How will you join the ancestors?
Journalists, I regret to say, are drawn to excesses in prose as slugs are drawn to dishes of warm beer. (See?)
The irrepressible Diego Sorbara, an editor at The New York Times and fellow member of the American Copy Editors Society*, was so taken with the opening sentence of Ted Stevens’s obituary in the Anchorage Daily News that he posted it on Facebook, adding, “I am not making this up”:
Ted Stevens died Monday the way Alaskans die, in a plane crash in the wilds of the state he devoted his life to.
The thing to keep in mind is that attempts at Fancy Writing usually invite ridicule. Viz.:
Shortly thereafter, one Andrew Bartkus commented on Mr. Sorbara’s post: “That's ridiculous. I would've run ‘Ted Stevens died the way Alaskans die: convinced of their rugged individualism while living in a parasitic socialist petro-enclave.’ "
Judy Walgren DeHaas chimed in: “This would be a great New Yorker exercise! If I die a Coloradan does that mean I either get chomped on by a Mountain Lion while drinking beer at the Mountain Sun OR that I smoked my self to death with the most killer of killer medical marijuana there is to offer in one of the 432 dispensaries in my city?"
In that spirit, Kanye Rogers supplied the lead to her own obituary: “Kayne Rogers died the way Tennesseans die, arteries clogged with fried catfish and hush puppies, hands reaching out for her 36-ounce iced tea...”
During the semesters that I taught news writing, I had my students write their own obituaries. (Education in journalism, like most writing classes, is a monkey-see-monkey-do business about imitating stock forms and patterns.) I invite you to see whether you can match the Anchorage Daily News. Feel free to use your state of residence or, if different, your native state.
John Early McIntyre died Wednesday the way Kentuckians die, in a recliner in front of the television, with a half-full glass of bourbon spilling to the floor as a rerun of Law and Order continued unheeded.
*Also a member of the Fellowship of the Bow Tie.