I know this sounds morbid, but…
Have you ever, just once, kinda fantasized about being a DEAD famous writer?
What I mean is, you’ve just died and because you’re such a famous, beloved writer your passing is national news. Not only that, but across the English-speaking world, news agencies spread the word and editorials are written singing praises for your books.
I thought about this when Ray Bradbury died. His leaving us was significant because the stories he wrote matter to us. I don’t even know science fiction that well, but I certainly knew about Bradbury and reading his obituaries made me realize how influential he was.
And you just know that whenever J.K. Rowling passes away (which I hope won’t happen for another half century), it will be world-wide news and in many languages.
For me, it’s proof that writers can sometimes really matter in our society.
I thought about the passing of writers this last week when Seamus Heaney died. Yeah I know, most of you don’t care about poets or poetry. But the fact is when Heaney died it was front-page news on many electronic newspapers across the U.S.A., and in his native Ireland it was MASSIVELY important news.
See, Heaney was a Nobel Laureate and the greatest Irish poet since W.B. Yeats. And Yeats was one of the giants of the Twentieth Century (I quote Yeats’ famous poem “The Second Coming” in The Compass Master).
The Irish Times, in one of several pieces about Heaney and his funeral, declared: “In months and years and generations to come, people not yet born will seek out this small village to the east of Lough Neagh, with the sole purpose of visiting Heaney’s grave.” It described how all along the road the funeral cortege took to get to that village people were “pulsing out of doorways to honour their own,” and that they came “on foot, in buggies and on crutches.”
Now that’s a beloved writer.
I really don’t know if the passing of any American writer has ever elicited such a reaction, or that his or her grave has become a site of pilgrimage. Probably Mark Twain—he deserves it. Edgar Allan Poe died in obscurity and was buried in an unmarked grave, but years later he was given a headstone, then a monument, and nowadays his grave is a site of pilgrimage.
So what about you? Yes, this is a morbid topic (maybe I shoulda written this post at Halloween), but have you ever wanted the fact that you’re a writer figure significantly in your obituary?
This topic aside, have a non-morbid, happy week.