It irks me how the deaths of these three men recently have been treated in the media.
Paul Fussell died in the last week. Admittedly, I haven’t seen all the coverage. The New York Times had a short obituary of him that left a lot out, including mention of one of his major books, “Class,” a brilliant, maddening, politically-incorrect and hilarious exploration of the American class system (yes, there is one) that I count among the most life-changing books I’ve ever read. News of Fussell’s demise has been a mere blip on the media’s radar as far as I can see (ArtsJournal doesn’t even have an obit) and he’s a major author. His masterpiece is “The Great War and Modern Memory,” winner of a National Book Award and a must-read for anyone interested in the seeds of Modernism. A number of his other books are worth checking out as well, including “Wartime,” “Samuel Johnson and the Life of Writing,” “Bad, or, The Dumbing of America” and “The Anti-Egotist: Kingsley Amis, Man of Letters.”
I don’t want to make too much of this. My evidence is anecdotal, based on my own perusing. These days, you can find the information you want if you go looking for it. Somewhere, a writer is probably working on a massive appreciation of Fussell. Still, one wants to see a big deal made out of him in the newspapers and other mainstream media.
As with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. I was driving home from work when “All Things Considered” mentioned his death prefaced with an apology for doing so. Robert Segal came on and said “But first, we must make a brief mention of an opera singer who died this weekend” or something along those lines, assuring the listener in tone and words that “ATC” has to get this out of the way and they’ll make it as painless as possible. The memorial was indeed brief, including just a short snippet of Fischer-Dieskau singing, and pretty much boilerplate.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times was aghast at the death of Bee Gee genius Robin Gibb, as if he were some sort of colossus of 20th century music. The same day they devoted pages to Gibb’s death, Fischer-Dieskau’s was noted in a single column obituary, in the secondary notices. Is it just me, or is Fischer-Dieskau at least the artistic equal of Gibb?
Believe me, being a journalist, I know why this kind of thing happens. I still don’t like it.