Life After Death: The Art of the Obituary

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Melbourne Univ. Publishing, Jan 1, 2006 - Celebrities - 256 pages
The obituary pages of our quality newspapers have been described as 'oases of calm in a world gone mad', 'a lovely part of the paper to linger in', and 'writing that matters'. Entertaining, inspiring and informative, they serve as a legitimate instrument of history, and have enjoyed an extraordinary revival in popularity over the past twenty years. Life After Death investigates-and celebrates-the development of the obituary form in the British, American, and Australian press. Author Nigel Starck tracks down the earliest exercise in obituary publication (in 1622), then traces the evolution of the form over four centuries, from times when the obituary was the reserve of royalty and privilege to its contemporary egalitarian mode. Along the way Dr Starck delves into a multitude of lives, from the heroic to the comic, the saintly to the downright villainous, the exemplary to the eccentric. Meet, in the posthumous cast list, Major Digby Tatham-Warter, of Britain's Parachute Regiment, who carried an umbrella into battle just in case it rained; the absent-minded Australian barrister Pat Lanigan, who drove from Canberra to Sydney and then flew back, leaving his car behind; and the eccentric American publisher Eddie Clontz, whose newspaper reported (exclusively, of course) that 'tiny terrorists' were disguising themselves as garden gnomes. Life After Death also incorporates a connoisseur's collection of ten obituaries reprinted in full: the subjects include Helen Keller, Diana Mosley, Quentin Crisp, George Wallace, and Rosa Parks. Without doubt, Life After Death is a book that will outlive its author-as an enduring celebration of journalism's dying art. 'Canon Smith expired after suffering an unfortunate disagreement with his bishop.'-The Sydney Morning Herald, 1882 'Minnesota Fats died at his home in Nashville. He was eighty-two, or perhaps ninety-five.'-The New York Times, 1996
 

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Contents

discovery and definition
1
The obituary art in blossom
23
a contribution to history
45
Revival of the dying art
63
obituarists and their art
85
who makes the obituary page?
104
terror and dilemma in obituary editing
136
A connoisseurs collection
159
How to write obituaries
220
Epilogue
236
Notes
238
Bibliography
247
Index
251
Copyright

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About the author (2006)

Nigel Starck is a journalist and a scholar. He is a former South-East Asia correspondent for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and has written, produced, and appeared in documentaries for the ABC and the South Australian Film Corporation. He wrote his PhD thesis on the obituary and newspaper practice, and teaches obituary composition in his courses at the University of South Australia, where he is a senior lecturer in creative writing.

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