Sunday, December 20, 2009

Requiescat in pace.

by Lise Horton. The end of year wrap-ups of "farewells" will soon begin - highlights of the famous and infamous who died during the year from every field of endeavor. Many wonderful writers died relatively unheralded in 2009. Sadly their passing, and their achievements, did not garner the same spotlight that some other more notorious celebrities did. I thought I’d take a moment to revisit some of the literary luminaries who left us in 2009, along with mentions of just some of their works and accolades. In no particular order: John Updike, 76. Creator of Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom. Poet, novelist, short story writer. “My subject is the American Protestant small-town middle class,” Mr. Updike told Jane Howard in a 1966 interview for Life magazine. “I like middles,” he continued. “It is in middles that extremes clash, where ambiguity restlessly rules.” Larry Gelbart, 81. Developer of M*A*S*H. Writer for “Caesar’s Hour” with Sid Caesar. Co-writer of “Tootsie” and “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way To the Forum” "The main thing about Larry, he was a comedy prodigy who developed into a national treasure. The man was one of the most gifted satirists who ever lived." Carl Reiner Dominick Dunne, 83. Journalist, Vanity Fair author, father of murdered actress, Dominique Dunne, and author of the memoir “Another City, Not My Own” that covered the retelling of the OJ Simpson trial. Horton Foote, 92. Playwright and screenwriter. Pulitzer Prize winner for his play “The Young Man From Atlanta” and Academy Award winning author of the screenplays for “To Kill A Mockingbird” and “Tender Mercies”. Winner, National Medal of Arts. "His writing is like rural Chekhov, simple but deep. . . you can't push it. You have to just let it lay there." --- Robert Duvall, the star of Horton Foote's second Oscar winning screenplay Tender Mercies Frank McCourt, 78. Pulitzer Prize-winning Author of “Angela’s Ashes”. American WWII Serviceman, New York City High School Teacher. ‘ "When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I survived it all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood." William Safire, 79. Pultizer Prize-winning New York Times writer and acclaimed columnist of the NY Times language column, “On Language”. Speechwriter, Richard Nixon, author of political novels Full Disclosure and Scandalmonger. Winner, Presidential Medal of Freedom. "The acceleration of shortspeak forces us to confront the seamy side of semiotics, which is the study of nonverbal signs and symbols in semantics and syntactics. I have no objection to time- and space-saving signals that convey instant instruction: red and green lights are better than the words “stop” and “go”; a skull and crossbones is a visual reminder not to drink the iodine; a simple arrow beats “this way to the egress.” (An icon of a pair of pants on a lavatory door, however, is confusing to both slacks-clad women and slack-jawed men.)" Budd Schulberg, 95. Screenwriter, Oscar winner for “On The Waterfront”, and also "A Star is Born", "A Face in the Crowd” and others, and novelist. Member, Office of Strategic Services. Along with director Elia Kazan, an unapologetic informant to HUAC. "These people, if they had it in them, could have written books and plays. There was not a blacklist in publishing. There was not a blacklist in the theater. They could have written about the forces that drove them into the Communist Party....They're interested in their own problems and in the protection of the Party." David Eddings, 77. Author of numerous sci-fi and fantasy novels, including The Belgariad series. Of himself he said: "I am here to teach a generation or two how to read. After they've finished with me and I don't challenge them any more, they can move on to somebody important like Homer or Milton.". Jane Aiken Hodge, 91. Romance novelist of “The Master of Penrose” and numerous other novels, and non-fiction biographer of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer. Death by suicide. Marilyn French, 79. Feminist and novelist, author of “The Woman’s Room” and non-fiction author. Hans Holzer, 89. College professor. Ghost hunter. Author of over 100 non-fiction and fiction titles, including "Murder in Amityville". Novelist of paranormal titles including the Randy Knowles, Psychic Detective series. Television and film writer and producer of “In Search Of” television series. Barbara Parker, 62. Lawyer. New York Times Best Selling Mystery Fiction Author. JG Ballard, 78. “A giant on the world literary scene.” Short story author and novelist including several made into films: “Crash” (David Cronenberg), “Empire of the Sun” (Steven Spielberg). Single parent of three following his wife’s death. Philip Jose Farmer, 91. Sci-fiction novelist. Grand Master Award for Science Fiction, 2001. Supporter of the Peoria, Illinois Library and co-author of the charity title, “Naked Came the Farmer” for same. Jack Kemp, 73. Football player, politician and author of several non-fiction works, including “An American Rennaissance”. David Herbert Donald, 88. Pulitzer Prize-winning historian of numerous books, including “Look Homeward: A Life of Thomas Wolfe” and “Lincoln”. Joan Rice 89, Short Story author and memoirist of her years as a WWII WAAF “Sand In My Shoes”. Walter Cronkite, 92. Journalist, war reporter and member of the “Writing 69th”, newsman, television anchor. Author of his autobiography, “A Reporter’s Life” “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost America.” Lyndon B. Johnson and Cronkite, in his own words: "President Kennedy died at 1 p.m. Central Standard Time.2 o'clock Eastern Standard Time, some 38 minutes ago." Hortense Calisher, 97. Short story and fiction author, including the novels “Textures of Life” and “Journal From Ellipsia”. “Among contemporary writers of distinction Hortense Calisher has always been a strangely elusive presence,” Joyce Carol Oates Robert Holdstock, 61. Science-fiction/fantasy author of “Necromancer” and “Mythago Wood”; multiple award winner of the World Fantasy Award and British Science Fiction Award. E-coli complications. E. Lynn Harris, 54. Novelist and chronicler of American gay male life in fiction. "We have a 'don't ask, don't tell' policy in the black community," Boykin said. "E. Lynn Harris encouraged people to ask and to tell." Godspeed, ladies and gentlemen.


  1. Lise,

    Thank you for this informative list and testimony to so many literary favorites who have left us.
    The world is not the same without them, and I thank you for taking the time to honor them so eloquently.


  2. Goodness, we lost a lot of writers this year...I never would have known. Thank you for this post - what a lovely tribute to all of them!