cover image How Not to Kill Yourself

How Not to Kill Yourself

Clancy Martin. Pantheon, $30 (464p) ISBN 978-0-593-31705-1

Philosopher and novelist Martin (How to Sell) delivers a disturbing and transfixing dissection of suicide and its circumstances. Toggling between the personal and the analytical, Martin presents a patient, chilling consideration of “what it’s like to want to kill yourself, sometimes on a daily basis, yet to go on living,” as well as his “own particular good reasons for doing so.” In three sections, Martin addresses societal conceptions of self-slaughter, his own struggles with alcohol and the times he hit rock bottom, and how to chart a path toward recovery. Along the way, he touches on famous suicides from Seneca to Anne Sexton, and historical and philosophical cases considering or even justifying the act, from philosophies as distinct as Bushido, pessimism, and stoicism. Funny but never flippant, Martin takes into account throughout the weight of his subject, even when describing his own grisly attempts, or those of his friends, without platitude or sentiment (“The last time I tried to kill myself,” the book begins, “was in my basement with a dog leash”). This provocative dive into a difficult subject shouldn’t be missed. Agent: Susan Golomb, Writers House. (Mar.)