The obituaries are where I learn about new music and find all my favourite new authors. Cheery, I know but bear with me.
I’m currently reading a biography about Leonard Cohen. I was not a fan of Cohen’s music until he died. But I read this New Yorker profile
about him and learned what a fascinating life he’d led.
It might seem odd but you can guarantee a dead author will be good if they have an obituary. A newspaper won’t waste space on someone who wrote bad books. It’s how I found Sam Shepherd, Umberto Eco, and Jim Harrison. Between them, they hadn’t written a good new book in years. But they were some of my favourite authors of 2017.
Granted, it’s bittersweet. I know I’m coming to these authors too late. That their best work is years or decades in the past. That history might have revised its fickle opinion on what they wrote. But on the flipside, they can now never write a bad book. They’re never going to disappoint me.
Obituaries have always been a good source of news. People are mistaken to believe they’re sad and melancholic. It’s quite the opposite. Obituaries are a celebration of a life well lived. It’s a sign someone has created something that changed the world in some special way.
When Sam Shepherd died, I spent a morning buying his books second hand on Amazon. My favourite is the one that makes the least sense “The Rolling Thunder Logbook”.
The book chronicles Bob Dylan and Joan Baez’s 1975 tour of the North-East. A tour trailed by a film crew plus Shephard, hired to write the screenplay. Impressionistic and frequently chaotic, legend has it Dylan told Shephard “None of this has to connect; in fact it’s better if it doesn’t connect”.
The exact opposite, in fact, of UX Writing. Sometimes it pays to be contrary.
There are currently 316 of you on this list. “Austin 3:16” was Stone Cold Steve Austin’s catchphrase.
Here we go.