Read The Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs, and the Perverse Pleasures of Obituaries by Marilyn Johnson Online


Marilyn Johnson was enthralled by the remarkable lives that were marching out of this world—so she sought out the best obits in the English language and the people who spent their lives writing about the dead. She surveyed the darkest corners of Internet chat rooms, and made a pilgrimage to London to savor the most caustic and literate obits of all. Now she leads us on a cMarilyn Johnson was enthralled by the remarkable lives that were marching out of this world—so she sought out the best obits in the English language and the people who spent their lives writing about the dead. She surveyed the darkest corners of Internet chat rooms, and made a pilgrimage to London to savor the most caustic and literate obits of all. Now she leads us on a compelling journey into the cult and culture behind the obituary page and the unusual lives we don't quite appreciate until they're gone....

Title : The Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs, and the Perverse Pleasures of Obituaries
Author :
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ISBN : 9780060758769
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 272 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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The Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs, and the Perverse Pleasures of Obituaries Reviews

  • Montzalee Wittmann
    2019-02-11 09:33

    The Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs, and the Perverse Pleasures of Obituaries by by Marilyn Johnson is a book I picked up from the library by chance. I am a nurse and one of the odd habit nurses have is looking at obituaries, weird, I know. We check to see if we know anyone we helped, especially if working in a nursing home recently or part time. Odd habit but apparently others have it too. Well this book shows the strange obits out there, the different styles of writing obits from different parts of the world, different styles from various writers of obits, unusual lives of those departed, and strange timing of deaths of multiple people. Some places in the book was a bit dry but for the most part it was very interesting and ...well, I was going to say 'full of life' but that would be inappropriate now wouldn't it? Very interesting anyway. Enjoyed the book greatly.

  • Rachael
    2019-02-17 10:18

    This book came to me by way of providence. I decided one day that I would like to read a book about obituaries. Shortly after, (voila) I came upon this book at the Boston Fine Arts Museum bookstore. More specifically, Johnson writes about the blossoming cult following obituaries have been attracting for some time now. She gives an overview of the favored obituary writers, the best websites to find international favorite obituaries, the life of an obituary writer and the changing styles and fashions of obituary writing. Her actual writing skills are not remarkable, it feels a bit like getting a letter from a friend of your mother's. There isn't anything about her that makes her particularly qualified to write the book either, aside from her enthusiasm.I enjoyed the book for it's subculture-immerision and for the selections of classic obituaries she shares throughout. Also, I'm fascinated by the widespread commonality of common-people obituaries--the ones about a favorite neighborhood plumber--that are written by skilled writers and published in major newspapers. Johnson loves these and talks about them a lot. A good way to familiarize yourself if you are at all interested in this field.

  • Jeff
    2019-01-22 10:33

    I picked this book up because I liked the cover. Look at it. It’s so catchy, it almost looks like a McSweeny’s book. But it’s not. It’s almost that clever- but not quite. I wasn’t quite sure how Marilyn Johnson was going to sustain a book about obituaries for 223 pages, and the answer is she doesn’t- not really. Johnson tries her hardest to show how great obits are- she speaks incessantly to how they bring people closure, or together, or whatever. It was when she was in the middle of these diatribes I lost interest in the book.I found myself not really caring about the people who obsess about reading obituaries, and really, I didn’t care much about the people that write obituaries, but really, the star of the book are the excerpts of written obituaries. Seriously, these people know how to turn a phrase. “Society today does not assign extraordinary attributes to a 35-year-old heavy-equipment mechanic who is living with his parents and whose possessions do not appear to much exceed a Miller Light and pack of Marlboros on the bar before him, a union card in his pocket and a friend on either side.” Paging Mr. Springsteen- someone’s taking your imagery of the blue collar American worker and using it to write about dead people. And-“Agate, population 70, is one of those towns that people describe as ‘blink and you’ll miss it.’ Lois A. Engel loved living in the blink.”That’s a great first sentence of a great American novel. The excerpts are also heartbreaking. This is from one of the obituaries on someone who died in the September 11th attacks.“You know the sweetest thing my sister [Lisa L. Trerotola] did?’ said her brother, Paul Spina. ‘She was planning a surprise party Oct. 6 for my brother-in-law’s 40th birthday. Sent the invitations and everything. He has no idea. Would you put that in the newspaper? I don’t have the heart to tell him.”They are harsh, and cold, and brutally honest.“I could write a book,’ [Dorothy Custer] said often after rearing 13 children. Her Daughters encouraged her to do just that. But it was too late. Launching and overseeing so many young lives took her own well-being. When later she didn’t need to be ‘Mom’ anymore, she had no energy, will or nerve. Even before her last child was born, she had begun using alcohol to retreat from her burden, and possibly, from depression. Social drinking became wine every day at 5 P.M., and then, all day. Intervention was not successful.” But the one thing they have in common is that they are all about the people, dead people. For better or worse they are about the people. Death is never easy or fun. The interesting thing about this book that is partially uninteresting is that it made me wonder what my obituary might say. Who would write it? Would it be funny? Would it be sappy? Would I be looked back upon fondly? Would people scour at me through their words? I don’t know many dead people, but I wondered what their obituaries said about them. Overall I wouldn’t go out of my way to read this book. But I will say it did make me think about just a bit about death, and more importantly how one is remembered.

