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1 Burnside Journalism- General

The Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs, and the Perverse Pleasures of Obituaries

by

The Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs, and the Perverse Pleasures of Obituaries Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

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 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 lives that were marching 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 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:

"A journalist who's written obituaries of Princess Di and Johnny Cash, Johnson counts herself among the obit obsessed, one who subsists on the 'tiny pieces of cultural flotsam to profound illuminations of history' gathered from obits from around the world, which she reads online daily — sometimes for hours. Her quirky, accessible book starts at the Sixth Great Obituary Writers' International Conference, where she meets others like herself. Johnson explores this written form like a scholar, delving into the differences between British and American obits, as well as regional differences within this country; she visits Chuck Strum, the New York Times' obituary editor, but also highlights lesser-known papers that offer top-notch obits; she reaffirms life as much as she talks about death. Johnson handles her offbeat topic with an appropriate level of humor, while still respecting the gravity of mortality — traits she admires in the best obit writers, who have 'empathy and detachment; sensitivity and bluntness.' The book claims that obits 'contain the most creative writing in journalism' and that we are currently in the golden age of the obituary. We are also nearing the end of newspapers as we know them, Johnson observes, and so 'it seems right that their obits are flourishing.'" Publisher Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"Every so often, when I'm taking information for an obituary, a caller will try to cheer me up: If I work hard, it will only be a matter of time before I can escape the, ahem, dead end of the obit desk. A common perception with the public, and occasionally in newsrooms, is that writing obituaries is some sort of macabre punishment.

Obituaries may once have been consigned to young reporters... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review)

Review:

"A charming, lyrical book about the men and women who write obituaries...sly, droll, and completely winning." David Halberstam

Review:

"[Marilyn Johnson]'s written a warm, funny, appreciative book that, ironically enough, should live forever. But get it now." Roy Blount

Review:

"This delightful quirk of a book is not dark or morose; it's an uplifting, joyous, life-affirming read for people who ordinarily steer clear of uplifting, joyous, life-affirming reads." Los Angeles Times

Review:

"While Johnson's analysis of the form and its top practitioners is absorbing, her accounts of the culture of obituary lovers is downright amazing." New York Times

Review:

"This is a book about dead people and the journalists who write their stories. But as Marilyn Johnson, the author of this wise and witty volume on the art of the obituary, makes clear, obits aren't so much the literature of death as the celebration of life." Seattle Times

Review:

"Johnson...teases an awful lot of life out of her descent into the chronicles of death. In a sense...she has peremptorily crafted her own obituary by writing a dead-on minor classic that should outlive its author by a long margin." San Francisco Chronicle

About the Author

Marilyn Johnson has been a staff writer for Life and an editor at Esquire, Redbook, and Outside. Her essays, profiles, and stories have appeared in these magazines and others. She has written obituaries for Princess Diana, Jacqueline Onassis, Katharine Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Johnny Cash, Bob Hope, and Marlon Brando.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780060758752
Subtitle:
Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs, and the Perverse Pleasures of Obituaries
Author:
Johnson, Marilyn
Author:
Parker, Buzz
Author:
Gruner, Jessica
Author:
Reger, Rob
Author:
by Marilyn Johnson
Publisher:
Harper
Subject:
Journalism
Subject:
History and criticism
Subject:
Customs & Traditions
Subject:
Death, Grief, Bereavement
Subject:
Death & Dying
Subject:
Obituaries
Subject:
Obituaries - History and criticism
Subject:
Girls & Women
Subject:
Sociology - General
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Hardcover
Series:
Emily the Strange
Publication Date:
20060228
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
from 7
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Y
Pages:
256
Dimensions:
9.12x5.26x1.00 in. .92 lbs.
Age Level:
from 12

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Related Subjects

Health and Self-Help » Self-Help » Grief
History and Social Science » Journalism » General
History and Social Science » Journalism » Reference
History and Social Science » Sociology » General

The Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs, and the Perverse Pleasures of Obituaries Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$2.50 In Stock
Product details 256 pages HarperCollins Publishers - English 9780060758752 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "A journalist who's written obituaries of Princess Di and Johnny Cash, Johnson counts herself among the obit obsessed, one who subsists on the 'tiny pieces of cultural flotsam to profound illuminations of history' gathered from obits from around the world, which she reads online daily — sometimes for hours. Her quirky, accessible book starts at the Sixth Great Obituary Writers' International Conference, where she meets others like herself. Johnson explores this written form like a scholar, delving into the differences between British and American obits, as well as regional differences within this country; she visits Chuck Strum, the New York Times' obituary editor, but also highlights lesser-known papers that offer top-notch obits; she reaffirms life as much as she talks about death. Johnson handles her offbeat topic with an appropriate level of humor, while still respecting the gravity of mortality — traits she admires in the best obit writers, who have 'empathy and detachment; sensitivity and bluntness.' The book claims that obits 'contain the most creative writing in journalism' and that we are currently in the golden age of the obituary. We are also nearing the end of newspapers as we know them, Johnson observes, and so 'it seems right that their obits are flourishing.'" Publisher Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "A charming, lyrical book about the men and women who write obituaries...sly, droll, and completely winning."
"Review" by , "[Marilyn Johnson]'s written a warm, funny, appreciative book that, ironically enough, should live forever. But get it now."
"Review" by , "This delightful quirk of a book is not dark or morose; it's an uplifting, joyous, life-affirming read for people who ordinarily steer clear of uplifting, joyous, life-affirming reads."
"Review" by , "While Johnson's analysis of the form and its top practitioners is absorbing, her accounts of the culture of obituary lovers is downright amazing."
"Review" by , "This is a book about dead people and the journalists who write their stories. But as Marilyn Johnson, the author of this wise and witty volume on the art of the obituary, makes clear, obits aren't so much the literature of death as the celebration of life."
"Review" by , "Johnson...teases an awful lot of life out of her descent into the chronicles of death. In a sense...she has peremptorily crafted her own obituary by writing a dead-on minor classic that should outlive its author by a long margin."
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