Category Archive 'Obituaries'
02 May 2017

Ueli Steck (4 October 1976 — 30 April 2017)

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The Washington Post reports the speed-climber, a hero to the international Alpinist community, died from a fall on Sunday.

The last time Ueli Steck traversed the route near Mount Everest that would eventually kill him, the famed Swiss climber was forced to flee from a brawl with angry Sherpas.

That was in 2013, and the incident made Steck — considered the most accomplished mountaineer of his time — question whether he’d ever again return to Everest.

But this month, he gave the world’s highest peak another shot, plotting out a route in Nepal that had been completed only once before. It connects the summits of Everest and Lhotse, the fourth highest mountain, a course Steck, 40, told a Swiss newspaper was more about the physical challenge than the adventure checklist.

“Failure for me,” he said, “would be to die and not come home.”

So it came as a shock to the climbing world Sunday when Nepalese officials announced that Steck, a man nicknamed the “Swiss Machine” for his unparalleled athletic abilities, had died.

His was the first casualty of the Everest climbing season.

“I can’t express what a loss this is to the mountaineering community,” renowned climber Alan Arnette of Colorado told the Himalayan Times. “Ueli loved Nepal, Everest and the Himalaya.”

Mingma Sherpa of Seven Summit Treks told the Associated Press that Steck died at Camp 1 of Mount Nuptse. He reportedly fell 3,280 feet down the mountain, which he had climbed to acclimate to the altitude before tackling Everest and Lhotse in May. Steck was alone because his trekking partner, Tenji Sherpa, had stayed behind at Everest Base Camp with a frostbitten hand, reported the New York Times.

Steck’s body was recovered from the site and flown by helicopter to Lukla, the only town near Everest with an airport.

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Nick Paumgarten, in the New Yorker:

I was surprised to hear that he had returned to a place he disdained for its crowds and its bitter base-camp politics. Steck was forty. He reportedly fell on Nuptse, an adjacent peak, which he was climbing in order to acclimatize to the altitude. He was in Nepal for another attempt at a route—one connecting the summits of Everest and Lhotse—that he’d had to abandon in 2013, after being attacked by Sherpas.

He and his climbing partner that year, the Italian Simone Moro, had got into a dispute with a group of Sherpas who were fixing ropes on the Lhotse Face and felt that the climbers were endangering them. Moro called one of them a “motherfucker” in Nepali, a grave insult. A group of Sherpas later attacked Steck and Moro with rocks, at Camp 2. The climbers, convinced that their lives were in danger, fled down the Khumbu Icefall.

Many armchair observers, including me, tried to parse this incident, but, in the final accounting, I think it’s safe to say that Steck was not the cultural imperialist that some critics (including the Swiss papers) made him out to be. But he was certainly hardheaded and single-minded, to the point of being relatively heedless of the opinions of others, be they Sherpa or Swiss. He was an extraordinarily fit and talented alpine athlete, a bit of a freak, really. He didn’t love his nickname—the Swiss Machine—but it suited him.

Steck achieved fame, first, for his record speed climbs of the great north faces of the Alps, most notably the Eiger. His bewildering solo ascent, in the fall of 2013, of the south face of Annapurna, perhaps the greatest challenge in mountaineering, was a kind of a career capstone.

25 Apr 2017

Robert Maynard Pirsig (6 September 1928 – 24 April 2017)

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Plato’s Chariot Metaphor as sculpture.

Plato, in the Phaedrus, conceives of the soul as having three parts: A rational part (the part that loves truth and knowledge, which should rule over the other parts of the soul through the use of reason). The Charioteer represents man’s Reason. A spirited part (which seeks glory, honor, recognition and victory). The white horse represents man’s spirit (thymos:θύμος). An appetitive part (which desires food, drink, material wealth and sex). The black horse represents man’s appetites.

Robert M. Pirsig died yesterday.

Recovering from a nervous breakdown, Pirsig, back in the 1970s, crafted a brilliant book memorializing his own deceased former personality (referred to in the third person as “Phaedrus”), and dispensing Buddhistic enlightenment mixed with Plato in the course of a grand road trip. His title was a clever take-off from the 1953 surprise best-seller Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugene Herrigel, a landmark classic in the 1950s Beats’ love affair with Zen.

NPR wrote:

Robert M. Pirsig, who inspired generations to road trip across America with his “novelistic autobigraphy,” Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, died Monday at the age of 88.

