A good obituary is a joy to read and the ones that appear in The Telegraph are usually just that: famous, infamous, peculiar, witty, tragic, heroic and just interesting lives are written up with brio, blunt honesty, fantastic style and an appreciation of the human condition and what we make of it. The first paragraphs in particular are toe-curlingly good.
The new collection Thinker, Failure, Soldier, Jailer: An Anthology of Great Lives in 365 Days is just the ticket when you need a little something to trawl through to lighten your other reading, a few pages a day will set you up – and gives you lots of things to tell other people. Just fantastic as a gift for almost anyone, here are three of my favourites:
“The 3rd Lord Moynihan, who has died in Manila aged 55, provided, through his character and career, ample ammunition for critics of the hereditary principle. His chief occupations were bongo-drummer, confidence trickster, brothel-keeper, drug-smuggler and police informer, but ‘Tony’ Moynihan also claimed other areas of expertise – as ‘professional negotiator’, ‘international diplomatic courier’, ‘currency manipulator’ and ‘authority on rock and roll’…” as well as the supremely understated oddity of:
“Frank Shackleton-Fergus, who has died aged 89, was the first man to X-ray a live duck-billed platypus...”
and the utterly intriguing
“Jo Jo Laine, who died on Sunday aged 53 after falling down a flight of stairs, led a fast-paced life which bore witness to the dangers of too much beauty combined with an almost total lack of self-restraint…”