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October 18, 2010

Belva Plain dies at 95

Belva Plain, who wrote a string of novels about Jewish American life, has died at age 95. The New York Times obituary noted that she was approaching 60 when her first novel, "Evergreen," jumped onto the best seller lists. While enduring barbs from critics, she continued to turn out novels with strong female characters.

The Times quotes her: “I got sick of reading the same old story, told by Jewish writers, of the same old stereotypes — the possessive mothers, the worn-out fathers, all the rest of the neurotic rebellious unhappy self-hating tribe. I wanted to write a different novel about Jews — and a truer one.”

Rest in peace, Belva.

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 12:40 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Obituaries
        

September 3, 2010

Cammie King Conlon of Gone with the Wind dies

cammie king conlon

Cammie King Conlon, the former child actress who portrayed the doomed daughter of Rhett Butler and Scarlett O'Hara in the movie "Gone With the Wind," has died at the age of 76. She died of lung cancer Wednesday morning at her Fort Bragg home on California's north coast, the Associated Press reported.

Conlon, who was cast in the role of Bonnie Blue Butler at age 4, also voiced the young doe Faline in Walt Disney's "Bambi" three years later. That was the end of her Hollywood career. "My mother decided she wanted me to have a normal childhood," she wrote on her blog. She often joked with interviewers that she had "peaked at 5."

But she will always be remembered as a key character in what may be the most impressive movie adaptation in history -- bringing Margaret Mitchell's novel to millions of fans.

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 8:32 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Obituaries
        

June 28, 2010

R.I.P. Robert C. Byrd, legislator and author

Robert c. byrd

The death of Sen. Robert C. Byrd, 92, has robbed us of a long-time authority on the history of constitutional goverment. In speeches, essays and books, he drew connections between Roman history and the way our government was evolving.

As an AP story noted: Renowned for carrying a copy of the U.S. Constitution in his left shirt pocket to brandish at colleagues and constituents, Byrd had a deep commitment to history. A master of Senate rules, he was by turns protective and disruptive of procedure, slowing debate with long, florid orations that invoked Greek philosophers, Roman generals and the Founding Fathers.

Among his books were a memoir, "Robert C. Byrd: Child of the Appalachian Coalfields," and more weighty tomes, including "The Senate of the Roman Republic." Byrd, who jealously guarded the powers of Congress, also weighed in with a tough critique of President George W. Bush in "Losing America: Confronting a Reckless and Arrogant Presidency."

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 1:29 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Obituaries
        

June 18, 2010

Jose Saramago dead at age 87

jose saramago dies

Jose Saramago, the Portuguese author who won the Nobel prize for literature in 1998, has died at age 87, his publisher said today.

Saramago was known for his looping, surreal style and characters. And his elevation to Nobel prize-winner recalls the political nature of that award. Saramago, a staunch Communist, was cast aside when the political tides changed in Portugal in the mid-1970s -- a move that led to his career as a novelist. As he wrote for his Nobel autobiography: "Unemployed again and bearing in mind the political situation we were undergoing, without the faintest possibility of finding a job, I decided to devote myself to literature: it was about time to find out what I was worth as a writer."

Among the notable works that followed were “The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis,” "Blindness" and “Baltasar and Blimunda.” But he also thrust himself into political situations occasionally. In 2002, he said an Israeli blockade of Ramallah was "in the spirit of Auschwitz," a statement that infuriated many Jews.

The New York Times' obit included this 2008 assessment from critic James Wood: “Jose Saramago was both an avant-gardist and a traditionalist. His long blocks of unbroken prose, lacking conventional markers like paragraph breaks and quotation marks, could look forbidding and modernist; but his frequent habit of handing over the narration in his novels to a kind of ‘village chorus’ and what seem like peasant simplicities, allowed Saramago great flexibility.”

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 12:35 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Obituaries
        

June 8, 2010

Bananagrams inventor Abraham Nathanson dies

bananagrams inventor

Tonight I'll be draping some black around the little yellow pouch in my den, to mark the death of Abraham Nathanson, who helped create the popular word game Bananagrams.

The game -- sort of Scrabble on speed -- is great for word freaks. It has given my family hours and hours of entertainment -- and led to some intense battles here and with relatives in Connecticut, Colorado and California. (Hey -- did you pick another letter tile on that last peel? No, you can't win by spelling "teeth" as "t-e-a-t-h".) It was named “Game of the Year” in 2009 by the Toy Industry Association.

