After I read the main obituaries in the Sunday Times, my eyes wander over to the smaller ones with the tiny, tiny type. If I were a perfect reading machine I would absorb all of these — the lives there summarized are often as interesting as the ones that get the big writeups, and since they are paid for by the word, every column inch is a testament to the fact that someone was beloved (or at least wealthy).
Usually I pick one or two that catch me eye. This week I was particularly struck by one headlined “DEAN—Joe.” Apparently these little ones aren’t available online, so here’s a picture:
I think this may be the perfect obituary. Warm and genial expression? Check. Age-appropriate but not horrifying picture? Check. Terse, to the point text that makes every word count and praises its subject without getting all flowery? Check. I’d like mine to be similar if possible.
Sometime in the last few years I went through whatever life change it is that makes a person interested in obituaries. A well-written obit is a capsule biography that takes you through a whole life — often one lasting 90 years or more — whilst you drink your coffee of a Sunday morning. In this way I have learned about a bunch of very interesting people that I’d never even heard of before.
Today I thought I’d share three recent examples. For each one I’ve posted a few key paragraphs along with a link to the full obit. Only after the fact did I notice that these are all portraits of, shall we say, non-conforming women; make of that what you will.
I may make this a regular feature of the blog going forward. You have been warned.
(Note: If you run into the New York Times paywall whice trying to click through to any of these, let me know; my subscription lets me gift articles to people directly, which I’m happy to do.)
In her 99 years this woman wrote over 400 books, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Jakucho Setouchi, a Buddhist priest and feminist author who wrote frankly about sex, entertained audiences with her insouciant wit and rendered one of Japan’s greatest classic works into a readable best seller, died on Nov. 9 in Kyoto, Japan. She was 99.