The Art of the Obituary

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

We look at the art of writing obituaries – and why so many of us take pleasure in reading them! Anne Wroe is co-editor of The Economist’s Book of Obituaries; Marilyn Johnson is author of The Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs, and the Perverse Pleasures of Obituaries.

Weigh in: Do you read obituaries regularly, and why? Are certain obituaries more interesting to you than others?


Marilyn Johnson and Anne Wroe

Comments [4]

Patti from Yorktown Heights, NY

I love obituaries and I don't think it is the least bit morbid. I want to know what a person's life was like that made their death NYT obit-worthy.

Obits of people I've never heard of are wonderful because these guys aren't celebrities. They had done something (good or bad) at some point in their life that somehow affected history.

The obits of "names" I know fill me in on why I had heard of them in the first place. If they died of old age, most likely I had no clue of what they were like in their heyday and I love when that comes to life on the page.

Dec. 31 2008 01:53 PM
bk from nyc

I'd like to know if there is anyone out there who believed one word of the Willoughy Sharp obit in today's NY Times!!

max from manhattan - that's a great observation.

Dec. 31 2008 01:37 PM
Max from Manhattan

I'm kind of morbid, so I do find myself reading the obituaries in the Times regularly.

Did anyone notice that Harold Pinter's NY Times obituary was co-written by Ben Brantley and Mel Gussow? Gussow died over three years ago. While I know newspapers keep pre-written obits of noteworthy people approaching dying age on file, this is the first time I’ve seen one written by a man whose subject outlived him.

Dec. 31 2008 01:21 PM
Brian from Brooklyn

Beyond the NYTimes magazine's end-of-the-year round-up, do any publications do a week-end or monthly "Best of" listing? I know this is macabre, but I enjoy reading obituaries, but sometimes feel that if we could have a rundown of important figures each week, we'd be given an interesting way to keep up w/ history that, unfortunately, is too labor-intensive to do daily.

Dec. 31 2008 01:16 PM

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