First thing’s first. I’m a woman, I’m a writer. That said: Let’s talk about Vice, its Women in Fiction issue, and the shocking “fashion” spread of women writers committing suicide. At first glance, the issue features short fiction by a talented, fresh writer, A.L. Major, and famous storytellers like Marilynne Robinson, Mary Gaitskill, and Joyce Carol Oates.
Then there’s this spread*, entitled “Last Words”—a photographic essay of sorts—of women writers before they meet death.
The beautification of females and death is nothing new–forms of pornography are devoted to it. Most gargantuan billboards in Times Square show dead-eyed models, lounging like corpses à la Tom Petty’s “Last Dance with Mary Jane” music video. What the French call petit mort, or “little death”, is an evocative euphemism for climax. My initial instinct is to attribute any work of art with layers of metaphor and meaning, contextualize it in a way that uncovers some truth I hadn’t seen.
I can’t do that with “Last Words.” These writers are completely stripped of their words.