Sunday, January 27, 2008

The dipping point

The Times coverage of Heath Ledger's death brought to mind earlier instances of young idols killing themselves, begetting imitators, and being considered bellwethers (frankly, I hadn't thought of Ledger as a big deal, cute though he may have been). The writer pulls up Goethe's Sorrows of Young Werther as a reference point where lots of young people had gone out and killed themselves after the book came out.

Back to Malcolm Gladwell and The Tipping Point, where the author drones on and on about suicide epidemics in Micronesia. Why didn't Gladwell have anything to say about the Werther suicides or other similar incidents (including the "Eseninschina" outbreak in Russia after Sergei Esenin killed himself in 1925, and which led Mayakovsky* to write a poem to pull young folks back from the brink of death[and before he capped himself on April 14, 1930] )? He should have at least remembered Werther. My point is, Gladwell's seeming polymathism is a little shallow. He shoulda had some of them New Yorker fact-checkers and fact-suggesters working with him.

*By the way, since Mayakovsky rears his head here again, lets return for a moment to the provenance of this blog, a short poem from 1913:

Eat your pineapples,
Chew your grouse,
Your days days are coming,
You bourgeois louse

I think that about says it all.

No comments: