Not only is this book extremely well written, it is also downright hilarious - if morbidly so. This is one of those books that makes you think fundamentally different for awhile about what you really want to do in your life. Hard to put down, the stories are infectious.
Delightful, quirky review of the art of the obituary and the journalists who create them.
Really great look into the world of obit writing. It's a bigger world then you might think!
Introduction gets you interested and exciting, but soon the writing style gets tedious. You will lose interest about 3/4 of the way through, but worth the time to get to the end, if only to say you read it all.
Only a geek would read this -- or maybe a journalism student as assigned reading for a class. However, this isn't the only (and I hope not the definitive) book on obit writing so surely instructors would choose a better text.
There are some gems and you really have to stick with the book to find them. Then, like their subjects, they are too soon passed. The snippets of real obits are interesting for their style of writing or for the historical info you learn. But my favorite part, because I'm a journalist, was learning about the obit writers and how they report their stories.
I said partway through this book that it was making me want to write obits. It did. I would like to write about a regular person's life (no celebrities necessarily) and weave in historical details for context. One source says "obits are not about death, they are occasioned by death." Another said it's about helping families capture memories of their departed relatives. To show others that this person mattered. I think I'm a compassionate person and writing obits would keep my life centered on compassion, like what was said of another writer.
Besides the snippets of instruction, the other valuable part of the book is the appendix, where you'll find links to obit sources (newspapers, etc.) all over the world. I'm not one to go looking for obits just to read them. I waste enough time puttering online as it is. I might go looking someday and it's nice to know where to look. But I wouldn't fit in with the subculture of people who live to read about who died.
The way the book is put together is disjointed. And the author included some material that I think is unnecessary and somehow inappropriate. In her discussion of a listserv where poeple post and discuss obits, she goes on for more than a page about flameouts. It doesn't serve as a warning to people who might go there. It doesn't seem like commentary on the issue such as "This is real life in the face of death." I think she just needs a good editor to make her murder her darlings.
If you don't appreciate newspaper reporting, you won't like this book very much.
Light review of the changing format of obituaries.
From the back cover: "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 compelling journey into the cult and culture behind the obituary page and the unusual lives we don't quite appreciate until they're gone."