Sunday, December 17, 2006

Nigel Starck's "Life After Death"

Just in time for Insert-appropriate-winter-holiday-here, I received a copy of "Life After Death" by Nigel Starck, Australia's and possibly the world's greatest authority on obituaries in English-language newspapers.

His book was my gift to myself.

I thought I could read the entire book in a couple of days and post a complete report for you here. But such is not the case. Like a ravenous guest at a buffet dinner, I devoured samples from each chapter much faster than my brain could digest the text.

I'll have to read it again more slowly and thoroughly, but that won't stop me from giving a short report now.

In his book, Nigel writes about the history and development of obits from 1622 to modern times. He talks about various styles of obits, how lives and deaths are portrayed in print and such issues as ethics and judgement. He includes many of his all-time favorite obits.

Much of the information is familiar to those of us who have attended Carolyn Gilbert's Great Obituary Writers Conferences and to readers and contributors to this Obituary Forum blog.

We've heard Nigel give presentations on the subject during the years in which he traveled throughout the United States, United Kingdom and, of course, Australia conducting research for his doctoral thesis on obituary and newspaper practice.

He cites many of us, the obits we've written, books and other articles we've penned, remarks we've made at conference sessions and in casual conversation. Tom Hobbs, our favorite university librarian, gets a special nod for his contributions as a researcher.

The tone of "Life After Death" reflects the personality of its author. Scholarly, charming, amusing and fun.

To order "Life After Death," click the "Life on the Death Beat" image at the top of the sidebar on the right. It will take you to a page with links to Nigel's and several other obit-related books.

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