  • Linda
    2019-01-31 10:23

    I LOVED this book. Since I am an OLD FASHIONED newspaper reader and a dedicated obituary aficiando from way back, this book gave me ample permission to really relish the art of the obituary. The cover of the book, incorporating the title is: "This PUBLICATION, proudly sent forth under the title of THE DEAD BEAT will gratify THE READER with a survey both humorous and poignant of the wonders enfolded in the pages of an ordinary newspaper, and including many marvelous tales relating to LOST SOULS, LUCKY STIFFS and the PERVERSE PLEASURES of OBITUARIES." (capitalizations theirs) Marilyn Johnson is a wonderful writer. A journalist, she has sought out obituaries that are works of art; gone to several Great Obituary Writers' International Conferences, (the sixth being held in Las Vegas, New Mexico); met a host of talented obituary writers and gotten their stories; and given me a new appreciation of the genre. There are, as I didn't know, people who write obituaries for illustrious publications like the NEW YORK TIMES, THE ECONOMIST, THE DENVER POST, and British newspapers like the INDEPENDENT, the TIMES and the GUARDIAN. Tracing what one well known UK obituary writer, Nigel Fountain calls "... the Obit Revolution of 1986, kicked off by technology, when the newspaper business shifted from printing presses to computers," she cites the writers who select famous, near famous and not-famous people from the "deaths" column. These journalists interview friends, neighbors and family or glean tidbits from previously published information. They feature the person in death embellished in life. Johnson writes, "By 1988, the GUARDIAN was off and running with its own smart and culturally savvy obits, also bylined. It [THE GUARDIAN:] takes pride in covering popular culture... [and:] ran an obit of Martha Carson, the country-and-western singer whose trademark stance of dropping to one knee at moments of emotional climax, the microphone stand at an angle, had been picked up by Elvis in the early fifties....". What sensational journalism! Who knew? As Johnson says, "You don't know how many things you don't know until you start dawdling over the obituary page." Johnson cites forty-five internet addresses where obituaries can be researched. Another reference to Sept. 11, surfaces in this book with the way the NEW YORK TIMES handled each horrifc death one by one. How THE NEW YORK TIMES became a local paper with its "A Nation Challenged " section featuring "Portraits of Grief," brief evocations of the victimswritten carefully by feature writers turned obituarist. Johnson includes, after the Aknowledgements section, where extraordinary obituary writers mentioned in the book are again commemerated, an Appendix, a marvelously complete "notes" section, and a Bibliography. She is thorough and professional. A sleeper of a newspaper history book and a heroic pursuit of good writers writing good about good people.

  • Karen
    2019-02-13 02:22

    I picked up this book because the blurb on the cover said "An uplifting, joyous, life-affirming read for people who ordinarily steer clear of uplifting, joyous, life-affirming reads." My conclusion upon finishing is that I didn't need to read a whole book about the world of obituaries and the people who love them. Marilyn Johnson writes about the structure of obituaries, the various styles of obits and the papers that run them. She introduces us to the obituary writers she admires and the people who influenced them. Throughout, she provides many examples of obituaries, all fascinating. Her style is lively and witty. She's aware that her subject may seem a little off the wall, but she defends it well, saying that a good obituary distills what is unique about a person, so that some little piece of her will be preserved after she has died.My problem with all of this is that I would have liked the book so much better if it had been a long essay instead. I lost patience in the chapter near the end where Johnson describes the hours she spends on the Usenet message board alt.obituaries. I wanted to reach into the book, pull her out of her chair and make her go outside. In other words, she didn't convert me to her obituary obsession--and there's nothing really wrong with that. There was just too much of this book for my taste.

