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Stay: A History of Suicide and the Arguments Against It

by Jennifer Michael Hecht Yale University Press
Pub Date:
03/2015
ISBN:
9780300209365
Format:
Pbk 280 pages
Price:
AU$32.99 NZ$34.77
Product Status: In Stock Now
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Many thousands of people kill themselves every year, and many more are left behind to grieve. Distressing statistics show that suicide rates are rising, and studies confirm that suicide causes more suicide, both among those who knew the person and even among strangers who feel some connection. In this highly original book Jennifer Michael Hecht channels her grief for two friends lost to suicide into a search for history's most persuasive arguments against the irretrievable act. Hecht recounts individual suicide cases from the Bible and ancient Greeks to the present day and analyzes how ideas about suicide have changed over time. She explains several puzzling aspects of attitudes toward suicide, including the strange fact that secular philosophy has long been associated with a pro-suicide attitude. In our own times, when the influence of religious prohibitions has waned, Hecht finds that we lack shared, secular, logical arguments against suicide. But there are such arguments, and she focuses new attention on these forgotten ideas that offer hope in the face of despair and powerful reasons to stay when suicide seems a tempting choice.
'Eloquent and affecting.'David Brooks, New York Times David Brooks New York Times Hecht is an intellectual historian and a poet, and her writing reflects both disciplines: The book is rigorous and deeply rewarding, both accessible and challenging. . . . She finds common threads: sympathy for lifes difficulty, yet a plea to stay, for the sake of ones community and even for ones future self.Kate Tuttle, Boston Globe Kate Tuttle Boston Globe 'While not insensitive to people who use suicide as a way to end the suffering of terminal illness, Hecht brands suicide an immoral act that robs society and the self-killer of a life that is certainly more valuable than what it may seem in that dark moment. It solves nothing, complicates everything. . . . Her argument is that it whatever dark truth that pronoun signifies almost always gets better.'Newsweek Newsweek 'A history not only of suicide, but how we think about suicide. . . .Hecht proposes her own argument against suicide in the secular, modern world, presenting a humanist call for life. . . . Her final plea to the suicidal gives the book its title: she urges them to simply 'stay.' 'Thomas Flynn, The Daily Beast The Daily Beast 'Stay is more than a must-read its a cultural necessity.'Maria Popova, Brain Pickings Maria Popova Brain Pickings The title of this book is an imperative against the departure that is suicide, and its contents provide a learned, illuminating look at the history of what is perhaps the darkest secret in all of human behavior.Billy Collins Billy Collins Jennifer Michael Hecht addresses the problem of suicidal nihilism with intellectual sophistication and poetic subtlety. An impassioned defense of life and rejection of self-slaughter (as Hamlet termed it), Stay is an important book.David Lehman, Editor, The Oxford Book of American Poetry David Lehman 'The perfect vehicle for an informed conversation about the virtues and vices of suicide, this book will literally save lives.'Stephen Prothero,author of The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation Stephen Prothero In this moving and meaningful book, mythology, poetry, history, and personal reflection all combine to persuade us to stay right here, among the living.Alan Wolfe, author ofPolitical Evil Alan Wolfe 'This defiantly positive note this striving for hope is the most uplifting part of Stay. . . . Current statistics clearly show that few of Hecht's potential readers will have lives completely untouched by suicide; all of those potential readers will find a great deal to interest them in these pages.'Steve Donoghue, Open Letters Monthly Open Letters Monthly 'In her impassioned, compelling book Stay: A History of Suicide and the Philosophies Against It, Jennifer Michael Hecht makes the sustained argument she wishes she could have made to two friends who committed suicide. . . . While Hecht's position is secular, religious people have nothing to fear from her, and would likely make common cause with her on many points. Her heartfelt book is the scholarly and literary equivalent of Kate Bush's vocals in a familiar Peter Gabriel song, singing to her despairing partner, 'Don't give up.' 