His publisher William Morrow & Company said in a statement that Pirsig died at his home in South Berwick, Maine, “after a period of failing health.” …

Zen was published in 1974, after being rejected by 121 publishing houses. “The book is brilliant beyond belief,” wrote Morrow editor James Landis before publication. “It is probably a work of genius and will, I’ll wager, attain classic status.”

Indeed, the book quickly became a best-seller, and has proved enduring as a work of popular philosophy. A 1968 motorcycle trip across the West with his son Christopher was his inspiration.

Christopher Lehmann-Haupt reviewed Zen for The New York Times in 1974. “[H]owever impressive are the seductive powers with which Mr. Pirsig engages us in his motorcycle trip, they are nothing compared to the skill with which he interests us in his philosophic trip,” he wrote. “Mr. Pirsig may sometimes appear to be a greener‐America proselytizer, with his beard and his motorcycle tripping and his talk about learning to love technology. But when he comes to grips with the hard philosophical conundrums raised by the 1960’s, he can be electrifying.”

Pirsig was born in Minneapolis, the son of a University of Minnesota law professor. He graduated from high school at 15 and enlisted in the Army after World War II. While stationed in South Korea, he encountered the Asian philosophies that would underpin his work. He went on to study Hindu philosophy in India and for a time was enrolled in a philosophy Ph.D. program at the University of Chicago. He was hospitalized for mental illness and returned to Minneapolis, where he worked as a technical writer and began writing his first book.

A quotation from ZAMM:

That’s all the motorcycle is, a system of concepts worked out in steel. There’s no part in it, no shape in it, that is not out of someone’s mind. …

I’ve noticed that people who have never worked with steel have trouble seeing this—that the motorcycle is primarily a mental phenomenon. They associate metal with given shapes—pipes, rods, girders, tools, parts—all of them fixed and inviolable, and think of it as primarily physical. But a person who does machining or foundry work or forge work or welding sees “steel” as having no shape at all. Steel can be any shape you want if you are skilled enough, and any shape but the one you want if you are not. …

These shapes are all out of someone’s mind. That’s important to see. The steel? Hell, even the steel is out of someone’s mind. There’s no steel in nature. Anyone from the Bronze Age could have told you that. All nature has is a potential for steel. There’s nothing else there. But what’s “potential”? That’s also in someone’s mind!

14 Apr 2017

Paul Novgorod, Claremont Owner Dies at 73

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The Times reports:

Paul Novograd, whose reluctant decision to shutter his family’s century-old Claremont Riding Academy in 2007 turned Manhattan into a no-horse town, died on Friday. He was 73.

His death, in Manhattan, was confirmed by his daughter Sasha Brown, who said doctors had not yet determined the cause.

Claremont’s sudden closing left New Yorkers without what had been billed as the oldest continuously operating stable in New York City and Manhattan’s oldest riding school and last public livery.

Claremont had been home to countless horses since it opened in 1892 on the Upper West Side, had trained generations of riders in its arena, and had supplied equine cast members to the Metropolitan Opera and other cultural institutions.

Riders boarded their mounts in stalls that rented for hundreds of dollars, or what people in other cities would pay for apartments. Horses could also be rented for upward of $55 an hour, to hoof it one block north and two blocks east from the Claremont stables, at 175 West 89th Street, to Central Park’s four-and-a-quarter-mile bridle path.

Mr. Novograd saw the deterioration of that path — caused by joggers, bicyclists and others who rediscovered the park after it was rehabilitated — as one reason for the decline in ridership that led him to his painful decision to close Claremont.

“Even if the Parks Department wanted to make it horses only, it’s just too inviting to pedestrians and dirt bikers and people throwing Frisbees and people pushing strollers, and it’s a zoo out there,” Mr. Novograd told WNYC radio in 2007. “And our horses are, thank you, just too polite for zoos.”

What was more, renovations of his 19th-century stables — “what I call woefully authentic,” he said — left him deep in debt.

Designed by Frank A. Rooke as a public livery, the five-floor beige brick Romanesque Revival stable was once sold to the sugar fortune heir Charles F. Havemeyer, who leased it out to West Side families as a place to board their horses and store their carriages. It became a riding school in 1927. …

Paul Novograd, who had learned to ride there as a child, went to work at Claremont only grudgingly in 1972. At the time, as a student of East Asia, he had recently returned from Japan, where he had been studying Zen gardens under a Fulbright scholarship. (He remained an avid gardener.)

