I just finished reading "The Dead Beat," a book about obituaries and the people who write them. If that sounds horrible, I had the same instinct. But it's not. It's really interesting. I don't generally read obituaries (although I'll sometimes click on the Times page and see if anyone famous died, but it's not an every day thing), and I don't really understand the subculture of people who do, obsessively. The author of this book, Marilyn Johnson, talks about clipping obituaries and saving them, reading the obituary sections of 10 newspapers a day, following the work of particular writers and editors, the different sections of an obituary and what they're called, the obituary group on usenet, obituaries of obituary writers, and on and on. But the book is great. It's a really neat look into this world that I never thought anything about, and it made me want to read some obituaries the same way that seeing Wordplay made me want to do crossword puzzles. I'm probably not going to start reading obituaries more than I already do, but it's neat to know there are people obsessed with them, and really neat to now have some background and vocabulary to talk about them and think about them. She makes the British style (more caustic and funny) sound pretty interesting, and next time someone I've heard of dies, maybe I'll check out how the British obits compare. I liked this book much much more than I expected to. You might too. It's a good read.
Interesting random note: the more I read, the more I realize that the people who started Rotisserie Baseball were people who really led quite interesting lives, because their names always pop up in books. Dan Okrent, former Public Editor of the Times. Lee Eisenberg, who wrote The Number, and now this book, where the author, Marilyn Johnson, thanks her husband, Rob Fleder, whose name I immediately recognized from the old Rotisserie Baseball books. And just now while writing this pots I noticed one of the blurbs on the back of this book is from Eisenberg. I am so curious to know how many other people reading this book will make that connection -- Johnson married to Fleder, Fleder in the original Rotisserie Baseball league with Eisenberg, Eisenberg blurbs the book. Will anyone else in the whole world notice that connection, or am I just completely bizarre?