'Jim Higgins, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Jim Higgins Milwaukee Journal Sentinel In her eloquent and affecting book Stay: A History of Suicide and the Philosophies Against It, Jennifer Michael Hecht presents two big counterideas that she hopes people contemplating potential suicides will keep in their heads. Her first is that, Suicide is delayed homicide. Suicides happen in clusters, with one persons suicide influencing the others. . . . Her second argument is that you owe it to your future self to live.David Brooks, New York Times David Brooks New York Times The author of the best-selling Doubt offers a history of suicide and of arguments against it. . . . Even Camus, who found the search for meaning as absurd as pushing the same boulder up a cliff every day, urged his readers to imagine Sisyphus happy, and to live.New Yorker New Yorker One cannot but be impressed by Hechts breadth of knowledge, mostly expressed with a light touch, and there are many fascinating details. Oliver James, The Independent Oliver James The Independent Hechts intentions are patently generous and benign. She wants to save young lives that seem needlessly lost. . .On these counts her book merits praise.John Carey, The Sunday Times John Carey The Sunday Times 'When I review a book I underline special passages, stick post-it notes and write comments in the margin. By that token this one has inspired me more than anything Ive read in a very long time. Full of life and spirit and hope, and deeply moving, it communicates a generous love of suffering, flawed humanity. I cannot praise it highly enough.'Bel Mooney, Daily Mail Bel Mooney Daily Mail Hechts aim is to show that as suicide was secularised, it became too easy a mere medical and therefore solipsistic condition which took no account of humans as members of a larger (caring) community. She wants to revitalise the idea that suicide is wrong, harms others and damages humanity. No man or woman, even today, is an island.Lisa Appignanesi, The Observer Lisa Appignanesi The Observer 'That it's not all a drag and you might as well get on with life's vagaries is the strikingly simple and convincing argument of Jennifer Michael Hecht's Stay: A History of Suicide and the Philosophies Against It. . . . While not insensitive to people who use suicide as a way to end the suffering of terminal illness, Hecht brands suicide an immoral act that robs society and the self-killer of a life that is certainly more valuable than what it may seem in that dark moment. It solves nothing, complicates everything. . . . Her argument is that it whatever dark truth that pronoun signifies almost always gets better.'Newsweek Newsweek Hecht is an intellectual historian and a poet, and her writing reflects both disciplines: The book is rigorous and deeply rewarding, both accessible and challenging. . . . She finds common threads: sympathy for lifes difficulty, yet a plea to stay, for the sake of ones community and even for ones future self. Bear witness to the night side of being human and the bravery it entails, she urges, and wait for the sun. Kate Tuttle, Boston Globe Kate Tuttle Boston Globe Suicide as a concept has been praised, defended, and vilified in various contexts throughout history as poet and scholar Hecht (Doubt: A History) painstakingly illustrates in this nuanced and unsettling work, whose title acts as a rallying refrain throughout. . . . The books conclusions are hopeful. Gratitude is owed to those who reject suicide, according to Hecht, not only by the community but also by ones future self who may be days, months, or years away. Like death, life can inspire, because ones ideas matter.Publishers Weekly Publishers Weekly is a first-rate historian of ideas. . . . This gift of a book is as much about the issue of pain in life as it is about not ending your life because of the pain. Following in both a religious and a secular tradition, Hecht submits that suffering is soul-making. . . . This tender and well-reasoned book is sure to save lives.Gordon Marino, The Christian Century Gordon Marino The Christian Century If we are serious about helping people overcome the dark nights of their souls, we must insist with Chesterton that suicide is a moral, not just a clinical, problem. An important new book does just that. Stay: A History of Suicide and the Philosophies Against It by the poet and philosopher Jennifer Michael Hecht challenges our cultures acceptance of suicides and reinvigorates the moral arguments against it. At a time when few philosophers or intellectuals are offering strong, compelling, secular arguments against suicide, Hechts book steps in as a reminder that our liberal stance toward suicide is relatively new, in fact quite radical, and should be unequivocally challenged. . . . The book fills a hole in the cultural conversation. . . . Hecht writes, The arguments against suicide that I intend to revivify in public consciousness assert that suicide is wrong, that it harms the community, that it damages humanity, that it unfairly preempts your future self.Emily Esfahani Smith, New Criterion Emily Esfahani Smith New Criterion A humanist case for embracing life, as armor against cynicism. . . . Stay is compassionate, clear, rich, and even funny.Temma Ehrenfeld, The Humanist Magazine Temma Ehrenfeld The Humanist Magazine Stay is passionate, sincere, well-researched, well written and commendably honest.Nick Spencer, The Tablet Nick Spencer The Tablet
Jennifer Michael Hecht is a historian of science and culture and a poet. She has written seven books, including the best-selling Doubt: A History, the story of unbelief across the world. Hecht teaches at The New School and lives in Brooklyn.