Instead of pursuing his dissertation, however, he agreed to help his ailing father run the riding school as well as battle neighborhood decline and the New York City bureaucracy.

The city had in 1961 condemned the property as part of the West Side Urban Renewal Area, and for the next 37 years, the Novograds lived in the building as month-to-month tenants as it crumbled. Paul Novograd maneuvered to preserve the building by placing it on the National Register of Historic Places. Finally, in 1998, the city sold it back to the family after the urban renewal plans were abandoned. …

Paul Jonathan Novograd was born in Manhattan on Dec. 4, 1943, the son of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. His mother was the former Bernice Landau. He graduated from the Horace Mann School and received a bachelor’s degree from Columbia University, where he also nearly completed his doctorate in East Asian studies. He spoke eight languages.

I used to be a customer. Molliter ossa cubent.

Hat tip to Frank Dobbs.

NYM article on the rise and decline of riding in Central Park.

HopperBridlePath
Edward Hopper, Bridle Path, 1939, formerly San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, now privately owned. Sold for $10,386,500 at a Sotheby’s auction in 2012 to allow the SFMOMA to purchase a different Hopper.

14 Feb 2017

“I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead, You Rascal You”

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Leslie Ray Charping, Nov 20, 1942 – Jan 30, 2017

Texas families don’t mince words. This outspoken obituary made international news.

Leslie Ray “Popeye” Charping was born in Galveston on November 20, 1942 and passed away January 30, 2017, which was 29 years longer than expected and much longer than he deserved. Leslie battled with cancer in his latter years and lost his battle, ultimately due to being the horses ass he was known for. He leaves behind 2 relieved children; a son and daughter, along with six grandchildren and countless other victims including an ex wife, relatives, friends, neighbors, doctors, nurses and random strangers.

At a young age, Leslie quickly became a model example of bad parenting combined with mental illness and a complete commitment to drinking, drugs, womanizing and being generally offensive. Leslie enlisted to serve in the Navy, but not so much in a brave & patriotic way but more as part of a plea deal to escape sentencing on criminal charges. While enlisted, Leslie was the Navy boxing champion and went on to sufficiently embarrass his family and country by spending the remainder of his service in the Balboa Mental Health Hospital receiving much needed mental healthcare services.

Leslie was surprisingly intelligent, however he lacked ambition and motivation to do anything more than being reckless, wasteful, squandering the family savings and fantasizing about get rich quick schemes. Leslie’s hobbies included being abusive to his family, expediting trips to heaven for the beloved family pets and fishing, which he was less skilled with than the previously mentioned. Leslie’s life served no other obvious purpose, he did not contribute to society or serve his community and he possessed no redeeming qualities besides quick whited sarcasm which was amusing during his sober days.

With Leslie’s passing he will be missed only for what he never did; being a loving husband, father and good friend. No services will be held, there will be no prayers for eternal peace and no apologizes to the family he tortured. Leslie’s remains will be cremated and kept in the barn until “Ray”, the family donkey’s wood shavings run out. Leslie’s passing proves that evil does in fact die and hopefully marks a time of healing and safety for all.

Reminds me of me, except I’m a really good fisherman.

Hat tip to Vanderleun.

13 Feb 2017

Lt.-Gen Hal Moore (February 13, 1922 – February 10, 2017)

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Russ Vaughn met Hal Moore in Vietnam and penned a nice tribute to a great combat officer.

We had no idea who this tall, strapping, lean colonel was who blew through the flaps of our forward Tactical Operations Center tent like a whirling dervish with questions, orders and possible salvation, but even more possible menace. I had been a paratrooper for five years at that point, a combat infantryman in a rifle company for several months prior to coming to battalion headquarters, and an NCO for a few of those years. I must confess I had never seen anything quite like Colonel Moore in my previous years of service. The man exuded that essential quality of leadership that all officers so desire: command presence. Hal Moore had it in spades. In my six years of Army service, I never saw another officer so confidently, completely in command.

Read the whole thing.

16 Dec 2016

Another Epic Obit

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Via Instapundit, “Irishman Dies from Stubbornness, Whiskey“:

Chris Connors died, at age 67, after trying to box his bikini-clad hospice nurse just moments earlier. Ladies man, game slayer, and outlaw Connors told his last inappropriate joke on Friday, December 9, 2016, that which cannot be printed here. Anyone else fighting ALS and stage 4 pancreatic cancer would have gone quietly into the night, but Connors was stark naked drinking Veuve in a house full of friends and family as Al Green played from the speakers. The way he died is just like he lived: he wrote his own rules, he fought authority and he paved his own way. And if you said he couldn’t do it, he would make sure he could.