  • Jennifer
    2019-02-12 07:30

    The world of obituary writing is slightly larger than I suppose I would have imagined it, had I imagined it at all. Johnson brings to light the differences in newspapers, the styles of various writers (and their conferences!), and even talks about some of the obituary "fans." I thought the sections on writers writing obituaries for ordinary people - finding their stories through talking with family and friends - quite interesting, and wished that happened more in my hometown. (Most of our obituaries are rather boring, written by family members following a simple template. I'm quite encouraged to write my own!)Scattered throughout are excerpts from obituaries, which were my favorite parts of the book. In some cities, obituaries are much more deadpan - sneaky with their jokes - without being too disrespectful. One of my favorites:"Selma Koch, a Manhattan store owner who earned a national reputation by helping women find the right bra size, mostly through a discerning glance and never with a tape measure, died Thursday at Mount Sinai Medical Center. She was 95 and a size 34B."

  • Alyce Wilson
    2019-02-15 02:45

    As someone who enjoys meandering through old cemeteries, gazing at tombstones and wondering about the people who lie below, I was excited at the prospect of an entire book about obituaries. Author Marilyn Johnson focuses not so much on interesting obituaries themselves but on the craft of the creative obituary writer. A self-proclaimed obituary fan, Johnson shares fascinating insights into the writing process: from research to publication. When I worked for a local newspaper, about a decade ago, we followed a very different process. Except for a few high-profile local celebrities, which entailed front-page feature stories, most obituaries were dictated to us by the local funeral home directors. But as Johnson relates, the art of creative obituaries has become more prominent in recent years. Johnson interviewed a host of talented obituary writers, and when she relates their stories, the book is engaging. Too much of the book, however, concentrates on Johnson's own stories about seeking out other obituary fans. The end result is an information-packed book that lacks focus. She should have emulated her favorite obit writers, who distill an entire lifetime into 1,000 words.

  • Kyla
    2019-01-25 02:39

    I am obituary junkie, at least I was until I started getting the NY Times which spends more time on engagements in Sunday Styles than it does the obits of ordinary people. And that's where I split from the author of this book - she prefers the obits of the famous and noted that the English papers and the NY Times run, whereas I like the more sentimental everyday obits often written by family members. The Vancouver Sun and The Oregonian had excellent versions of these and I used to save my favourites. But I don't really care too much about the people who wrote the obits on staff or the devoted internet celebrity death watchers. I want the stories of regular people and she doesn't. The most surprising omission in the book is a lack of full examples of some of the best obits out there. Snippets are quoted but it's kind of like writing a book on German Expressionist art and only showing small sections of the canvas. More obits, less pondering!

  • Rebecca Foster
    2019-02-18 05:37

    This was Johnson’s first book, but I read it after her other two other deep-dive investigative career-day romps, one on librarians and one on archaeologists (Lives in Ruins). This is about obituarists, and the particular skills it takes to distill an entire life down to its main events and themes – all delivered, preferably, in sparkly and unexpected prose that doesn’t devolve into clichés. It’s a “fusion of the literary arts, black humor, and pathos.” They also, generally, have to work quite quickly – with just a few days between a death and the published obituary – and deal with family members and friends who may be emotional and/or uncooperative. The task takes contradictory attributes: “empathy and detachment; sensitivity and bluntness.”Johnson attends the Sixth through Eighth Great Obituary Writers’ International Conferences and haunts online forums to meet fellow journalists and obsessives. She also interviews some of her heroes, like Jim Nicholson of the Philadelphia papers and Ann Wroe of the Economist. Along with the basic components of any good obituary, she discusses the spate of ‘ordinary Joe’ tributes that appeared after 9/11 and other tragedies and the differences between American and British newspaper obituaries (for one thing, the former tend to include medical details of the death).Obituary writing sounds appealing in the same way that biography writing does: it’s a chance for intense knowledge of another life, the rare privilege of seeing it from end to end and making observations and assessments. Johnson also makes a case for death being a great equalizer; most lives are equally full of incident and strangeness when you look closely enough. “A little life well lived is worth talking about. … There goes one, the only one, the last of his kind.”Another favorite line: “The vast waterfall of history pours down, and a few obituarists fill teacups with the stories.”

