Some authors are far different in-person than they are on the page. Here at Bookstr we’re calling out five of the biggest jerks in literary lore.
Mental Health Awareness Month has been observed in may since 1949. This month is meant to raise awareness of those living with mental or behavioral health issues and to help reduce the stigma so many experience. For that reason, in this article we’re talking about 5 famous authors who lived with mental illness, and how that affected their work.
[Trigger warning for depression, and suicide.]
1. Silvia Plath
Silvia Plath is perhaps one of the most famous examples of an author with mental illness. Her life and work were greatly affected by her illness; there is even something called the “Sylvia Plath Effect,” which is the phenomenon that poets are more susceptible to mental illness than other creative writers. She was diagnosed with depression when she was 20 years old, and consequently died of suicide at age 30. In her novel, The Bell Jar, Plath describes the decline of main character Esther into a depressive episode and her stay in a psychiatric ward, which mirrors Silvia’s own life.
2. Leo Tolstoy
Often regarded as one of the greatest authors of all time, Leo Tolstoy also battled with depression. After writing his novels War and Peace and Anna Karenina, the writer began experiencing depression, and even went as far as rejecting his literary success and calling Anna Karenina and “abomination.” During his early fifties (the years he struggled with depression), Leo wrote A Confession, a short work on the subject of melancholia, philosophy and religion.
3. Virginia Woolf
Virginia Woolf is another author who severely struggled with depression, and it is also now agreed upon that she had bipolar disorder. Around 1910 she had been admitted three times to a “private nursing home for women with nervous disorder.” Her novel Mrs. Dalloway is a manifesto of mental health awareness, and in it she criticizes the medical establishment and medical discourse surrounding mental illness at the time.
4. Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway had a very complicated history of mental health. He suffered from severe depression, paranoid delusions and bipolar disorder, which were exacerbated by a history of alcoholism, severe head injuries, and a genetic disorder known as hemochromatosis. His family was also greatly impacted by mental health issues, and his father, brother, and sister (and himself) all died by suicide. His granddaughter Mariel, now a mental health advocate, created a documentary called, “Running From Crazy,” which reveals the impact mental illness had on her family.
5. Zelda Fitzgerald
Perhaps less famously than her husband F. Scott Fitzgerald, Zelda — the novelist, socialite, and painter — also struggled greatly with her mental health. She was in and out of mental hospitals during the 1930s and 1940s, and although she was diagnosed with schizophrenia, it is agreed today that a more accurate diagnosis would’ve been bipolar disorder. During her time at the mental hospital she experienced a rush of creativity and wrote Save Me the Waltz as part of her therapy.
The complicated lives of these writers highlight the importance of destigmatizing mental health, as well as the importance of accurate diagnosis and effective treatment.
Featured image via lletraferits
There’s nothing cozier than curling up with a good book and your furry companion. People have always had a special relationship with their pets; they offer us friendship and unconditional love, after all. Both classic and modern authors have had beloved pets that inspired their works and provided them with companionship. Here are a few.
1. STEPHEN KING’S CORGI MOLLY, THE THING OF EVIL
Renowned horror writer Stephen King loves his Pembroke Welsh corgi, Molly, who he refers to as “The Thing of Evil.” On Twitter, he likes to chronicle all the devious things she likes to do, such as enjoying (tearing up) boxes of tissues and raisin bran, relaxing after committing atrocious deeds, and hunting down the Purple Dinosaur of Decency (pictured above).
2. CHESTER HIMES’ SIAMESE CAT GRIOT
Crime fiction author Chester Himes, the creator of the Harlem Detective series, has had many cats. Griot, a blue point Siamese, was his favorite. Griot, Himes explained, was “named after the magicians in the courts of West African kings.” Himes would take Griot with him everywhere. If he didn’t, he would come home to find Griot had destroyed everything.
3. FLANNERY O’CONNOR’S PEACOCKS
Author and essayist Flannery O’Connor, known for the thrilling and chilling short story “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” loved birds, peacocks especially. On her estate in Georgia, she raised over 100 peafowls, who she referred to in essays as “Kings of the Birds.” She kept ducks, emu, ostriches, and possibly toucans as well.
4. LORD BYRON’S actual, literal bear
If there’s one thing you could always count on Romantic poet Lord Byron, it’s to be flamboyantly petty. Lord Byron attended Trinity College in the early 1800’s and hoped to bring his dog Boatswain with him. When he was told that his beloved dog could not come with him, Lord Byron purchased a tamed bear and tried to bring it to school with him instead. He wrote to his friend Elizabeth Prigot, “I have got a new friend, the finest in the world, a tame bear. When I brought him here, they asked me what to do with him, and my reply was, ‘he should sit for a fellowship.'”
5. GEORGE R.R. MARTIN’S TORTOISES GAMERA AND MORLA
Fantasy writer George R.R. Martin has always loved turtles. As a child, they were the only pet he was allowed to keep. They lived in a castle, and Martin would pretend that they were kings and knights, fighting in battles. He cites this as where he got his inspiration for Game of Thrones, and their deaths inspired the more gruesome moments in the series. He currently has two tortoises, Morla and her “younger brother” Gamera.
6. KURT VONNEGUT’S DOG PUMPKIN
Pumpkin was a little shaggy dog and Sci-fi writer Kurt Vonnegut’s near-constant companion. On his affection for Pumpkin and dogs in general, Vonnegut had this to say, “I cannot distinguish between the love I have for people and the love I have for dogs.”
7. Charles Dickens’s Raven Grip
Grip was the pet Raven of famed English author Charles Dickens. Grip apparently had a very extensive vocabulary for a bird, and Dickens wrote him into one of his lesser known works, Barnaby Rudge. When Edgar Allen Poe, still only a critic at the time, read it and was inspired by the fictional Grip to write his poem “The Raven.” Grip ate a paintchip in 1841, and passed away a few months later. A brokenhearted Charles Dickens had the bird taxidermied, and Grip now resides in the Philidelphia Free Library.
8. The Hemingway cats
No list of author pets would be complete without mentioning Ernest Hemingway’s cats. Hemingway was gifted a little six-toed kitten named Snow White. Soon after, he began to adopt more cats, which led to even more kittens being born, around half of them having the same genetic mutation as Snow White. Now the descendants of these cats roam Hemingway’s house turned museum in Key West, Florida.
Take a little time to appreciate your own pet today. You never know, they might just inspire the next great work!
Featured image via Florida weekly
A well-written epitaph is how you'll be remembered by the world. Hopefully, these writers will give you inspiration.
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