Most people thought he was crazy for swimming in the ocean in January; for being a skinny Irish Golden Gloves boxer from Quincy, Massachusetts; for dressing up as a priest and then proceeding to get into a fight at a Jewish deli. Many gawked at his start of a career on Wall Street without a financial background – but instead with an intelligent, impish smile, love for the spoken word, irreverent sense of humor, and stunning blue eyes that could make anyone fall in love with him.

As much as people knew hanging out with him would end in a night in jail or a killer screwdriver hangover, he was the type of man that people would drive 16 hours at the drop of a dime to come see. He lived 1000 years in the 67 calendar years we had with him because he attacked life; he grabbed it by the lapels, kissed it, and swung it back onto the dance floor. At the age of 26 he planned to circumnavigate the world – instead, he ended up spending 40 hours on a life raft off the coast of Panama. In 1974, he founded the Quincy Rugby Club. In his thirties, he sustained a knife wound after saving a woman from being mugged in New York City. He didn’t slow down: at age 64, he climbed to the base camp of Mount Everest. Throughout his life, he was an accomplished hunter and birth control device tester (with some failures, notably Caitlin Connors, 33; Chris Connors, 11; and Liam Connors, 8).

He was a rare combination of someone who had a love of life and a firm understanding of what was important – the simplicity of living a life with those you love. Although he threw some of the most memorable parties during the greater half of a century, he would trade it all for a night in front of the fire with his family in Maine. His acute awareness of the importance of a life lived with the ones you love over any material possession was only handicapped by his territorial attachment to the remote control of his Sonos music.

Chris enjoyed cross dressing, a well-made fire, and mashed potatoes with lots of butter. His regrets were few, but include eating a rotisserie hot dog from an unmemorable convenience store in the summer of 1986.

Of all the people he touched, both willing and unwilling, his most proud achievement in life was marrying his wife Emily Ayer Connors who supported him in all his glory during his heyday, and lovingly supported him physically during their last days together.

Absolut vodka and Simply Orange companies are devastated by the loss of Connors. A “Celebration of Life” will be held during Happy Hour (4 p.m.) at York Harbor Inn on Monday, December 19.

In lieu of flowers, please pay open bar tab or donate to Connors’ water safety fund at www.thechrisconnorsfund.com.

He could have skipped the cross dressing. Jesus.

18 May 2016

And Who Can Blame Her?

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MaryAnneNoland

Richmond Times-Dispatch, 17 May 2016:

NOLAND, Mary Anne Alfriend. Faced with the prospect of voting for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, Mary Anne Noland of Richmond chose, instead, to pass into the eternal love of God on Sunday, May 15, 2016, at the age of 68. Born in Danville, Va., Mary Anne was a graduate of Douglas Freeman High School (1966) and the University of Virginia School of Nursing (1970). A faithful child of God, Mary Anne devoted her life to sharing the love she received from Christ with all whose lives she touched as a wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, sister, friend and nurse. Mary Anne was predeceased by her father, Kyle T. Alfriend Jr. and Esther G. Alfriend of Richmond. She is survived by her husband, Jim; sister, Esther; and brothers, Terry (Bonnie) and Mac (Carole). She was a mother to three sons, Jake (Stormy), Josh (Amy) and David (Katie); and she was “Grammy” to 10 beloved grandchildren. A visitation will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 17, at Trinity United Methodist Church, 903 Forest Ave., in Henrico. A memorial service will be held on Wednesday, May 18, 1 p.m., with a reception to follow, also at Trinity UMC. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to CARITAS, P.O. Box 25790, Richmond, Va. 23260 (www.caritasva.org).

28 Mar 2016

Jim Harrison (1937-2016)

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Jim-Harrison
Harrison looked like one of those European mastiffs, so ugly that he was beautiful.

Jim Harrison, who passed away on Saturday at the age of 78, was for my money the best living American writer of fiction. Jim Harrison wrote simply, elegantly, and perceptively about real Americans, the out-of-doors, and what the Japanese refer to as “the immortal questions.” He was prolific: 21 books of fiction and 14 of poetry, and, with the help of a loan of $15,000 from Jack Nicholson early in his writing career that gave him time to complete the break-through collection of novellas which sold some screenplays, successful enough to support a life-style which included flying to Paris to have lunch, extreme oenophilia with an emphasis on Burgundies, and a kitchen larder loaded with caviar and pâté.

