Friday, January 7, 2011

Outshined by a dark cloud

Yeah. I think having Anne Sexton as a mom would mess anyone up. Her daughter Linda already chronicled her childhood in Searching for Mercy Street. Now she's published Half in Love: Surviving the Legacy of Suicide, about her grown-up life. And it's a sad one. From the New York Times review we learn that she gets super depressed. She tries to kill herself at least twice. Her husband leaves her. Nobody will publish her novel.

I don't plan to read the book. The Times review was enough for me. It ends by comparing Linda to her mom. The verdict: Linda's not as sad and she's not as good. Ouch. Read it for yourself:
"Even when she was sickest, Anne Sexton managed to create a vibrant world around herself, never losing her status as a figure to be reckoned with. But Linda Sexton seems utterly marooned when her modest dream of 'normal' family life evaporates and her writing career stalls. When she recovers, the scene expands only to include the men she meets through an online dating Web site. There is a surprising blandness to her sensibility, and her cause isn’t helped by overwrought language ('I was once again left shivering in the draft of everyone’s disapproval, dancing like a marionette in rhythm to the old black tune that had haunted my life ever since my mother first kicked me out of the house when I was 2') and hackneyed therapy-speak ('My continuing therapy with Barbara Ballinger had developed into the strong support I needed as I worked to examine the feelings I had about my mother’s suicide and to tear them apart').

But this book looks into the workings of the suicidal mind in a way that isn’t easily forgotten, raising provocative questions about how we approach and treat the severely mentally ill. Sexton paints suicide as a deadly disease mechanism: only the care of other people can save its victims, but those victims become experts at driving other people away."

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