Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
...Or Not to Be: A Collection of Suicide Notes Paperback – February 1, 1997
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
Top Customer Reviews
This wears on the reader's nerves quickly. At times Etkind ridicules suicide notes for being inadequate or incoherent. I quote (from page 1): "If someone could think clearly enough to leave a cogent note, that person would probably be able to recognize that suicide was a bad idea."
I'm sure we would all love to be spared the sophomoric, non-scientific statements and instead be allowed to form our own opinions based on what the book advertises: "a collection of suicide notes" (not "Etkind's beliefs on suicide"). Perhaps this book is ideal for someone who is desperately trying to escape the guilt of a loved one's suicide. It paints all suicidal people as confused, selfish souls who are 100% to blame for their tragic ends. How convenient that philosophy is for those left living.
My technical criticism of the book is this: the book is fragmented and insufficient. Full names are rarely given, thus preventing the reader from researching matters further. The suicide notes are frequently abbreviated or condensed. In the "Acknowledgements" section, we learn that Etkind merely snipped and pasted from other books. So what we have here is the Cliff's Notes version, interesting if you have an hour to kill on the subway or in a doctor's office but little more than that. Whatever you do, don't pay $53 for this 114-page paperback book. I found it for $10, and even that is a stretch.
While the notes in this book are interesting by their nature, Marc Etkind's commentary displays the depth of his ignorance of suicide as well as his disdain for it. In no way does this book touch upon the psychological, philosophical complexity of suicide. His interpretations, at best, are amateurish and void of meaning. At its worst, they are condescending and cruel. Here is the last sentence of the introduction to the book, written by Etkind -
"The following collection will allow the reader to decide just how good a correspondent the suicide note-writer really is."
Um, Mr. Etkind? This isn't a book about correspondence or letter writing 101. How far off base can this guy get? In the small biography about Etkind at the end of the book, it reads, "Marc Etkind has probably read more suicide notes than anyone else. This he does for enjoyment." (Then it talks about what he does for a living) If that doesn't tell you how cavalier his approach is to suicide, I don't know what will.
Clearly, the value of this book is the notes themselves. I regret this book wasn't written by someone who actually has an interest in suicide and suicide notes rather than childish enjoyment. It could have been very informative; to get a unique view into the minds of those who left by their own hand. Even if it had been purely for entertainment, lacking serious overtones, that could have worked too.
Marc Etkind is neither serious nor entertaining.Read more ›
the best book. The notes may give some insight, but the interpretations are pretty much completely wrong. Etkind demonstrates absolutely no understanding of what makes people take their life; he classifies them as stupid, insane, and morally bankrupt. Short-sighted, irrational, and self-centered would be more accurate, and there's a world of difference.
If you have a fascination with death, this book may provide some titillation, but it comes from a very condemning point of view. There's a thought provoking chapter on the history of the suicide note, and the rest of the chapters are each dedicated more or less to a certain reason for committing suicide. Etkind's idea seems to be to go through the possible reasons and debunk them one by one. Because his understanding of people's reasons and mindsets is so weak, he does a pretty poor job, but it still could be offensive. He also throws in a fair amount of ridicule at the stupidity of notes in general - as if a secondary goal were to damp that impulse to leave a note.
The stories of people are the great part of this book. They're mostly short notes or excerpts with minimal back-story, but the humanity is incredible even in some of the shortest. The notes of the famous people are often less interesting than of the anonymous mass. Maybe they're hurt by being excerpted, or suffer from the incompleteness of the accompanying history.
Overall, a 3 because the book is inexpensive and an engaging read. The notes are the real stars here, and the factual background is interesting; the interpretetive passages are misguided and grating.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Why are suicides so damn interesting?
Anyways, I was going through a tough period, I wanted to die albeit I would have never killed myself but I did buy this book lol. Read more
and pretty fun to read. went more in-depth as to statistics, etc. than i expected. that added a whole other fascinating layer to it.Published on January 28, 2013 by rachbick
I don't like being required to write these with a certain amount of words. That is what makes me not even give a review. It keeps saying there is a problem with my review! ARGH!Published on January 17, 2013 by Amazon Customer
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The suicide notes were unique and interesting. Suicide is tragic, but at the victim's discretion may be the only way for elemental peace. Read morePublished on December 16, 2011 by Abiogenetic Pumpkin
Great insight into the peak of human irrational thought. Makes your day seems so much less troublesome. Read morePublished on July 12, 2010 by Helios
Great coffee table book for guests to start up a conversation. Also impressed with the actual number of notes and attempted notes. Read morePublished on July 11, 2010 by Mikey
I expected better. A very thin book with very little space devoted to actual suicide notes. The introduction was written by someone who doesn't really seem to understand the... Read morePublished on August 6, 2007 by Pollyessster
This book is a great reference for those interested in suicide notes. Etkind, however, has too many unqualified comments and some of the notes could be found on the internet... Read morePublished on December 10, 2003
Etkind's collection of suicide notes is a cautious creature, timid to delve too deeply into the situations or mindsets surrounding the tragic losses it records. Read morePublished on November 14, 2003 by Jeanette Zissell