Another posthumous entry from the late Theresa Duncan appeared on her blog, The Wit of the Staircase, on Dec. 31. An editor's note in October said it was coming, set to appear at the end of the year. David Ulin, the L.A. Times book editor, comments today on the Book Review's Jacket Copy blog:
I was an admirer of Theresa Duncan; her blog, the Wit of the Staircase, was one of the smartest, least predictable aesthetic experiments on the Internet, a mash-up of intellectual rigor, artistic attitude and fan-girl obsession, filtered through a world-weary yet endearing voice. After Duncan committed suicide last July at age 40, Wit remained online as something of a virtual memorial, a ghost-like reminder of what could have been.
Yet Duncan, it turns out, seeded the site with two posthumous entries--the first, an odd and disturbing anecdote about Basil Rathbone and the spirit world that posted just before Halloween, and the second, an extended excerpt from T.S. Eliotís "East Coker," which went live on New Yearís Eve under the title "New Beginning."
Itís impossible to look at either of these items without the suffocating sense that Duncan knew exactly what she was doing, that she was using technology as a way of talking to her readers from beyond the grave. But if on its own thatís just a gimmick, what makes it all so affecting is what she chose to communicate. The Rathbone story involves a friend of the actor who dies in a car crash and delivers the following message through a medium: "Traveling very fast. No time to say good-bye." And then, "There are no dogs here."
The Eliot, on the other hand, is both more hopeful and (as a consequence) more heartbreaking, the reflection of someone standing in the middle of life, looking back at past experience and ahead at all thatís left to do.
Semi-related: My LA Observed commentary on KCRW (4:44 pm on 89.9 FM) revisits some of the obituary posts that ran on the site last year. Here's the referenced compilation of LA Observed posts, including extensive coverage of Duncan, and a pointer to other 2007 in review posts (so far.)