By Iona Holloway

Japanese author Yukio Mishima (Image credit: Flickr user mitmensch0812; used with creative commons license)

 Vice magazine succeeded in twisting the modern media’s knickers in knots recently with their “Last Words” photoessay. The classy narrative thread: Famous female writers’ suicides, complete with Sylvia Plath leaning into an oven and historian Iris Chang clogging her throat with a revolver. Macabre art has a fine tipping point.

Aboard The Airship, we steer clear of tastelessness, but we’re rolling the dice with this quiz: Of the deaths listed below, can you guess whether the writer really died or whether the death is a work of their fiction?

1. Percy Bysshe Shelley drowned at sea in the Italian Gulf of Spezia. During cremation, his heart refused to burn due to apparent calcification. A female stole the heart from the flames and gave the crumbs to the Shelley’s wife, who stored the dusty remains in her desk for years.
2. Virginia Woolf filled her overcoat’s pockets with rocks, walked into the Ouse River and promptly drowned. In her suicide note to her husband, she wrote, "I can’t go on spoiling your life any longer. I don’t think two people could have been happier than we have been."
3. Charles Dickens was incredibly close with his grandfather who owned an odds and ends shop. When his grandfather’s health ailed, Dicken’s led him to a safe haven to escape Dicken’s brother, who was after their grandfather’s money. The journey destroyed Dickens, who died shortly after. His grandfather sat by his grave every day until he too died.
4. After a heartbreaking relationship breakdown and the miscarriage of his child, Thomas Hardy’s long-term girlfriend left him for a more respectable but boring man. In a final bid to save his relationship, Hardy traveled in freezing weather to win her back, but died from exposure within the year.
5. Italian poet Dante Alighieri died from malaria — so far, so boring. However, his body was subsequently hidden in a wall to prevent "corpse-napping" and forgotten about for 500 years, until a construction worker hammered through a wall and hit dry bone.
6. Sherwood Anderson, an American writer, died from complications after swallowing a toothpick at a restaurant.
7. Ingeborg Bachman, a poet and author, committed suicide by bashing her head against a pyramid in Egypt.
8. American children’s book writer Doris Buchanan Smith died on a blackberry picking expedition after an allergic reaction to a bee sting.
9. Japanese author Yukio Mishima was beheaded after an attempt to take over a Japanese garrison. (He obviously failed.)