Jim Harrison could step gracefully from writing violent escapist fantasies to serious, meditative novels focused on love, guilt, aging, and la condition humaine. He did not like being compared to Ernest Hemingway, but the comparison was an obvious one. Like Hemingway, Jim Harrison was a masculine writer, sophisticated and intellectual, but fundamentally and always an outdoorsman. Like Hemingway, Harrison was a romantic and a stoic, whose fiction was preoccupied with acute and intelligent observation in the course of living up to a demanding and aristocratic code.

The novelist Thomas McGuane was Harrison’s classmate at Michigan State, and Jim Harrison was himself the most distinguished representative of a group of rural, huntin’, fishin’, and shootin’ writers, basically at odds with the contemporary urban community of fashion culture, which included McGuane, Russell Chatham, Guy de la Valdène, and Steve Bodio.

The New York Times obit has some great anecdotes:

His food writing, much of which first appeared in Esquire, was collected in his 2001 book, “The Raw and the Cooked,” whose title invokes the anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss’s volume of that name. Mr. Lévi-Strauss’s book is about myth and ritual. Mr. Harrison’s is about rituals that include his flying to France for the sole purpose of having lunch — a lunch that spanned 11 hours, 37 courses and 19 wines. …

At bottom, Mr. Harrison was not so much like Hemingway as he was like something out of Hemingway. Or, more accurately, something out of Rabelais — a mustachioed, barrel-chested bear of a man whose unapologetic immoderation encompassed a dazzling repertory:

There was the eating. Mr. Harrison once faced down 144 oysters, just to see if he could finish them. (He could.)

There was the drinking. One fine summer, he personally tested 38 varieties of Côtes du Rhône. (“It was like a small wine festival. Just me, really,” he told The Washington Post afterward.) …

All these ingredients were titanically encapsulated in a dinner Mr. Harrison once shared with Orson Welles, which involved, he wrote, “a half-pound of beluga with a bottle of Stolichnaya, a salmon in sorrel sauce, sweetbreads en croûte, a miniature leg of lamb (the whole thing) with five wines, desserts, cheeses, ports” and a chaser of cocaine.

He will be missed.

14 Feb 2016

Antonin Gregory Scalia (1936-2016)

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Antonin_Scalia

Let’s remember him with some of his best comments.

“A Bill of Rights that means what the majority wants it to mean is worthless.”

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“[There’s] the argument of flexibility and it goes something like this: The Constitution is over 200 years old and societies change. It has to change with society, like a living organism, or it will become brittle and break. But you would have to be an idiot to believe that; the Constitution is not a living organism; it is a legal document. It says something and doesn’t say other things…. [Proponents of the living constitution want matters to be decided] not by the people, but by the justices of the Supreme Court …. They are not looking for legal flexibility, they are looking for rigidity, whether it’s the right to abortion or the right to homosexual activity, they want that right to be embedded from coast to coast and to be unchangeable.”

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“To allow the policy question of same-sex marriage to be considered and resolved by a select, patrician, highly unrepresentative panel of nine is to violate a principle even more fundamental than no taxation without representation: no social transformation without representation.

If, even as the price to be paid for a fifth vote, I ever joined an opinion for the Court that began: ‘The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity,’ I would hide my head in a bag. The Supreme Court of the United States has descended from the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall and Joseph Story to the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie.”

19 Jan 2016

Keith Reading the Obits

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KeithOutlived375

21 Sep 2015

Brian Sewell (1931-2015): “Odi Profanum Vulgus!”

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BrianSewell
Brian Sewell

Art critic and cultural commentator Brian Sewell deservedly received one of the Telegraph‘s celebrated obituary tributes.

Brian Sewell, the loquacious art critic and broadcaster known for his acerbic wit, has passed away at the age of 84. He had been suffering from cancer.

He was an award-winning contributor to the Evening Standard and presented a series of travelogues for Channel 5, as well as often appearing on panel shows such as Have I Got News for You.

He was known as the UK’s “most controversial art critic”, and would openly criticise those who he deemed worthy of it, once calling Damian Hirst “f—–g dreadful” and stating that Banksy “should have been put down at birth”. …

n 1994, 35 figures from the art world, including Bridget Riley, George Melly and Maureen Paley, signed a letter to the Evening Standard attacking Sewell for “homophobia”, “misogyny”, “demagogy”, “hypocrisy”, “artistic prejudice”, “formulaic insults” and “predictable scurrility”.