  • Tom McDade
    2019-01-26 09:18

    "The best, I find, are made out of humble and unlikely material like the obit of Suzanne Kaaren, ninety-two, an actress who had appeared in several Three Stooges shorts. In her obit for the NY Sun, Stephen Miller had crammed her identification with the fascinating particulars of her life: 'an original Rockette, a champion high-jumper, a patent holder for a pop-top can, and in the 1990s she waged a successful legal battle against Donald Trump when the developer tired to evict her from her sprawling, rent-controlled Central Park South apartment.' Miller, an amused sponge of pop culture, had sprinkled her obit with deadpan sentences like, "The Stooges seemed to value her opinion, and regularly tried out new material on her." The casual reader might have missed it, but Rosner was the poster. Over the cut-and-paste, she commented: "I would love any obit with the sentence, 'The Stooges seemed to value her opinion.'"

  • Jaci
    2019-02-05 06:29

    Very nice overview of obituaries, obituary construction, development of obituaries in major news sources, and obituarists we've known and loved. Ties right into my job...p.222: "I still think that the point of the obituary and the beauty of it, aside from its elegant structure and the wonderful writing it can inspire, lies in that heroic act. There goes one, the only one, the last of his kind, the end of a particular strand of DNA. ... The better the obit, the closer it approaches re-creation. It's an act of reverence, a contemplation of this life that sparked and died, but also an act of defiance, a fist waved at God or the stars. And what else, really, do we have besides the story?"Perhaps Marilyn Johnson has read Jim Harrison:Larson's Holstein Bullby Jim HarrisonDeath waits inside us for a door to open.Death is patient as a dead cat.Death is a doorknob made of flesh.Death is that angelic farm girlgored by the bull on her way homefrom school, crossing the pasturefor a shortcut. In the seventh gradeshe couldn't read or write. She wasn't a virgin.She was "simpleminded," we all said.It was May, a time of lilacs and shooting stars.She's lived in my memory for sixty years.Death steals everything except our stories.

  • S.
    2019-01-25 09:27

    This book started off so well, but on the whole it’s more about the infrastructure of obituaries rather than obituaries themselves – the relevant newspapers, the writers, and an annual meeting of writers and readers. It was also extremely gushy, like an enthusiastic fan club letter about obituaries. The topper was the eight pages with posed and occasionally cheesy pictures of obituary writers. I guess it’s a difficult trick to write a whole book focusing on obituaries and why they interest and move readers. The book does do this somewhat, but fleetingly. There was a good section on the NYT’s tributes to the victims of 9/11, and in general the information on newspapers and styles was interesting. But the best parts, as expected, were the excerpted obituaries themselves – the nun who took her whisky neat, the old woman who’d run away as a girl to join the circus, the engineer who survived the Russian Revolution by being thrown up onto a ship’s deck as a small child. This beginning was especially good: Agate, population 70, is one of those towns that people describe as ‘blink and you’ll miss it.’Lois A. Engel loved living in the blink. The book was an entertaining, quick read, but there’s a lot of padding, and a little too much of the author.

  • Marguerite
    2019-01-22 08:25

    I'll start with my biases. I'm a longtime, now former, journalist who's written several "everywoman/everyman" obituaries for family and friends. I call obit writers friends. (I know some funeral directors, too.) I started a choir at my church to sing at funerals because the music suffered at times and upset grieving families further. (Good music can comfort.) It's neither ghoulish nor cultish to appreciate a fine last word, and that's what Marilyn Johnson's book is about. Yes, some folks take their appreciation to extremes. I find them fascinating from a distance. But, here's the thing: An obituary (or wedding or anniversary announcement) should give the reader a sense of the person or people it celebrates. The only way it can do that is by breaking free from standard forms and telling the truth. Johnson's book recognizes and encourages that, with copious, sometimes hilarious, examples from English-language publications. It celebrates good send-offs and fine prose. The book is meticulously researched. I found the chapter on obituary terminology (most of it made up) silly. But I'm quibbling. The Dead Beat is a fun and quick read.

  • John
    2019-02-01 06:32

    Light reading, went down very easily. My interest level waxed and waned as she went on too long about some writers and got a little repetitious making some points, but she has a way with a phrase, sometimes, or a detail, that left me with a good feeling about the book, overall. I'm going on to read her books about librarians and archeologists.Notable lines:These quotes sizzle when they hit the grill.(a real pub called) The Slug and LettuceHe did an impression of Charles de Gaulle, his penis playing the part of the General's nose.When Danny Sugarman of The Doors died, an obit mentioned his wife, Fawn Hall. Was that the Fawn Hall, Ollie North's shredding secretary from the Iran-Contra scandal? Indeed it was."He left many things well begun."And obituaries, as anyone who reads or write obituaries will tell you, are really not about death. They're occasioned by death, and they almost always wrap up with a list of those separated from the beloved by death, but they are full of life.

