Great Lives - A Century of Obituaries
by The Times .
Times Books, HK$208
Everyone dies, but not everyone is given an obituary in The Times, which has had the last word on how people are remembered since 1785 (when it was The Daily Universal Register). Rarely does an illustrious individual pass without comment and Great Lives - A Century of Obituaries gathers 124 notable figures of the 20th century. 'Obituaries are about lives, not death,' says The Times, which views these columns as 'first drafts of history, which to a remarkable degree have stood the test of time'. Its obituary of US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who died in 1945, reads: 'Throughout yesterday the people of the United States, of the United Nations, and of all peace-loving states mourned the passing of a leader whose influence for good had extended far beyond his national boundaries.' Precisely captured, too, is Coco Chanel (1971): 'Most sources suggest that 'Coco' Chanel was born in 1893, although this fact, like so many others about her life, was a jealously guarded secret.' And of actress Mae West (1980): by making sex a shared joke, she defused the subject of much of its offensive power - though not enough for many in the 1920s and 1930s, when she was constantly the target of outraged moralists.'