I enjoy reading obituaries. Not that I’m obsessed with death–okay, I’m obsessed with death. But I also enjoy learning about the fascinating things that ordinary people have done with their lives. Okay, they’re not always fascinating. And I guess I prefer reading about extraordinary people. The he-never-missed-a-day-of-work-for-40-years obits are usually a snooze.
But, lest my attempt at populism fall too flat, I do think that the most amazing lives are often lived by unfamous people. I see the obits as mini-biographies, a public peek at the lives of people who, most of them, will not be profiled at book length.
On Saturday, I read in the Chicago Tribune the obituary of Patricia Langan, a local book reviewer with a “flair for the dramatic”. Or perhaps she was a dramatist with a flair for book reviews.
Patricia Langan drew on her theater background to perform book reviews for women’s clubs and other groups throughout the Chicago area for 20 years. With her flair for the dramatic, she’d turn discussions of “The Godfather” and other popular novels into virtual one-woman plays.
I would have loved to see her review of The Godfather. And also her review of The Exorcist.
Perhaps Mrs. Langan was a woman ahead of her time. I haven’t run this idea past any of my colleagues yet, but with the multimedia capabilities of Booklist Online, it should be easy to present Ray Olson performing his review of Garry Wills’ What Paul Meant, or Ilene Cooper performing her review of William J. Mann’s Kate: The Woman Who Was Hepburn.
I should probably volunteer to be first, but I think the opportunity belongs to someone with more experience than me.
Rest in peace, Mrs. Langan.