Wednesday, May 13, 2015

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


Today's post is on The Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs, and the Perverse Pleasures of Obituaries by Marilyn Johnson. It is 244 pages long including notes and it published by HarperCollins. The cover is tan with a raven in the center and the title from top to bottom. The intended reader is someone who is interested in history, different lifestyles, and good writing. The story is told from the first person of the author as she explores this world. There is no sex, no violence, and some mild language in this book. There Be Spoilers Ahead.

From the dust jacket- 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 can 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 loves that were matching 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 the 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- This book was a wonderful break from all the War World 2 stuff I have been reading lately. It is funny, touching, and gets into what we humans are really like, morbid. Johnson really gets into the history of obits, the current standards for them, and what in recent years has changed about them. She goes to a convention for obit writers and travels the world to meet the most famous ones living. I had so much fun with this book and I got to be morbid at the same time as learning something new. Very full of win. One note about the physical book itself, it is long and thing like obituaries in the newspaper really are. I like that touch; making the book like what it is written about.

I give this book a Five out of Five stars. I get nothing for my review and I borrowed this book from my local library.