Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Robert E Howard and Putting a Bullet in Your Head
On June 11, 1936, Robert E. Howard, prolific pulp writer and creator of Conan, Solomon Kane, Bran Mak Morn, Kull, Breckinridge Elkins, Sailor Steve Costigan and countless other brawny hero-types, went out to his car, put a gun to his head, and blew his brains out.
Not a very heroic move, for someone so in tune with the stoic, 'never-surrender' attitude of the classic hero.
The reason he did it, nominally, was that he'd just been informed that his mother (who'd fallen into a coma) was going to die. He couldn't handle it. Howard was very attached to her. I'll leave it up to you to decide how healthy or unhealthy that attachment was.
But I suspect there was more to it, really; the person who ends his own life begins, usually, with a predisposition toward suicide. They spend most of their lives barely hanging on, searching desperately for a reason to keep living. But deep inside they often feel like all their reasons are a sham, and that the true, horrible nature of the world will eventually overwhelm them. And so, in the end, they are overwhelmed, and they snuff it.
I can't bring myself to judge suicides harshly. I've heard some folks say of them that it's cowardly, that it's weak, to kill yourself. That's a cop-out and an over-simplification. People who are predisposed to suicide expend tremendous amounts of personal strength just getting through the day. But you know, in the end, strength can only hold out for so long.
So no, they aren't weak, necessarily. They are sick. They are stuck in a cycle that no human being can escape from on their own. They need help. Because even the strongest among us can't fight forever, and especially against our own treacherous brains.
It's always hard for us, the ones still hanging on, to hear about yet another brilliant mind doing itself in. What future would, say, Kurt Cobain have had? Hunter S. Thompson? Ernest Hemingway? Or most recently, the staggeringly talented Cort McMeel? We can only speculate, I guess.
And I especially can't help but wonder what brilliance REH might have had ahead of him. I wonder what great heights he might have achieved in his art. He wrote something like 800 stories in the ten year span he was active, and redefined pulp action forever afterward.
It's a goddamn shame.
I wish like hell he could've gotten some help, way out there in the barren countryside of Texas. RIP, REH.