HOW I COMMITTED SUICIDE: A Reverie by C. L. Sulzberger


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No, the veteran New York Times correspondent hasn't taken his life--not yet, anyway. But, still despairing over the death of his beloved wife Marina (in 1976), Sulzberger savors the morose delectation of an imaginary suicide: rowing out into the Aegean with his beagle Christopher, he dispatches first the dog and then himself with shotgun blasts, having previously weighted their bodies to make susa they'll sink into absolute oblivion. Though he calls it a ""well-crafted death,"" it's clumsily overladen with self-pity and ironic gloom; and readers may be thankful that Sulzberger spends most of his time talking not about his fantasized end but about his travels in the land of the living (mainly Greece, Yugoslavia, and France) and the memories they evoke. He is susceptible to name-dropping (the last time I saw Tito, my old friend ""Costa"" Karamanlis, the party on Niarchos' island, etc.), and he pads the book with second-hand and sometimes inaccurate information (as a would-be suicide he appeals to Seneca, who was forced to die by Nero, and Lamartine, who died of natural causes); but Sulzberger's eye is still sharp, and his travel diary makes pungent, fast-paced reading. Much of the story revolves around bis passionate, melancholic attachment to Christopher, which verses on the maudlin, given the fact that Sulzberger's children and grandchildren are alive and well Still, one can't doubt his grief or his pervasive loneliness. ""I have never belonged anywhere. A Jew by lineage and pride, I am an atheist by credo and nonreligion . . . an American by three centuries of descent, yet almost my entire adult life has been lived outside my country."" Sulzberger is full of bitter regrets--for his wife, for time misspent, for never having ""done a single thing of which I could be genuinely proud""--but they don't stop him from whizzing nil over Europe in his VW like a man a third his age. A gauche but often compelling performance.

Pub Date: March 19th, 1982
Publisher: Ticknor & Fields/Houghton Mifflin