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52 McGs: The Best Obituaries from Legendary New York Times Writer Robert McG. Thomas, Jr Paperback – January 1, 2003


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Citadel (January 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0806524685
  • ISBN-13: 978-0806524689
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 6.6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,361,040 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From 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.)\

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From 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 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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He could be serious, and he could be funny.
R. Walker
I found myself reading them all out loud to my wife and daughter, who enjoyed them every bit as much as I did.
Kim I. Eisler
This is a book for people who read the obituaries first in a paper.
Barbara Duehn

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Robert Richmond on December 5, 2001
Format: Hardcover
For many years I clipped Robert McG Thomas's obits. I cannot remember a mediocre one. He had the rare ability to capture the essence of each person he wrote about. I miss his obits. This is a fine book.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Kim I. Eisler on December 13, 2001
Format: Hardcover
There are two great experiences in newspaper reading, one if the wedding announcements in the Sunday NY Times, the other is the obituary page every day. No other paper does it the way the Times does, putting a smile on my face even as a life passes before us. The greatest NYT obituary writer of all was Robert McG. Thomas; and nobody laughed louder at his witty and ironic observations than Chris Calhoun, the famous book editor at Sterling Lord who compiled this neat deck of 52 of Thomas' wryest and wittiest obituaries. From a Jewish matordor, to the guy who buried Lee Harvey Oswald to a character whose main claim to fame was that he was the guy the three stooges stuck in the eye all the time, Its uproarious. Just a couple of examples: In an obituary of a guy who discovered a stone age tribe in the Philipines, Thomas ponders whether they were really primitives or it was all a hoax. Either way, he writes, "It was a reflection of their rapid acculturalization that in 1988 several members of the tribe filed a libel suit against anthropologists who called them fakers." That one cracked me up. So did the one about a woman who won a lottery. The real story was she loved cats and spent all her money on cats; but they she died because she was allerigic to them. Well, it was funny to me. Then there is one about a famous genealogist who ended up disproving his wife's claime to be a descendant of one of the founding fathers. That one ends with a quote from a son saying he has not interst in the topic noting, " We were victimes of genealogical overkill."
Like the subjects of the obits, this is all subtle. These are not obits of famous people, most had brushes with greatness like the skit on the Letterman show.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Katie Allison Granju on January 4, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Bob Thomas was a fine, generous, kind man with a knack for throwing a great party. He was also one of his generation's most talented observers of modern culture via his legendary NYT obits. While his posthumous descriptions of Americans both great and small are often bitingly amusing, his respect for his subjects was always palpable. It is this combination that makes his writing so uniquely fabulous.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Roger Eschbacher on June 4, 2002
Format: Hardcover
When this book was first recommended to me by a friend, I must admit I was a little put off. A book of obituaries? Now there's a fun read! Although I know there are "die-hard" obit enthusiasts out there, I certainly don't count myself among them. All of this is leading to the further admission that I ordered the book with some trepidation. I needn't have worried. This book is an absolute joy. To say that it is well-written would be an understatement of Homeric proportions as Mr. Thomas had a subtle way with words that hints at Twain (I know! I know! They're "just" obituaries, but this gentleman could turn a phrase with the best of them!). Far from being ghoulish or depressing, these 52 McGs are fascinating celebrations of everyday extraordinary lives. Most importantly, each humorous account is filled with such warmth and respect that you don't get the feeling you're snickering at some poor dead guy "behind his back". 52 McGs falls into the category of "little discoveries that you can't wait to share with other people." Heartily recommended as an addition to your library or as a gift to anyone that enjoys highly skilled writing.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Blaine Greenfield on January 20, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Read 52 MCGS: THE BEST OBITUARIES FROM LEGENDARY
NEW YORK TIMES WRITER ROBERT MCG. THOMAS, JR. . . . this
is a quirky, fascinating compilation of obituaries about unsung
heroes, eccentrics and underachievers . . . among the inclusions were 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 64 marriage proposals ("An Intimate of Century's Giants").
Thomas never got to put these pieces into book form. He died, but a fan of his work decided that his work should live on . . . and I'm glad this was the case . . . Thomas had the gift of being able to find something worth writing about--regardless of the subject . . . my only regret is that all obituaries in loca papers aren't as interesting . .. but as long as I don't come across mine, I won't complain!
There were several memorable passages; among them:
[in an obituary about Francine Katzenbogen] Her neighbors were
not amused that she planned to house 20 cats in a converted
two-story garage she had refurbished at a cost of $100,000. The
luxurious cat complex included tile floors, climbing towers,
scratching posts, skylights and cozy, low-lying window ledges
where the cats could stretch out and watch the world outside
their air-conditioned lair.
Not content to recognize a Brooklyn accent, Mr. Berger drew
on his broader knowledge of American speech and history to
develop a theory of just how the signature "Toidy-told Street"
evolved.
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