I subscribe to The Atlantic Monthly because of Mark Steyn’s obituaries. Now, just in time for Christmas, comes a paperback collection of Steyn’s “obituaries & appreciations.” I have long admired Joseph Epstein as the master of the familiar essay, and it is the highest praise to say that Steyn’s send-offs provide pleasure and wisdom and wit in equal measure to Epstein’s efforts.
If you have a very good friend, send them Steyn’s Passing Parade. Among the remembered: Ronald Reagan, HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and Princess Diana, Sam Phillips, Michael Straight, Tupac Shakur, Rose Mary Woods, Sid Luft, John Paul II and Francis Crick.
UPDATE: From the intro, my first laugh-out-loud moment:
It was Cullen Murphy who made me an obituarist in the formal sense, when he asked me to start the “Post Mortem” column in The Atlantic. At the end of each month, he’d have a shortlist of potential subjects and so would I and we’d try and find someone on both lists. He’d propose, say, Judy Garland’s ex-, Sid Luft, and I’d roll my eyes and say you don’t really need a professional for that. And I’d counter with some sober heavyweight figure, and Cullen would react like the great pop guru Don Kirshner did when the Monkees told him they were sick of this bubblegum stuff and they needed to grow as serious artists. But then I’d forget the serious artist growth process and do Sid Luft and everyone would be happy. My rule with The Atlantic is never to do anyone I totally despise. It’s easy from an East Coast media perspective to have a hoot and jeer at a Utah polygamist like Owen Allred, but it’s insufficient.
To which I will add that “Christian atheist ” Oriana Fallaci got the send-off she deserved in the December issue. I won’t be able to read it on the radio, bit it is right and true, and another reason to subscribe.