discarded lies: wednesday, september 20, 2017 5:07 am zst
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daily archive: 08/06/2008
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When Death Is A Good Career Move
First some good news, my eldest just proposed to his girlfriend of ten years; and she accepted. She is currently acting as a singer who dies from excess. The son’s fiancée is tough as nails and in no danger from excess, but she does the part exquisitely. This GA post is just a riff off of her play.

Heath Ledger is currently being widely listed for a posthumous Oscar, even though he did the part of the Joker only second best. Death was a most excellent career move for Heath. Otis’ career took off when he died. So did Tupac’s. As did Jim Croce’s . Janis and Jimmi and Jim Morrison and Hank and Elvis just continued their previously earned fame Sam , gunned down by the companion of a two-bit whore, more or less dropped into obscurity except for other musicians (and me). While I have linked to what I feel to be his best (although light) song – let me also give you Sam on politics and passion (sung by Solomon Burke).

“Nothing can be sadder than a glass of wine alone.” may be the most profound line ever penned.

Death and a most spectacular send-off did nothing immediately for Gram .

For an accreting career move, it is important that you die young – nobody pays attention when an eighty year old dies.


Several generations of young men have proved that if they could not write like Fitzgerald, they could at least drink like him. F.Scott died in his early forties with an embarrassingly small set of work, but some absolute gems.

Suicide may cause problems with fame.

Hemingway wrote with superb literary craft; but when he blew his brains out, his reputation suffered irreparably. Of course the message of his oeuvre was that one should bear the burdens of life. “If you are big enough and strong enough and good enough, they will get you sooner, but they will always get you in the end.” He should have waited for Them.

OTOH, John Kennedy O’Toole committed suicide in obscurity leaving hundreds of type-written pages strewn about his quarters. His mother gathered those pages up in her arms and took them to the world’s publishers and got her son’s Rabelaisian rollicking work, “A Confederacy of Dunces”published. May God bless her – both for her devotion and her accomplishment.

In 1948, Ross Lockridge wrote, by both the accounts of the day and the only person whom I have ever met who actually read the book, a pretty good novel, Raintree County . He then committed suicide in an effort to goose his fame and book-sales. This effort failed, and my guess is that zero bloggieites have ever heard of him.

I think we may conclude that actual suicide forms a poor career move, but suicide by drugs or alcohol over a period may not be so bad for literary or musical sorts.


St. Abe Lincoln, a superb physical specimen though quite-drawn when he was assassinated had only middling popularity. While I believe that his life and career shone brilliantly, that view held well less than a majority at his death – and many hated him. As his casket slowly rolled around the nation and stunk more and more at each town as he decayed, his fame became firmly cemented. Go to Washington and sit at the feet of the Daniel Chester French sculpture of St. Abe – then read his Second Inaugural and his Gettysburg Address and wipe back the tears from your eyes.

Death was definitely a great career move for St. Abe. The South feels with his “let em up easy” speech that Reconstruction would have harrowed less. Blacks and we children of the GAR are equally certain that he would have done whatever was necessary to quell the violence of the Klan. Perhaps we are both right or wrong -- but as Stanton said – Now he belongs to the Ages.

Death was also a great career move for JFK. Possessed of physical courage and decent intellect, he had exciting times in the White House. While I find his accomplishments there mixed, the American people remain enamored of JFK. If he had lived, he might not have been reelected. (The LIFE magazine cover of December 1963 had a story about how Kennedy could be beaten in 64 – with a tasteful sticker over it placed subsequent to his assassination). MLK fared similarly to Kennedy.

WH Harrison was far too old for death to do much for his career. Garfield got nothing from death (unless you think that the cat is getting something).

Warren Harding received the greatest popular vote majority in American history. He was wildly popular when he died. Yet he now is listed with the worst American presidents. Apparently a couple of his cabinet members were corrupt. Those of us alive in the 21st Century yawn at this. He also had a kakiographer who disappeared into Stalin’s Russia and who wrote about women visited in White House closets by the president – and similar sexual imagery. None of this slime has ever been otherwise substantiated – except about JFK. Nonetheless Harding’s reputation remains in the dumps while JFK’s shines.

As near as I can tell, McKinley was a solid president who led a decent life. Two dozen years of American schoolchildren cursed him because they had to learn how to spell the name of his anarchist assassin, Csolgosz. Death really did nothing for him.

Then there lies Huey Long, the Louisiana demagogue. Robert Penn Warren wrote (what I believe to be) the greatest American novel ever – All the King's Men . Huey formed the biggest piece of the substrate. A senator assassinated ~70 years ago is insignificant --- the subject of a really great novel shall live.


If you are going to die young, particularly before you have already made an artistic mark, you need to have somebody to carry your torch. John Kennedy O’Toole had his mother. Otis had a song. Gram had Emmilou Harris . But if you should get to choose, choose Penn Warren.


Bloggers should live forever and stay forever young (which includes the only clip wherein I have ever seen Dylan smile).

May your hands always be busy.

May your feet always be swift.
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