Nathanson, who lived in Rhode Island, was a graphic designer, photographer, children's book author and illustrator, according to the AP. He and other family members created the game four years ago, and the yellow pouch has become a familiar sight in many homes. He died Sunday at age 80, after battling cancer.

Rest in peace, Abraham.

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 8:27 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Obituaries
        

June 7, 2010

R.I.P.: David Markson dies at 82

david markson wittgensteins mistress

David Markson, whose postmodern novels looped and whirled with seemingly random observations, has died, his agent and former wife said today. Markson's books such as "Wittgenstein's Mistress" are demanding reads, and often discarded conventions such as plot and character development.

Markson never drew a large popular following -- New York  Magazine once listed his works as The Best Novels You’ve Never Read. But his abstract experimentation drew reverence from fellow authors such as Anne Beattie the later David Foster Wallace.

Before he sought to redefine the novel, Markson was just another poor schmo who had to pay the bills, so he knocked out detective novels and a western spoof that was made into the Frank Sinatra film “Dirty Dingus Magee,” according to the AP.

For tributes and other commentary on Markson, check out Sarah Weinman's blog, Confesssions of an Idiosyncratic MInd.

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 12:50 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Obituaries
        

John Wooden: a life in books

john wooden

Sad to hear about the passing of John Wooden, the legendary basketball coach who racked up 10 national championships at UCLA while producing enough great players to fill a Hall of Fame. As a teenager, I cheered for the underdogs and cringed at all the championships in L.A. I was watching happily from a bar in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. in 1974, when Notre Dame ended the team's 88-game win streak -- a record that will likely stand forever.

But I respected Wooden and a coach, and understand why his books could fill a whole shelf. Among them are "They Call Me Coach," "The Essential Wooden: A Lifetime of Lessons on Leaders and Leadership" and "My Personal Best : Life Lessons from an All-American Journey." (He may have set another record: for writing collaborators.) "A Game Plan for Life: The Power of Mentoring," was written with Don Yeager, who is collaborating with the Baltimore Ravens' Michael Oher on a memoir. They're a good place to get a sense of his genius for coaching and motivating.

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 9:16 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Obituaries
        

April 2, 2010

Author Susan Tifft dies

author journalist susan tifft dies

Sad news: Susan Tifft, a journalist who co-authored two books about seismic shifts in the American newspaper industry, died of cancer Thursday at her home in Cambridge, Mass. She was 59.

She and husband Alex S. Jones wrote about the families that controlled The New York Times and the Louisville Courier-Journal. Both books -- “The Patriarch: The Rise and Fall of the Bingham Dynasty,’’ and “The Trust: The Private and Powerful Family Behind The New York Times’’ -- provide great insight into the trend that saw prominent families cede papers to large corporations. I'd recommend them to anyone who wants to learn about that dramatic change, and I only wish that a revised edition of "The Trust" was available to explore the more recent challenges faced by the Ochs/Sulzberger family.

Tifft, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2007, also kept a journal about her medical fight, referring to herslf as "Cancer Chick." I never met her, but her spirit shows through in the journal entries. “She cared about that blog,’’ Jones, who directs Harvard’s Shorenstein Center, told the Boston Globe. “That was the distilled essence of Susan: valiant and indomitable, witty and loving life.’’

Rest in peace, Susan.

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 2:04 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Obituaries
        

March 24, 2010

R.I.P.: Robert Culp, actor in TV, movies, audiobooks

robert culp dies bill cosby

Robert Culp, who teamed with Bill Cosby in the TV series "I Spy" and later starred (as Bob) in the movie "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice," died Wednesday after collapsing outside his Hollywood home, the AP reported. He was 79.

He'll be best remembered for the ground-breaking TV series, the first integrated show to feature a black lead actor. You may also recall some of his movie roles, including playing the U.S. president in the adaptation of John Grisham's "The Pelican Brief."

But you may not realize that he also had a career as an audiobook narrator. Here's an interview with Paul Kyriazi, who directed Culp as part of the cast for "Rock Star Rising." Sounds like he was a true pro in whatever he did.

R.I.P. Robert.

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 6:36 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Obituaries
        

February 15, 2010

R.I.P. poet Lucille Clifton

lucille cliftonThose who were still snow-bound last weekend might not have heard the sad news: Former state poet laureate and National Book Award winner Lucille Clifton died Saturday at age 73, after a long battle with cancer and other illnesses. Her obituary in the Baltimore Sun noted that the long-time Columbia resident was known for a mix of profundity, earthiness and humor in her 11 books of poetry. UPDATE: This 2/16 post includes details of memorial services.

