Sunday, December 30, 2007

no meta- for Margalit

I've complained here before of journalists' apparent inability to show any awareness of form. Perhaps it's absurd to whinge about such a thing. After all (I hear a detractor teling me), what's really so surprising that writing in a daily newspaper never conveys its meaning formally as well as by way of the denotative meaning of the words? A resolution for '08: I'll try to stop barking about this.

But it's still '07 and today, Woof woof, once again. Hugh Massingberd, the brilliant, blunt and often bizarre obituary writer for the London Telegraph, has died and so it's time for other papers to run obituaries of him.

An obituary of an obituarist who is remembered for changing the form of the obit itself. A perfect opportunity for something at least a little bit unusual. I mean, really.

How can any self-respecting writer not do something at least a bit self-referential with an obit about a great writer of obits?

The New York Times obit, the work of Margalit Fox, is almost entirely about Massingberd's sardonic, warts-and-all style - the work of the most unusual obit writer of our time, as a matter of the writing - and yet Fox never once does honor to Massingberd's memory by doing a little of this in this writing. And it would have been honor. And it's in my view a dishonor not to do it. Do what? Write the writing so that it's (at least to some small degree) about the writing.