Sunday, March 29, 2020
Mobituaries by Mo Rocca
a collection of intriguing essays that celebrates unusual trivia about everything from trees that were killed to celebrities who died on the same day. The essays are filled with facts as well as Rocca's insertions with his own opinions and humor. If, like me, you're having a hard time concentrating nowadays, it's the perfect escape. And, if you're having a hard time finding a book right now with so many libraries and bookstores closed, you can still listen to Rocca's Mobituaries podcast, https://www.mobituaries.com/the-podcast.
Mo Rocca says he loves obituaries, but, "Not everyone has gotten the send-off they were due - which is where this book comes in. A Mobituary is an appreciation for someone who didn't get the love she or he deserved the first time around." He even includes tributes that aren't actually for people. Dragons were thought to be real, so they're included. There are tributes to the death of disco and station wagons. As mentioned earlier, there are tributes to trees, including one that I enjoyed because it seems personal. You'll have to check out "The Spaghetti Tree" hoax, born April 1, 1957, the same day I was born. There's even a tribute to the first great wall built to keep out people from another country.
Rocca has a fondness for little known stories of the presidents. One chapter, called "Before and After" covers Herbert Hoover and John Quincy Adams. Hoover's story is particularly engaging. It stresses his enormous success before he was president. Adams' tells of his career after the presidency. Like Jimmy Carter, he was much more successful after his one term. There is also a follow-up section that covers failed presidential candidates.
The book includes some tributes that would have been larger if two celebrities had not died on the same day. The news of Farrah Fawcett's death would have been "above the fold" in the newspapers if she hadn't died on the same day as Michael Jackson. Rocca gives her an appropriate tribute. Of course, many of us know that Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died the same day, on the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. But, what about Sammy Davis Jr. and Jim Henson? Who received the headlines?
There are essays on a number of celebrities, Audrey Hepburn, Sammy Davis Jr., Marlene Dietrich. But, the one that brought tears to my eyes was the article about Elizabeth Taylor, not as an actress, but as an AIDS activist. And, her speech when she accepted the Jean Herself Humanitarian Award at the 1993 Oscars is just as relevant and moving today as it was then. I can't do any better than to repeat the ending quote from that speech. "I call upon you to draw from the depths of your being to prove that we are a human race. To prove that our love outweighs our need to hate. That our compassion is more compelling that our need to blame. That our sensitivity to those in need is stronger than our greed. That our ability to reason overcomes our fear. And that at the end of each of our lives, we can look back and be proud that we have treated others with the kindness, dignity, and respect that every human being deserves." That speech seems so timely today.
Mo Rocca can look back and be proud of this book, funny at times, moving sometimes, but always engrossing. Check out Mobituaries, either in book form or on his podcast. And, it would make an excellent present for someone who enjoys historical trivia and anecdotes.
Mobituaries: Great Lives Worth Reliving by Mo Rocca and Jonathan Greenberg. Simon & Schuster, 2019. ISBN 9781501197628 (hardcover), 375p.
FTC Full Disclosure - Library book