This was followed up by a counter-letter in support of Sewell, signed by 20 other art figures. …

He maintained his negative opinions about female artists throughout his life. “The art market is not sexist,” he said in interview with The Independent in 2008. “The likes of Bridget Riley and Louise Bourgeois are of the second and third rank. There has never been a first-rank woman artist. Only men are capable of aesthetic greatness. Women make up 50 per cent or more of classes at art school. Yet they fade away in their late 20s or 30s. Maybe it’s something to do with bearing children.”

He was also a vocal critic of the Turner Prize, calling it an “annual farce” and its nominees “a sad little band of late labourers in the exhausted pastures of international conceptual art”.

But it was not only art that he was scornful of. Despite being bisexual himself (though he preferred the term “queer”), he also spoke out about gay marriage, saying, “The recent institution of civil partnerships seemed to be the final necessary reform… Why, then, do they and lesbians demand the right to marry? Indeed, how many of us have made that demand? One in 20? One in 10?… But every minority has within it a core of single-issue politicians and protesters who are never satisfied and always ask for more, and homosexuals, both male and female, are no exception.”

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There was a time when homosexuals naturally gravitated to the upper class lifestyle, adopted an arch reactionary perspective, and were champions of high culture and civilization. Brian Sewell’s negative commentary on a masked ball in Venice could easily have been delivered by Brideshead Revisited‘s Anthony Blanche.

24 Jun 2015

James Salter, 1925 – 2015

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JamesSalter

James Salter, West Point graduate, fighter pilot, novelist, film director, lady killer, and mountain climber, died last Friday suddenly at his local gymnasium in Sag Harbor, Long Island at the age of 90.

Salter never attracted a mass audience and consequently never wound up included in last century’s list of “great American writers”, but sophisticated readers did read him with deep respect and always kind of wondered exactly why that was the case. I suppose the combination of Salter’s hyper-masculine point of view and the gem-like perfection and careful stoical restraint of his prose style somehow failed to capture the attention of the popular culture in our hyper-democratic age. Salter’s perspective reeked of elitism, and he never trafficked at all in conventional archetypes.

I expect he would have enjoyed more money and larger public recognition, but Salter never took any of the conventional writer’s shortcuts to obtain them. He never manufactured a public persona (like Papa Hemingway) nor even a specifically recognizable genre of writing of his own. Each of Salter’s novels is very different from the others. There is a kind of stubborn authenticity about Salter.

His 1998 autobiography, Burning the Days, struck a sudden bell in the consciousness of the establishment media. From being an author lucky to be favored with a quick one-column review in the rear pages, Salter suddenly became, in his latter years, “the best writer you’ve never read.” I expect he smiled ironically at that line.

12 Jun 2015

Ornette Coleman, 9 March 1930 – 11 June 2015

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His was just about the only Jazz I ever liked.

Times obituary

11 Jun 2015

Sir Christopher Frank Carandini Lee, CBE, CStJ (27 May 1922 – 7 June 2015)

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ChristopherLee4

Christopher Lee died at 8:30 A.M. last Sunday morning in the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London at the age of 93. His family delayed the public announcement of his death until today to allow time for relatives to be notified.

Christopher Lee worked as a character actor in the course of his long career, typically in second-rate horror films, though he was obviously a first-rate human being. He stood 6’5″ (1.9558 m.) in height, spoke six languages, was a world champion fencer, and made a point of performing all his own stunts personally.

Lee was also a political conservative who volunteered to fight for Finland against Soviet Russia during the Winter War, and who then went on to serve as a British commando through the entirety of the Second World War.

He advised Peter Jackson on how properly to sound record a killing during the making of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Dissatisfied with a scene, Christopher asked director Peter Jackson: “Peter, have you ever heard the sound a man makes when he’s stabbed in the back? Well, I have, and I know what to do.”

Christopher Lee became the oldest person to record lead vocals on a heavy metal track when, at the age of 88, he wrote and performed on a progressive symphonic concept album about the life of Charlemagne, from whom he traced his own descent via his mother, an Italian countess.

Christopher Lee remained married to the same woman (a Danish model) for 54 years, and in his later years frequently campaigned for the Tories in national elections.

ChristopherLee3
The younger Christopher Lee as we knew him best.

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