 

The obit listed some of her many honors: She was state poet laureate from 1979 to 1985. She was the first black woman to win the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize award (2007), which is among the most prestigious awards for American poets and which carries a $100,000 stipend. She won the National Book Award in 2001 for "Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems, 1988-2000" and was a two-time Pulitzer finalist. 

At Poets.org you can read some of her poems, including "blessing the boats," and hear her provocative voice reading "homage to my hips."

May she rest in peace.

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 10:20 AM | | Comments (18)
Categories: Obituaries
        

January 29, 2010

Remembering J.D. Salinger

j.d. salinger

There are many ways to remember J.D. Salinger, the reclusive author whose novel "The Catcher in the Rye" may be #1 on the Books-Most-Assigned-To-Teenagers list. Your can re-read "Catcher. You can visit the Central Park pond (shown here) that led Holden Caulfield to wonder where the ducks go in winter. (Answer: They never leave.) Or you can try these:

Retrace Holden's steps with  The New York Times' cool interactive map of his  journey around Manhattan.

Read stories published in The New Yorker (subscription required) and a look back at the influence of "Catcher."

Laugh with The Onion's spoof on all the other appreciations: "Bunch of phonies Mourn J.D. Salinger."

Speculate on the contents of Salinger's safe.

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 10:08 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Obituaries
        

January 28, 2010

J.D. Salinger dead at 91

j.d. salingerJ.D. Salinger, the reclusive author of "The Catcher in the Rye" -- a revered coming-of-age story for me and many others of a certain age -- has died at age 91. Salinger died of natural causes at his home on Wednesday, the author's son said in a statement from Salinger's literary representative. He had lived for decades in self-imposed isolation in the small, remote house in Cornish, N.H.

Looking back at "Catcher," I think it was one of the books that helped make me a life-time reader. The prose was simple and the story was simple. But he captured the sense of teen-age angst perfectly. Some have argued that the book, published in 1951, is hopelessly dated and should be dropped from school reading lists. I think it's timeless. 

As we noted on Read Street, Salinger's most recent brush with the media came as he tried to block U.S. distribution of an unauthorized "Catcher" sequel called "60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye." The case has been tied up in the courts, though a federal district judge initially sided with Salinger. Though he published little after "Catcher" and "Franny and Zooey," I think many of us hoped for one last book.

Maybe there's something he has been withholding? It wouldn't be the first time that a relative has posthumously published material from a great author. As you may recall, Vladimir Nabokov recorded thoughts about a new book on notecards, and left instructions that they should be destroyed upon his death. But his son decided to publish the fragmentary work. Let's hope there's a manuscript or two tucked into a steamer trunk in Salinger's attic.

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 1:39 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Obituaries
        

January 19, 2010

Erich Segal, Love Story author, dies

love story

Sad news comes today that Erich Segal, a classics professor who found his greatest fame with the pop novel "Love Story," has died at age 72. If you are of a certain age, you can recall the clamor over "Love Story," about a poor, street-wise Radcliffe girl and rich Harvard preppie -- Jenny Cavilleri and Oliver Barrett IV -- who fall for each other. You'll remember the bright greens, reds and blues on the book's cover, reminiscent of Robert Indiana's classic "LOVE" pop art. And who could forget this line: Love means never having to say you're sorry...

The slim novel was a runaway best seller, and the movie adaptation starred Ryan O'Neal and Ali McGraw. (I, like most other people my age, had a crush on her character for years.)

Segal followed his hit with other books, including the tepid sequel "Oliver's Story" and “The Class,” which traces the fates of five members of the Harvard class of 1958. But he never came up with a big hit again as a writer.

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 2:41 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Books to Movies, Obituaries
        

December 29, 2009

David Levine, master caricaturist, dead at 83

David Levine, the great illustrator who skewered politicians, artists and artists for The New York Review of Books, died today at age 83. He did more than 3,800 drawings for the Review, and hundreds more for publications such as Esquire, The New Yorker and The New York Times, according to his Times obit.

You'll recall his famous images, which include President Lyndon B. Johnson pulling up his shirt to show a scar in the shape of Vietnam, Henry Kissinger having sex on the couch with a woman whose head is a globe, and Richard Nixon as the Godfather. Here's a terrific gallery from the Review.

