronologically by year of suicide, the essays begin in 1894 with Henry James's anxious friend Constance Fenimore Woolson and end in 1991 with Polish ?migr? novelist Jerzy Kosinski. Yet, perhaps unwilling to throw away any of his accumulated notes, Seinfelt adds appendixes of "Other Notables," "More Suicides Still" and "Seven Possibles" to the 25 corpses on his main stage, among them Hemingway, Plath and Koestler. The essays include short bios, plot summaries of the authors' works, and the methods of suicide. Unquestionably, Seinfelt has read a great many biographiesAand obituariesAin his research, but he offers nothing factually new. His only message seems to be that writing is dangerous to one's mental health. Nevertheless, readers may find this a handy source for checking their favorite authorial suicidesAas well as an inadvertently amusing collection of clich?s and unintended implications: "He was...one of the least suited writers ever to show up in California," Seinfelt writes of Ross Lockridge, author of Raintree County, "He did not have a thick skin."
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Until the twentieth century, Seinfelt speculates, the "ultimate taboo" against suicide kept many writers who experienced depression and wrote about suicide in their fiction from committing the deed, but, as the taboo has lost its force, all too many twentieth-century writers have ended their own lives. Collected here are brief discussions of more than 50 writers: 25, from Henry James' friend Constance Woolson to Virginia Woolf, Hemingway, Plath, Yukio Mishima, Berryman, Koestler, and Kosinski, are given a thorough discussion; the remainder, which includes Jack London, William Inge, Richard Brautigan, Primo Levi, F. O. Matthiessen, Michael Dorris, and J. Anthony Lukas, are discussed more briefly. A final section, "Seven Possibles," includes Ambrose Bierce, T. E. Lawrence, Randall Jarrell, and Eugene Izzi. There are some surprises among Seinfelt's selections, for example, Hitler, Bruno Bettelheim, and Carole Landis. Ideally, Seinfelt's biographies should send readers back to his subjects' own works. Includes a foreword by Paul West and a thoughtful introduction by the author as well as a brief bibliography. Mary Carroll

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 456 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books (December 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1573927414
  • ISBN-13: 978-1573927413
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #831,467 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Mark Eric Seinfelt was born on February 27, 1962, in Indiana, Pennsylvania. He attended university and public schools and represented Indiana Area Senior High School at the Pennsylvania Governor's School for the Arts at Bucknell University in the summer of 1979 where he was enrolled in creative writing. In 1983, he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the Pennsylvania State University. He accelerated at Penn State, completing his studies in three years instead of the customary four. A university scholar and honors student in English, he graduated with distinction. His thesis in creative composition, the final requirement in the university scholar honors program, "The Mozart Machine: an excerpt" received the Henry Sams Memorial Award of 1983, the highest honor bestowed on an English Honors thesis at Penn State. As a student at the university, Seinfelt studied under novelist and screenwriter Robert C.S. Downs and critically acclaimed author Paul West, whose awards include the Lannan Prize for Fiction, the Literature Prize of the American Academy, and the designation Chevalier of Arts and Letters from the government of France. Author Thomas Rogers and critic Philip Young sat on the Henry Sams Memorial Award committee judging the honors theses in 1983.

In May of 1987, Seinfelt received a Master of Fine Arts in Writing from Washington University in St. Louis where he was the recipient of a three-year tuition scholarship, fellowship, and teaching assistantship; and where he completed the novel "The Mozart Machine." The chairman of his dissertation committee was the noted fiction writer, philosopher, essayist and multiple National Book Circle Award-winner William H. Gass. Seinfelt's was the only creative writing thesis Gass had ever consented to supervise during his years at Washington University. At St. Louis, Seinfelt also studied under Stanley Elkin, Lee K. Abbot, Donald Finkel, Diane Ackerman, Charles Newman, and Pulitzer Prize winning author and United States Poet Laureate Howard Nemerov.

