“So as to give them courage we must teach people to be shocked by themselves.”

Tag Archives: Obituaries

Leonard Nimoy (1931-2015)


Lizabeth Scott (1922-2015)

One of the great femmes fatales. She was even tougher in Too Late for Tears.

Robert Stone, Writer (1937-2015)

Rbt.StoneThe first novel by Stone that I read was Dog Soldiers, which some readers nominate as his most accomplished work. Over the next year I read Hall of Mirrors, Outerbridge Reach, A Flag for Sunrise, and Children of Light. I’ve never taught his fiction but I used Prime Green, a truly immersive memoir of the 60s, for HUM470: American Autobiography. Finding himself in a crowd with Jack Kerouac, he noted that Jack tended to respond to requests for cigarettes with the irritated rhetorical question, “Why don’t you buy your own smokes?”.  My perception of Stone was of someone who was haunted, fragile, and willful. He was remanded to an orphanage when his mother was institutionalized. He went to sea. He worked as a reporter. His writing focused almost completely on the US and US Americans– yet you couldn’t with any justice deem him a nationalist.

He wrote:

“I have come to believe that language, a line of print, say, is capable of inhabiting the imagination far more intensely than any picture, however doctored. The same principle applies to the novel, if it works. No Hollywood flick, no movie of any provenance, can ever provide an experience of the battle of Borodino as intense as that provided in Tolstoy’s pages. Descriptive language supplies deeper penetration, attaches itself to the rods and cones of interior perception, to a greater degree than a recovered or remembered image. Language is the process that lashes experience to the intellect” (Prime Green 133).


Richie Havens (1941-2013)

Havens’s cover of Billie Holiday’s “God Bless the Child”:

Tramp the Dirt Down

A key figure in the rise of neoliberalism, Margaret Thatcher, died just a few days ago. For many British people her policies represented the betrayal of a basic social contract devoted to social welfare in place since the 2nd World War. Here is Elvis Costello’s “Tramp the Dirt Down,” recorded live in 1989, one of many pop songs criticizing Thatcher.

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Hugo Chavez (1954-2013)


Jayne Cortez (May 10, 1934 – December 28, 2012)

A longer poetry reading:

Eric Hobsbawm (1917-2012)

The historian Eric Hobsbawm– author of a tetralogy of seminal works on the rise of the modern world including The Age of Revolution, The Age of Capital, The Age of Empire, and The Age of Extremes— has died. He wrote on a variety of social and historical topics including banditry, jazz, nationalism, the industrial revolution, social movements, and marxism. Hobsbawm was a cosmopolitan figure. Born in Egypt of Jewish parents, raised in Austria and Germany, he and his family emigrated to London with the rise of the Third Reich. The Books section of the UK Guardian has an obituary:

Alexander Saxton (1919-2012)

September 1, 2012
From the NY Times, an obituary for Alexander Saxton:

Alexander Saxton, who would go on to become a prominent historian of race in America, summed himself up in a blurb on the dust jacket of his first novel, “Grand Crossing,” published when he was 24.

“At various times,” he said, he had worked as “a harvest hand, construction gang laborer, engine-wiper, freight brakeman, architectural apprentice, assistant to the assistant editor” of a union newspaper, railroad switchman and columnist for The Daily Worker.

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Robert Hughes 1938-2012

Robert Hughes, who popularized art criticism with his remarkable series The Shock of the New and other television documentaries, has died. Author of many books– including a polemic on American politics, The Culture of Complaint, and a celebrated history of Australia, The Fatal Shore— he was an enthusiastic and exacting critic. His essays on Andy Warhol, for example, make the case that the fame of Warhol’s paintings– “feeble, repetitious kitsch”– was less a result of the artist’s technical skills than a function of capitalist culture’s attention-deficit disorder. In an age when the virtual society of the internet asks us to uncritically “like,” Hughes will be missed.


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