Watch out, St. Peter. You may be getting caricatured soon.

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 2:07 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Obituaries
        

September 1, 2009

Sheila Lukins, Silver Palate co-author, dies

sheila lukinsFor cooks of a certain age, "The Silver Palate Cookbook" was a kitchen staple, as much as sugar and salt. So it is with much sadness that we report that co-author Sheila Lukins, has died of brain cancer at age 66. Lukins wrote "Silver Palate" with Julee Rosso in 1982, and it has sold more than two and a half million copies, according to Publishers Weekly. The cookbook introduced readers to dishes like Chicken Marbella, which, in classic Silver Palate style, used everyday ingredients—capers, olives and prunes—to add new, refined flavors to a dish, PW said.

Workman editor Suzanne Rafer called Lukins "a woman who changed the way the home cook cooks," noting that Lukins excelled at "taking what restaurant cooks were starting to do, and picking up on the new flavors that people were starting to enjoy in restaurants, and translating them into vibrant, interesting, easy to make dishes. This is a woman who glorified the noble prune and had us all eating Chicken Marbella—still."

That's a dish I know well -- my wife makes it all the time, and it's delicious. I asked for her perspective on Lukins and she wrote: "I follow that [Choicken Marbella] recipe exactly (with the possible exception of increasing the quantity of prunes) and have made other yummy things from the original Silvar Palate cookbook. ... The "Comforting Conclusion" section is among my favorites with a bread pudding recipe that is the best ever and so simple to make -- also follow that one exactly with fool-proof results."

Here's more from the New York Times obit.

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 11:28 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Obituaries
        

July 24, 2009

Author E. Lynn Harris dies

e. lynn harris diesE. Lynn Harris, the author of best-selling novels about the African-American gay community, has died at age 54, the Associated Press said today.

Publicist Laura Gilmore said Harris died Thursday night after being stricken at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills, and a cause of death had not been determined. She said Harris, who lived in Atlanta, fell ill on a train to Los Angeles a few days ago and blacked out for a few minutes, but seemed fine after that.

Harris once wrote in Essence magazine: "The truth is that most brothers who are attracted to men are desperately afraid of revealing it. ... Many ... fear that ... they'll be drummed out of their families, destroying their only safe haven in an already unwelcoming society."

After graduating from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, Harris sold computers for more than a decade before self-publishing his first novel, Invisible Life, in 1991, according to his website. The book was sold mainly through black-owned bookstores, beauty salons and book clubs, and became a sleeper hit; a few years later it was published by Anchor Books. Other books include If This World Were Mine (1997), Not A Day Goes By (2000), Any Way the Wind Blows (2001), and A Love of My Own (2002), which were New York Times bestsellers.

Among his awards: Blackboard Novel of the Year: Just As I Am, Any Way the Wind Blows and A Love of My Own; James Baldwin Award for Literary Excellence: If This World Were Mine. In recent years, he has also been named to Ebony's "Most Intriguing Blacks" list, Out Magazine's "Out 100" list and New York Magazine's "Gay Power 101" list.

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 2:07 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Obituaries
        

April 20, 2009

R.I.P. J.G Ballard

J.G. Ballard diesAuthor J.G. Ballard, who wrote the autobiographical Empire Of The Sun and died Sunday in London, was known for a dark style so distinctive that it was labeled "Ballardian."

You won't find it in every dictionary. But the Collins English Dictionary defines it as "resembling or suggestive of the conditions described in Ballard's novels & stories, esp. dystopian modernity, bleak man-made landscapes & the psychological effects of technological, social or environmental developments," the AP reports.

There's much to be said for adjectival authors, those who have a hallmark style. Some that come to mind: Shakespearean (flowery, insightful phrases describing great tragedy); Dickensian (a world of striving amid squalor); Faulknerian (Southern culture writ in twisting, twirling prose), Chandlerian (hard-edged tales of twisted justice).

But other equally well-known, equally distinctive authors never get their own adjective. Why no Hemingway-ian or Fitzgeraldian (OK, so those are a mouthful). But how about Austenian? Or Poe-ian? Or, do I dare risk it: Stephenie Meyerian?