Since receiving his MFA, Seinfelt has completed four more novels "Henry Boulanger of Mushannon Town," "Steiglitz's Folly," "Intrusive Voices," and "At Last the Distinguished Thing." His fiction has been featured in "Kalliope" and "Chicxculub." In September 1996, a chapter from his suicide-study-in-progress "Final Drafts" was published in "The Bookpress: The Newspaper of the Literary Arts," a Cornell University publication. "Final Drafts" was Seinfelt's first book to reach publication. Acquired by Prometheus Books, it saw print in December 1999. Prometheus is a commercial press specializing in non-fiction and is the publisher of Steve Allen, Peter Ustinov, Leslie Fiedler, and Jack Kevorkian, among others. On January 16, 2000, Seinfelt was the featured guest on Book Gallery, a nationally syndicated radio talk show. Also that year an entry on Seinfelt appeared in "Contemporary Authors," a reference series that provides information on approximately 112,000 writers in a wide range of media, including fiction, nonfiction, poetry, journalism, and screenwriting. In February 2004, "Final Drafts" was chosen as an alternate selection of The Readers' Subscription Book Club. In 2008, his novel "Henry Boulanger of Mushannon Town" was a semi-finalist in the Amazon.com Breakthrough Novel Award contest and was subsequently published by the Amazon subsidiary BookSurge/ Create Space. In August 2009 BookSurge/ Create Space also published "Symphonie Fantastique," a collection of his shorter novels.
In May 2010, Seinfelt's novel "Henry Boulanger of Moshannon Town" received a Pinnacle Book Achievement Award from the North American Bookdealers Exchange and will be showcased on NABE's website and at trade book shows beginning in October. For the past twenty-five years, the NABE Pinnacle Awards annually honor top genre books published by independent publishers. In 2008, the book was a semi-finalist in the Amazon.com Breakthrough Novel Award contest.
On January 21, 2011, Mark Seinfelt's new novel "Baldr and Beatrice" was published by CreateSpace. Mark Seinfelt revisits the time-proven formula of girl and boy forever desiring - but never achieving - the culmination of their love in "Baldr and Beatrice".
Seinfelt is single and presently resides in Philipsburg, Pennsylvania, where he serves as a Trustee and Grant Writer for the Philipsburg Historical Foundation and as Secretary for the Committee for a Moshannon Valley Veterans Memorial.
He is an avid reader and sportsman. An amateur pianist, he also enjoys fencing, fishing, hiking, swimming and spelunking.
My website is: www.markseinfelt.com

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on January 28, 2000
Format: Hardcover
When I first picked up the book, Final Drafts, I thought it would be a series of depressing tales of writers who led desperate lives, ending them because of hopelessness, drug addition or failure.
Although many fit this criteria, Seinfelt managed to bring out a epathy towards these writers. He also managed to convey the fact that their lives were not wasted or thrown away, but even though wracked by pain, guilt or other strong emotion, many created works of art that endure today. I also got the sense that without their art, these individuals would not have lived as long as they did.
However, this does not pertain to all writers in the book. I felt people like Hitler (even treated unkindly by Seinfelt) and others did not belong in the same book as writers such as Mishima. The largest flaw in the book is that writers like Hitler should have been removed and the book shortened to include mostly writers driven to suicide by mental illness, failure or other cause beyond their control. With some good editing and removing about 150 pages, I would given this book 5 stars.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is a collection of tidbits of knowledge that anyone could have put together by simply reading each author's biography. The author's dry, pedantic style is as exciting as eating cardboard, rendering what could have been an interesting book into a simple reference work. This book is simply a reference and a third-hand reference at best, good for writing undergraduate and high school term papers, as little if none of the information seems to come from a primary source. There are no fresh insights, nothing much new here, just the same things one would find in any reference book, and only here they are condensed into a single source. Written like a reference book, the author could have produced the same thing, by cutting and pasting from an encyclopedia
His chapter on Mishma, perhaps the most spectacular suicide of all the writers, is made as dry and boring as reading instructions on how to assemble a child's toy. The author's style is best suited for such or an academic dissertation, something one has to read rather that what someone would read for pleasure or information.
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Format: Hardcover
Some of the greatest writers in the world chose an untimelydeath by suicide, and this charts their lives and psychologicalconditions. It's hard to easily categorize this treatise, which considers both their literary lives and their psychology; but any studying such writers from Anne Sexton and Ernest Hemingway to the more modern Michael Dorris, will find Final Draft an important survey covering more than a century of literary figures.
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Format: Hardcover
A lot of this book is thoroughly literary, with psychological insights. Irony is not listed in the index, but addictions, alcoholism, depression, drugs, manic depression (bipolar syndrome), mental illness, overdose, paranoia, schizophrenia, Vietnam War, World War I, and World War II are listed as some of the mechanisms which were either meaningful to certain writers or a means of explaining their behavior. Readers may pick other topics as their favorite parts of this book, with a few preferring the musical highlights relating to Adolph Hitler, Richard Wagner, and someone whose family was full of the suicidal tendencies of people who have problems adjusting to the world as it is. The ultimate irony, for me, would be if this book demonstrates something about the fatal nature of truth, if each of the subjects can be shown to have known something that the rest of us have not figured out yet.
Those of us who are still alive have little reason to worry that our own mechanisms for clinging to life will be vividly portrayed in a book of this nature, but some people have official positions which call on them to interact with famous people in a way which this book cannot ignore. In the case of William H. Webster, director of the F.B.I. in 1979, his contribution to this book was a public statement concerning a rumor printed on May 19, 1970, "Papa's said to be a rather prominent Black Panther," (p. 335) about Jean Seberg, wife of Romain Gary, "but that the story had been broken independently by Haber shortly after the bureau had given the go-ahead to its Los Angeles division to disseminate the rumor." (p. 336). Webster's statement, "The days when the FBI used derogatory information to combat advocates of unpopular causes have long since passed. We are out of that business forever." (p. 336).
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