52 McGs.: The Best Obituaries from Legendary New York Times Reporter Robert McG. Thomas

52 McGs.: The Best Obituaries from Legendary New York Times Reporter Robert McG. Thomas

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by Robert McG. Thomas
     
 

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Among his devoted fans, his pieces were known simply as McGs. With a "genius for illuminating that sometimes ephemeral apogee in people's lives when they prove capable of generating a brightly burning spark" (Columbia Journalism Review), Robert McG. Thomas Jr. commemorated fascinating, unconventional lives with signature style and wit.

The New York

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Overview

Among his devoted fans, his pieces were known simply as McGs. With a "genius for illuminating that sometimes ephemeral apogee in people's lives when they prove capable of generating a brightly burning spark" (Columbia Journalism Review), Robert McG. Thomas Jr. commemorated fascinating, unconventional lives with signature style and wit.

The New York Times received countless letters over the years from readers moved to tears or laughter by a McG. Eschewing traditionally famous subjects, Thomas favored unsung heroes, eccentrics, and underachievers, including: Edward Lowe, the inventor of Kitty Litter ("Cat Owner's Best Friend"); Angelo Zuccotti, the bouncer at El Morocco ("Artist of the Velvet Rope"); and Kay Halle, a glamorous Cleveland department store heiress who received sixty-four marriage proposals ("An Intimate of Century's Giants"). In one of his classic obituaries, Thomas described Anton Rosenberg as a "storied sometime artist and occasional musician who embodied the Greenwich Village hipster ideal of 1950's cool to such a laid-back degree and with such determined detachment that he never amounted to much of anything." Thomas captured life's ironies and defining moments with elegance and a gift for making a sentence sing. He had an uncanny sense of the passion and personality that make each life unique, and the ability, as Joseph Epstein wrote, to "look beyond the facts and the rigid formula of the obit to touch on a deeper truth."

Compiled by Chris Calhoun, one of Thomas's most dedicated readers, and with a fittingly sharp introduction from acclaimed novelist and critic Thomas Mallon, 52 McGs. will win legions of new fans to the masterful writer who transformed the obituary into an art form.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Billy Collins U.S. poet laureate and author of Sailing Alone Around the Room Robert McG. Thomas has not only lifted the genre of the obituary to new literary heights, he has raised the dead by giving voice to some of the greatest unsung eccentrics of our time.

Nicholas Pileggi author of Casino Robert McG. Thomas is a brilliant stylist whose masterful obits, day after day, brought the men and women he wrote about back for one last dance.

Publishers Weekly
A "lover of the farfetched and the overlooked," as novelist Mallon puts it in his appreciative introduction, the late New York Times reporter Robert McG. Thomas Jr. (1939-2000) developed a loyal following for quirky, witty obituaries that illuminated the lives of people not automatically destined for "the Newspaper of Record." This highly browsable collection of 52 obits shows Thomas at his deadline best. Readers meet Ted Hustead, builder of the internationally renowned South Dakota drugstore, Wall Drug, "a tourist attraction that seems famous largely for its very fame." There's also the classic hustler Minnesota Fats, about whom "the only certainty was that you could never know for sure"; Marshall Berger, "who taught generations of Noo Yawkahs how not to speak the Kings County English"; and the 1950s hipster Anton Rosenberg, who was so prototypical that "he never amounted to much of anything." Other subjects include the character actor Emil Sitka, foil of the Three Stooges; Francine Katzenbogen, a lottery millionaire who used her winnings to help cats; Maurice Sagoff, who wrote "Shrinklets," which condensed literary classics into humorous verse; and Edward Lowe, the inventor of Kitty Litter. As Michael T. Kaufman explains in the obituary of the author that closes this volume, Thomas himself had a career "more circuitous than meteoric," hence his sympathy for underachievers and late bloomers. Such sympathy reminds readers that the obituary page need not be leaden and dutiful. (Nov.)\ FYI: Calhoun is a literary agent at Sterling Lord. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Although he wrote full-time about the deceased during his last years at the New York Times, Thomas eschewed unpleasant circumstances, selecting as his subjects unsung characters who had died in unremarkable ways. His obituaries, which became known simply as McG.s, focused on such marginal celebrities as the inventor of Kitty Litter, a traveling goat man, and a champion duckpins player. From a total of 657 McG.s, literary agent and longtime fan Calhoun has selected a symbolic number. He suggests reading pieces randomly, as one would pick a card from a deck, rather than reading the collection straight through. A seasoned reporter, Thomas felt compelled to sum up each person's life and death in a single lead sentence; one wonders how some of the awkward dependent clauses survived editorial scrutiny. Nevertheless, Thomas's stylish, compassionate prose deserves a place in most journalism collections.-Susan M. Colowick, North Olympic Lib. Syst., Port Angeles, WA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781416598275
Publisher:
Scribner
Publication date:
04/04/2008
Pages:
192
Sales rank:
887,189
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.50(d)

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