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 11:13 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Obituaries
        

March 23, 2009

Sylvia Plath son commits suicide

Sylvia PlathMore darkness in the sad legacy of Sylvia Plath. Her son, Nicholas Hughes, killed himself on March 16 -- 46 years after his mother committed suicide and almost 40 years to the day after his stepmother did the same, according to the AP. Hughes, who was 47 and was a professor of marine biology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, had battled depression, his sister said.

Nicholas Hughes was only 9 months old when his parents, Plath and poet Ted Hughes, separated, and still an infant when his mother died in February 1963, the AP said. A few months earlier, she had written of Nicholas: "You are the one/Solid the spaces lean on, envious/You are the baby in the barn."

Plath, of course, was famous for her novel The Bell Jar, which told of a suicidal young woman, and through the "Ariel" poems. I read her novel in college in the early 1970s, as part of a course in feminism -- the  movement was really gathering steam at the time. It was a tumultuous period in America (this hardly seems like the same America sometimes) and I remember Plath's work for helping to expose a rather sheltered teen to the complexities, difficult choices and darkened corners of the world.

Continue reading "Sylvia Plath son commits suicide" »

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 11:42 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Obituaries
        

March 17, 2009

Baltimore's Millard Kaufman, R.I.P.

Millard KaufmanBaltimore-born Millard Kaufman, the screenwriter who helped create Mr. Magoo (check out this YouTube short) and published a bawdy novel at age 90, has died.

Kaufman, 92, died Saturday of heart failure, according to a spokeswoman for McSweeney's Publishing, which published "Bowl of Cherries" in 2007, the AP said. In 1949, he wrote the screenplay for the short film "Ragtime Bear," which featured the first appearance of Mr. Magoo, a near-sighted senior voiced by "Gilligan's Island" actor Jim Backus. He was nominated twice for an Oscar — for the story and screenplay of "Take the High Ground" and for the screenplay of "Bad Day at Black Rock."

Born in 1917 in Baltimore, Kaufman graduated from Johns Hopkins University in 1939. After college, he worked as a reporter for Newsday and New York's Daily News before joining the Marines and serving in World War II. After the war ended, Kaufman moved to Los Angeles with his wife, Lorraine, and began his screenwriting career.

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 1:24 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Obituaries
        

December 5, 2008

Dorothy Sterling dies

Dorothy SterlingDorothy Sterling, a prolific author who helped educate America's children about prominent blacks and the civil rights movement, has died at age 95, according to the New York Times. Sterling, a long-time member of the Baltimore-based NAACP, wrote more than 30 books, including Freedom Train, about Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad, 

After working as a researcher at Life magazine, she left to write books, the Times said. Determined to write the biography of a strong woman who could inspire girls, she found her way to Tubman and discovered a new field of research. “I was excited, but also bewildered and angry,” she wrote. “Why had I never heard of Harriet Tubman or Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass or William Lloyd Garrison? Here was a wealth of information, dozens of inspiring stories to tell to young readers.”

Her other books for children and young adults included It Started in Montgomery and Tear Down the Walls!: A History of the American Civil Rights Movement.

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 9:45 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Obituaries
        

October 27, 2008

Tony Hillerman, R.I.P

Tony HillermanWord comes today of the death of Tony Hillerman, whose mystery novels helped many understand the culture and plight of Native Americans. I read many of his books while visiting  relatives in Arizona and really enjoyed the way that he wove in kachina dolls and other legends. I will miss his clear writing and his sense of place.

Hillerman, 83, lived in Albuquerque. From the New York Times obit: His evocative novels, which describe people struggling to maintain ancient traditions in the modern world, touched millions of readers, who made them best sellers. Although the themes of his books were not overtly political, he wrote with a purpose, he often said, and that purpose was to instill in his readers a respect for Indian culture.

Continue reading "Tony Hillerman, R.I.P" »

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 2:00 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Obituaries
        

August 27, 2008

"100 Things to Do Before You Die" author dies

freeman%20edited.jpgDave Freeman, an advertising executive who co-wrote "100 Things to Do Before You Die," an adventure-seeking, unconventional travel guide that personified his approach to life, has died, the Los Angeles Times reports today.

Freeman, 47, died Aug. 17 after falling and hitting his head at his home in Venice, said his father, Roy. Published in 1999, "100 Things" was one of the first contemporary books to create a travel agenda based on 100 sites and market it with a title reminding readers that time was limited. That approach later swept the publishing industry.