  • Jan Takehara
    2019-02-13 06:18

    You will note that this book is included on a goodreads list titled "You Read About What?" If that is your response to the title of this book, do not read it under any circumstances. If, however, you understand that obituaries, when done well, are not morbid because in fact they are about LIFE, by all means, grab this wonderful tome. Johnson includes great excerpts from obituaries, interviews with obituarists, adventures she had in alt.obituaries and a compelling delineation of the impact that the New York Times' post-9/11 Portraits of Grief had on the obituary field as a whole. And, God help me and my fellow obsessives, there is a five-page "Internet Tour Guide" to newspapers with great obituary sections and other obituary resources.

  • Pam
    2019-02-04 10:18

    I enjoyed Marilyn Johnson's This Book Is Overdue so much I wanted to read her earlier works (especially since she'll be speaking at the MLA conference next spring). I've downloaded this to my laptop using Border's desktop e-reader software, and it's a very convenient way to read (and cost less than the cheapest paperback copy I could find on Amazon). I admit to reading obituaries regularly and often find them very entertaining (although I'm reading small-town papers, and suspect obits are written by family members, not staff writers). I'm just up to Chapter 3, so will see what else she has to say about this topic. She has a very amusing style.

  • Karen Germain
    2019-01-22 07:39

    I found this book to be very important. After reading it, I had a greater appreciation for life. Specifically, an appreciation for the unique stories that everyone has to share and that make everyone special in their own way. I never realize that obituaries could be so interesting or even fun to read. I also didn't realize how much that they can vary depending on the writer and publication. It made me take notice of a part of the newpaper that I would normally overlook. The book also had several funny and touching moments. I highly recommend it to everyone.

  • Carrie
    2019-02-18 03:38

    Not exactly what I was expecting but still highly entertaining. Johnson mostly concerns herself with the rise of the "ordinary Joe" obituary as a regular feature in newspapers. The characters (both writers and the deceased) she covers are interesting, but I was hoping she'd be more reflective about why we read strangers' obituaries and how obits are connected to other ways we commemorate our dead.

  • Brisbride13
    2019-02-19 05:23

    Such a disappointing book. I like to read obits; the 94 year old lady, who was married for 57 years and has 5 kids, 13 grandkids and 21 great grandkids. There's just something about those! I was expecting this book to be more about obits themselves, not the mechanics and the people who write them. I truly found it boring about half-way through and had to force myself to finish it.

  • Jim
    2019-02-13 03:47

    An interesting journey into the world of obsession with obituaries. For the most part well written and interesting, it basically strings together essays from her research into her own obsession. I like obits, though not to this level. I loved the black humor, especially among the on-line group.

  • Danni Green
    2019-02-04 10:24

    This was a fascinating book on a subject I know virtually nothing about. I don't think I've ever even read an obituary that wasn't about someone I personally knew. The author's passion for this subject matter really shows, breathing life* into a highly unusual topic. (*Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

  • Margie Haack
    2019-02-19 05:32

    I didn't know much about writing obits. Or reading them, but I have friends who read them every day. Author is a bit obsessed. Which is okay. I just didn't enjoy as much as I'd hoped.

  • Kaethe
    2019-01-25 10:29

    I haven't picked up the habit, but I certainly understand the appeal of reading obituaries now.

  • Cathy
    2019-01-22 02:47

    Many, many years and two careers ago, I worked with a fellow reporter whose dream was to someday write a book detailing the last meals of death row convicts. I eventually moved jobs and lost touch with him, and never did learn whether he wrote that book. Yet I've never quite forgotton about it since it was such an out-of-the-box idea. The same perverse intrigue attracted me to "The Dead Beat", a non-fiction cultural study about obituaries, obituarists and fans of the same. Without a doubt, The Dead Beat makes for some interesting reading. The author, Marilyn Johnson, is a journalist/obituarist herself, and I found the most compelling parts of the book were those where Johnson stepped back and approached her subject of obituaries and their writers with journalistic objectivity. Much of the time though, her perspective veers into obituary fangirl. It borders on the obsessive, and I found those portions a little less enjoyable. Overall though, the book is informative, fascinating, funny and poignant. I think this passage best represents the appeal of the obit: "Obituaries, as anyone who reads or writes obituaries will tell you, are really not about death. They're occasioned by death, and they almost always wrap up with a list of those separated from the beloved, but they are full of life." Favorite obit passage from the book: "Selma Koch, a Manhattan store owner who earned a national reputation by helping women find the right bra size, mostly through a discerning glance and never with a tape measure, died Thursday at Mount Sinai Medical Center. She was 95 and a 34B."

