Monday, January 05, 2009

b., d.

Every December, The New York Times Magazine publishes its "The Lives They Lived" issue, featuring pieces about several notable figures who passed away during the year. It's always an excellent collection, partly because, as the magazine's editors admit, it is "unabashedly idiosyncratic." Some of the notables who weren't written about in this year's issue include Paul Newman, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, William F. Buckley, Heath Ledger, and Michael Crichton. And when a boldface name does appear, the treatment is often just different enough to justify yet another piece about their passing -- in this vein this year, I particularly enjoyed Michael Paterniti's take on Bobby Fischer.

In case you missed the issue, it also included Peter Singer, whose views on disability and issues of life and death frequently generate controversy, writing about Harriet McBryde Johnson, a severely disabled woman who challenged those views; a remembrance of sportscaster Jim McKay and his work at the tragic Munich Olympics; and two eerie pieces, one about a murderer who disappeared and another about an adventurous aviator who did the same. I highly recommend reading all of them.

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