Among the 100 Things:

Continue reading ""100 Things to Do Before You Die" author dies" »

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 3:23 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Obituaries
        

August 7, 2008

Pauline Baynes obituary

narnia4%20edited.jpgSad news from the Mother Country: Pauline Baynes, who brought the fantasy world alive with her illustrations for the works of J.R.R. Tolkein and C.S. Lewis, has died. She was 85.

An obituary in the Guardian describes the artist's move from crafting charts and maps during World War II to professional commissions. Her breakthrough: creating artwork for Tolkein's Farmer Giles of Ham. Then came a commission to illustrate the book for which both author and illustrator are best remembered, Lewis' The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the Guardian says.

The task of a fantasy illustrator must be extremely difficult. You have to put some flesh on the author's words, while still leaving room for the reader's imagination to roam. But Baynes was a master, and we can thank her for helping to popularize some of the world's greatest fantasy novels. 

To see some of her work, try this site from the publisher Zondervan. 

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 4:46 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Obituaries
        

August 3, 2008

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, obituary

Just got the news that Solzhenitsyn, the great writer who became a symbol of the repression of free speech during the Cold War, has died. I recall reading his searing novel One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, and learning about the brutality of Soviet prison camps. Refuseniks and gulags seem so distant now, but many of us can recall the days of bomb shelters and shoe-banging Soviet leaders. He should always be honored for his courage in standing up to repressive leaders and fighting for freedom of expression.

(In the spirit of our weekly theme, I confess that  the Gulag Archipelago is sitting, unread, on my bookshelf. Maybe it's time to pick it up.)

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 6:38 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Obituaries
        

July 25, 2008

Randy Pausch, rest in peace

pausch.jpgRandy Pausch, a terminally ill professor whose farewell lecture at Carnegie Mellon University became an Internet phenomenon and best-selling book, died today, according to wire reports. He was 47.

Pausch, a computer science professor and virtual-reality pioneer, died at his home in Chesapeake, Va., of complications from pancreatic cancer, the Pittsburgh university announced. When Pausch agreed to give a theoretical "last lecture," he was participating in a long-standing academic tradition. But a month before giving the speech, Pausch received the diagnosis that would heighten the poignancy of his address.

Originally delivered last September to about 400 students and colleagues, his message about how to make the most of life has been viewed by millions on the Internet. Pausch expanded it into a best-selling book, "The Last Lecture," released in April.

Yet Pausch insisted that both the spoken and written words were designed for an audience of three -- his children, then 5, 2 and 1. "I was trying to put myself in a bottle that would one day wash up on the beach for my children," he wrote in the book.

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 3:26 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Obituaries
        

July 9, 2008

Thomas Disch, rest in peace

disch%20edited.jpgNews comes of the death of Thomas M. Disch, a prolific American author who made even science fiction seem more twisted. He shot himself in his Manhattan apartment Friday, according to the New York Times obituary, after a string of personal setbacks. He was 68.

Disch created poetry, plays, criticism and books -- among them Camp Concentration and 334 -- as part of the "new wave" of science fiction writers with a more literary style. Oddly, though, he may best be remembered as the creator of The Brave Little Toaster -- his book was made into an animated movie. (A song from the movie.)

He never shied from controversy. In 1990, one of his plays triggered a court battle. The Roman Catholic Church sought to evict a theater company from a former parochial school where it staged a play about a cardinal who kills a pregnant woman while driving drunk. Disch said church officials were trying to censor his play, "The Cardinal Detoxes."

Photo by Jaime Spracher/The Free Press

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 10:47 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Obituaries
        

June 20, 2008

Tasha Tudor, may she rest in peace

tasha%20tudor%20edited.jpg Today brings news of the passing of Tasha Tudor, a prolific author and illustrator of children's books with a style -- and lifestyle -- that harkened back to 19th-century New England. Today's New York Times obituary recalled how she raised her children in a home without electricity or running water, and dressed in clothes of a bygone era. Pictured here is her first book, published in 1938; she wrote many more and illustrated nearly 100, according to the Times. Two of her books, Mother Goose and 1 is One were named Caldecott Honor Books. The Vermont resident was 92.
Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 9:45 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Obituaries
        
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About the blogger
Dave Rosenthal came to The Baltimore Sun as a business reporter in 1987 and now is the Maryland Editor. He reads a wide range of books (but never as many as he'd like), usually alternating between non-fiction and fiction. Some all-time favorites: A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole; Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupery; and anything by Calvin Trillin or John McPhee. He belongs to a book club with a Jewish theme.
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