Mitchell Heisman’s 1,905 Page Harvard Suicide Note, And Why We Care About It

 Mitchell Heismans 1,905 Page Harvard Suicide Note, And Why We Care About ItMitchell Heisman, the man who recently shot himself in Harvard Yard, also released an unreadable rant suicide note totaling some 1,905 pages as “a test of whether America can be true to itself” based around one rhetorical gambit: if he proves his point he manages to create a spectacle that nobody cares about.

Heisman’s dying “hypothesis” that “this work will be repressed,” is developed in his statements that “The attempt to repress rather than address the evidence in this work, for example, can clarify that there are arguments of substance that are being denied a right to be heard.”

Put more bluntly, he means: “if you don’t read this, in full, and respond to it, I prove my point and America fails to live up to its billing as the world’s premiere place for ‘free speech’ and ‘liberal democracy.’ Really?

Heisman’s megalomaniacal rhetorical positioning (he has already been compared to Camus and Nietzsche) shows the thoughts of a troubled man equally media savvy and out of touch with reality. Could not his ‘work’ (crass quotations marks I know) be ‘suppressed’ by simple virtue of that matter that no one any longer has the time or willpower to wade through 1,905 pages and 1,455 footnotes just to see if you can argue about “the seditious genius” of “Jesus’ penis” coherently.

But the sheer volume and density of unreadable prose accompanied by the suspiciously theatrical gesture of killing himself in Harvard Yard masks what could, and in this critics opinion should be construed as a final attempt to climb the academic/social ladder.

We can above all else be certain that we wouldn’t care about a suicide note, especially such a long and pretentious one, had the Harvard name not been attached to it. And, likewise, that Heisman, who has a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Albany, surely knew this also.

Is it not more than likely that Heisman chose to shoot himself at Harvard out of sheer desperation to an air of credence to a failed critical career that would otherwise be but a fleeting curiosity? After all, looking at the headline, one can almost get the impression the gunman went to Harvard…

  • Burt

    Thank you for your continued work in protecting the social ladder from individuals who do not have the proper hereditary credentials.

  • ADP

    Thanks Burt, just doing by part to keep out the riff-raff.

  • His name was Robert Paulson

    @ ADP “just doing by part”?

    do you have a cold?

    Burt is right, you are a fine example of the cowardly, snide gate-keepers who attempt to supress anything that may cause people to think. How brave of you to spitefully pick holes in the work of a man who just died, a work which blatently is 100,000 times more interesting than anything you are likely to write in your entire life.

    I see no significance in the word Harvard, the story is remarkable because a man shot himself at a Yom Kippur service in front of hundreds in a manner that can only be described as ‘spectacular’ (crass quotations marks, I know). He was not ‘out of control’, he did this meticulously and calmly, ensuring that his book would be available to people who had the intelligence to read 2000 pages.
    From your tedious griping about the size of this book, and clumsy bolding of random words, It is quite obvious that you are not really up to reading a 2000 page book. I’lll wager that you have never read ANY book longer than the playboy compendium of trivia. Maybe you shouldn’t be writing vapid, trashy articles about books that you have not read and are too retarded to understand.

    I will offer the theory that the man’s exceptionally poor diet (microwave ‘meals’, chicken wings, sugary crap) could have contributed to a prolonged chronic depression. he blatantly studied and researched his ideas for years, I for one am very interested in what he may have to say

    For those who want a real article by a real journalist check David abel’s article at Boston.com

  • ADP

    @ Meat Loaf

    Don’t you think that pre-requiring your reader be in that privilege zone which allows one not only the surplus of time, but also the institution approved intelligence, to read, much less understand, 2,000 pages of labyrinthine prose (which may or may not even say anything salient) amounts to a gesture just as exclusionary as anything a trash journo playing his part could possibly write marring your work?

    Especially when considering that, in this instance, by writing him off one proves Heisman’s point precisely? Perhaps a writer, should he so desire, can be self aware of his own contradictions, kind of like Walt Whitman (since you’re of the literary disposition, Bobby). And by resorting to the ultimate insult of intelligence bashing don’t you simply keep the same gates, only ‘for real’ that I keep more or less sardonically?

    Has anyone stopped to think, since we’re offering personal theories now, that the medium really is the message here? That is to say: we don’t need to read the work, in its entirety, to understand the point Heisman was attempting to make… That’s my opinion. But if you want to go ahead and read all 2,000 pages and 1,000-and-whatever footnotes to come to the same conclusion, by all means do so; I’ll read your cliff notes.

    Desperately holding onto the dying and elitist ideals of print culture by comparing books completed as others would their penis sizes means little on the Web today — where Heisman’s book was published. And, to be honest Bobby, it means little elsewhere… except maybe in your fiction workshop.

  • http://raverat@wordpress.com Raverat

    @ATP
    What does his suicide have to do with his work? Except for his precis on nihilism, I did not see Heissman’s work even closely related to the absurd idea that it leads to self-destructive rationalism.

    Yes, he killed himself, which is a tragedy, and from his well thought-out agenda you might presume that he did it so that we would pay a modicum of attention to his treasured legacy. So what?

    His work was never meant to be read by everyone. It is recondite in nature, and it was meant to be perused only by those who desire to do so. There is no thumb-pressing on your conscience, which forces you to read Suicide Note.

