My library gets the bulk of our books on what is called an approval plan. We contract with a middle man to send us books every week, based on criteria that has been developed. Before the books are processed, they are put on carts and left out for people to review. A few weeks ago, as I was browsing a new cart, I came across this book:
This Book is Overdue: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All
by Marilyn Johnson.
Hmm, a book about librarians, how interesting. (As an aside, I don't like the title Cybrarian). I stuck in a flag saying that I wanted the book once it was processed. This is one of the biggest perks of working in a library (besides inter-library loan which is THE biggest perk), we have first crack at the new books.
As I was browsing the book, I saw that the author had written another book titled:
Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs, and the Perverse Pleasures of Obituaries.
A book about obituaries? To be more specific, a book about obituary writers. This is fantastic, how come I never heard about this book?
I have to confession to make. I read obituaries. I don't usually read the whole entry but I start to see how old the person was, what was the cause of death and how long were they married. It tears me up to read that Edna leaves her husband of 63 years.
So we did not have the Dead Beat book in our library so I ordered it.
I loved this book. The author gives an overview of obituaries but focuses on how the British papers (Guardian, Independent and Daily Telegraph) revolutionized obituary writing in the 1980s. The author goes to writer conferences (There is still time for me to register for the Society of Professional Obituary Conference ), interviews writers, reproduces favorite obits, travels to London and other fun things like lurking on the obit newsgroup.
I learned that there is a certain format to the writing - that phrase, followed by the tombstone, then the bad news, song and dance, the reverse shift, the desperate chronology, ending with the telegraph. There are friars (quotes) sprinkled throughout.
I will never read the obituaries in the same way.