Dead people. Deadly prose.

Obituary writing has evolved into something of an art-form in the US and UK. Gone are the days of dryly reporting the death of people, with their age and names of survivors.

Instead, a stylish new form of literature has emerged.

In The Dead Beat, a tome on the deadly business (Harper Collins), Marilyn Johnson says a good obituary writer possesses “an ability to write well, to capture a person with economy and grace, and work in the hurricane of emotion that swirls arond the newly dead.”

This lead in a New York Times obituary shows how lively writing on the dead can be:

Selma Koch, a Manhattan store owner who earned a national reputation by helping women find the right bra size, mostly through a discerning glance and never with a tape measure, died Thursday at the Mount Sinai Medicinal Center. She was 95, and a 34B.”

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