  • Robin
    2019-01-26 04:42

    Family history research has made me appreciate cemeteries and obituaries - and this book has helped explain a bit about the history of obits and a bit about those who write and read them. The read is as interesting and helpful and entertaining as the obits themselves can be.

  • Catherine
    2019-02-09 09:40

    Had some interesting information & some funny obits but overall was not as good as her later books

  • Keeley (ABibliophilesJourney)
    2019-02-12 02:28

    3.5 Enjoyed this one! Super interesting.

  • Margaret
    2019-02-02 04:41

    A story told by a self proclaimed obituary addict of obituaries about obituaries and the writers of obituaries. She grounds her story with the conferences they hold and interviews with the writers. I enjoyed their styles and their pride and happiness in their chosen work. I had trouble relating to the thrill of the death of a celebrity or of anyone, but the author was able to write in a way that seemed to celebrate the event and not be maudlin. I enjoyed learning about the different newspapers, especially international newspapers and the very small town newspapers. It did remind me that our local paper must have dropped the obit shorts of famous people and I do miss that. I read the regular obituaries and the epilogue in our local paper, but I haven’t reached out to read obituaries on line from other papers. It was news to me that newspapers handled life stories like this. I am fascinated that everyone, and I love this, has a story to tell. I did have trouble sticking to the book and had to put effort into finishing it. I am glad I did.

  • Lynn
    2019-02-09 04:27

    Today's post is on The Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs, and the Perverse Pleasures of Obituaries by Marilyn Johnson. It is 244 pages long including notes and it published by HarperCollins. The cover is tan with a raven in the center and the title from top to bottom. The intended reader is someone who is interested in history, different lifestyles, and good writing. The story is told from the first person of the author as she explores this world. There is no sex, no violence, and some mild language in this book. There Be Spoilers Ahead.From the dust jacket- The New York Times comes each morning and never fails to deliver news of the important dead. Every day is new; every day is fraught with significance. I can arrange my cup of tea, prop up my slippers. Obituaries are history as it is happening. Whose time am I living in? Was he a success or a failure, lucky or doomed, older than I am or younger? Did she know how to live? I shake out the pages. Tell me the secret of a good life!Where else can you celebrate the life of the pharmacist who moonlighted as a spy, the genius behind Sea Monkeys, the school lunch lady who spent her evenings as a ballroom hostess? No wonder so many readers skip the news and the sports and go directly to the obituary page. The Dead Beat is the story of how these stories get told. Enthralled by the fascinating loves that were matching out of this world, Marilyn Johnson tumbled into the obits page to find out what made it so lively. She sought out the best obits in the English language and chased the people who spent their lives writing about the dead. Surveying the darkest corners of the Internet chat rooms, surviving a mass gathering of obituarists, and making a pilgrimage to London to savor the most caustic and literate obits of all, Marilyn Johnson leads us into the cult and culture behind the obituary page. The result is a rare combination of scrapbook and compelling read, a trip through recent history and the unusual lives we don't quite appreciate until they're gone.Review- This book was a wonderful break from all the War World 2 stuff I have been reading lately. It is funny, touching, and gets into what we humans are really like, morbid. Johnson really gets into the history of obits, the current standards for them, and what in recent years has changed about them. She goes to a convention for obit writers and travels the world to meet the most famous ones living. I had so much fun with this book and I got to be morbid at the same time as learning something new. Very full of win. One note about the physical book itself, it is long and thing like obituaries in the newspaper really are. I like that touch; making the book like what it is written about.I give this book a Five out of Five stars. I get nothing for my review and I borrowed this book from my local library.

  • Virginia Van
    2019-01-31 10:23

    Both a history and a sociological study of obituaries - the people who write them the papers who publish them and the people who appear in them. Not so much famous people as unique ones - the inventor of kitty litter or the pharmacist who moonlighted as an undercover narcotics operative. Funny and insightful, the author describes obituaries as capturing "history as its happening".