Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Obit du jour: Christine Brooke-Rose

I urge you to read this obit, as much for the style as the subject.  Christine Brooke-Rose was a writer of experimental fiction (novels that never use the verb "to be," for example), and the obit writer had a blast playing with the form.

But if you aren't going to read the whole thing, I'll do you a solid and excerpt a bit from the middle that is particularly fabulous:
Ms. Brooke-Rose’s earliest novels, published in the late 1950s, are conventional satires of manners. But as early as her third novel, “The Dear Deceit,” published in 1960, she had begun to play with narrative form. The novel opens with the death of its protagonist and, in successive chapters, works backward to his birth.

This convention has a time-honored analogue in narrative nonfiction, as when, for instance, a newspaper article begins with word of its subject’s death and, only lower, reads:

Christine Frances Evelyn Brooke-Rose was born in Geneva on Jan. 16, 1923, into a French-, German- and English-speaking household. Her enigmatic English father, who left the family when she was a child and died when she was 11, had been, she later learned, an Anglican Benedictine monk and a convicted thief, though not necessarily in that order; her American-Swiss mother became a Benedictine nun after the dissolution of her marriage.
See that right there? That's some mighty pretty obit writing.  My hat is off to you, Margalit Fox. You can write my obit any time. After my death, of course.

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