Since the late and mellifluous George Plimpton knew just about everybody, when he came up with a random query, there were always plenty of good sources to chat up. So, when after hearing Norman Mailer talk about a supposed close call with lion in Zaire which he later determined was a good way to die, Plimpton tracked down some literary figures and asked them for how they imagined their final moments.
Here’s some of what he received in reply:
- “When I go, everyone goes with me. You are all figments of my waking dreams and I suggest that each and every one of you shapes up and prays that I live long.” — Gore Vidal
- “I enter a house where I have been invited. It’s dark. Two large, silhouetted figures emerge from hiding. Their voices are familiar, though I can’t place them accurately. One says, ‘It’s him.’ The other says, ‘I hope so.’ Suddenly one grabs me and pins my arms to my side while the other holds a small pillow across my face. At first, the pillow is not centered properly and it takes some effort for me to adjust it…. Just before I succumb I hear one of the figures say, ‘we did this because it was important, though not absolutely necessary.’” — Woody Allen
- “I can’t decide if I’d rather go after the thirteenth or the fourteenth line of a sonnet; the thirteenth would give you something to do in the afterlife. By the same reasoning, while the ball is in the air, off the face of a perfectly swung five-iron, and yet has not hit the green where it is certain to fall.” — John Updike
- “I really don’t care much how it will happen, and I don’t think I will care much more when it does.” — Joseph Heller