  • For the record:

    @ADP ( Anthony D Poerio )

    You have instantly discredited yourself with your elementary review of a work you have not read, at least when you wrote this article. Suicide Note is thought-provoking and immensely relevant to both the Heisman’s field of Psychology, as well as to the multitude of other scientific avenues he brilliantly references and connects together.

    I am boycotting your employer’s website indefinitely and advertising the same, although I am not surprised that a “Trash Journo” such as yourself, as you put it, would have any problem displaying his wastebasket level of commitment to read and understand the concepts pieced together by Heisman. Yes. Those things take time. 2,000 pages is a conservative number of print to discuss the range of concepts Heisman brings forth, even without the level of complexity and beauty he displays.

    ATP = provided with Useless information
    Intellectual –> NOT ATP
    Reading S&V –> ATP
    NOT Reading S&V –> NOT ATP
    Therefore, Intellectuals ARE NOT Reading S&V

    S&V –>

  • For the record:

    EDIT FOR ABOVE POST: and by ATP, I mean ADP

  • ADP

    To his critics, Schoepenauer once said the following: “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”

    You’re already safely navigated stages one and two. Let me know when you get to three.

    Sounds like we made you think about something for first time in years — feels good doesn’t it?

  • Ricardo

    So ADP uses Schopenhauer’s words, even after having misspelt his name, to defend his argument. But ADP, you can’t quote Schopenhauer in this case because this quote talks about things that are TRUE. By assuming that your article speaks any truth, you make an (even bigger) idiot out of yourself. Please stop commenting on this article.

  • ADP

    Ricky, it’s about things that are becoming true, about the process. And Raverat couldn’t even spell three initials correctly, but I didn’t jump on him for it. We’re talking about internet comments; typos happen and — as long as you can still understand the message — are irrelevant. The internet is much more an oral medium than it is a written one. Attacking someone’s misspellings is like getting on them for saying “um.”

    The above article defends Heisman by doing exactly what he wanted. Tearing him apart only proves his point. Reading what’s above and having an open mind will show that.

    My own point is only that you don’t need to read his whole book to, well, get the point; and that Heisman was well aware of that. Thus the tension here becomes one of form — old, long, precise, printed ones vs. new, short, ecstatic, ones. It’s about the process of change, kind of like Schop’s words on truth.

    I’m saying that I think by actually reading his work in full you misread him. Which, I know, is probably more controversial than saying he has no idea what he’s talking about because it attacks what it means to be intellectual itself. Reading books and being a grammar nazi accomplishes nothing anymore. Nor does getting a Harvard PhD. We’re living in a time when the most powerful force is that of sheer stupidity.

    Today’s intellectual must understand how to harness it. And I think Heisman did. But I’m being masocritical (much like Heisman, I feel in many ways we’re kindred spirits), so go ahead and whip me for it, I’m already prostrated.

  • Luce

    Wow. What a painful misunderstanding of what this man was trying to achieve. I highly doubt anyone embarking on “a final attempt to climb the academic/social ladder” would go about it in such a manner, i.e. spending 5 years (or however long) writing a highly insightful 500k word thesis about his beliefs and then top himself immediately after.

    Clearly he wanted this information spread around for greater (i.e. incredibly less vain and hollow) purposes then simply boosting his own social status. And even more clearly, YOU don’t have the depth of understanding to see that.

    Your snide remarks come off as not much more then bitchy and shallow.

  • Alex,

    No, I love it!

  • Bob

    Good piece, I agree…ADP!!!

  • Drift

    ADP has proven his point. ADP wins! whoever opposes, please rage on! a valid antagonistic argument can still sway my opinion.

  • ADP

    Gracias amigos.

    In the meantime, anyone who persists in raging can first becoming further enraged by watching this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SudyHvtAPMY

  • me

    A really good writer/philosopher deserves a really good editor/philosopher.

    Can’t wait for the Cliff notes. Too bad he’s gone.

    I did immediately assume he went to Harvard.

  • Michael M

    Seems I missed the conversation on this by a few months, but there’s something I wanted to point out about this article.

    “The attempt to repress rather than address the evidence in this work, for example, can clarify that there are arguments of substance that are being denied a right to be heard.”

    The author interpreted this quote to mean: “if you don’t read this, in full, and respond to it, I prove my point and America fails to live up to its billing as the world’s premiere place for ‘free speech’ and ‘liberal democracy.’”

    When I first read this passage, I thought Heisman was very clearly saying that his work will be repressed not because most people won’t read it, but because the majority of opponents will criticize it using any argument other than one that pertains to the content of the work itself. By saying that Heisman’s work is too long, ridiculing the language of the chapter titles or claiming his suicide to be a stunt to attract attention, it seems the author of this article has done precisely what Heisman predicted.

  • Anon

    Are you kidding me!? The author of this article is clearly missing the point. To say that Heisman was ‘out of touch with reality’ is showing their own ignorance in assuming the ‘reality’ they live in is the correct one. A nihilist wouldn’t kill themselves for attention. I think the suicide note would stand as more of a path for the rest of the pathetic human race he left behind, as opposed to pandering for importance among them. Please, step out of your own world and try to see something bigger than yourself. Just because it’s scarey and new doesn’t make it the devil. God.

  • Kerm

    I think Heisman’s reality was real, and when one slips through the cracks, and for whatever reason they avoid the brainwashing that most are under, then that person is in for a lot of self-reflection. This note should serve as a sociology lesson, but will be dismissed by many who have fallen under the spell of the TV.