November 10, 2012

In writing about death, all life is there

Tales from an obituaries page editor, Harry de Quetteville

There are two questions that I get asked when people discover that I am the obituaries editor at The Daily Telegraph. The first is: “How do you decide who gets an obit?”, to which I respond that, ultimately, we publish the lives that we think will most interest our readers. Eminence, celebrity, comedy, bravery – all are factors likely to pique their curiosity.
I confess, however, that I reserve a special place in my heart for the stories thrown up by two peculiar categories of obit. The first comprises cult leaders and tele-evangelists such as The Reverend Ike, who preached “the Prosperity Gospel” and exhorted his faithful to visualize “money up to your armpits, a roomful of money and there you are, just tossing around in it like a swimming pool”.

The second category is mountaineers. This is partly because I am awed by their courage; and partly because they are generally great characters. Of all the mountaineers we have done, however, it is Chris Dale whose obit I like most. It begins: “Chris Dale, who has died aged 49, was a 6ft 6in mountaineer with a passion for solo climbs among the hardest peaks of Scotland, Wales and the Alps. He was also an equally enthusiastic cross-dresser who went by the name of Crystal.” Who could not read on?
Posted by Jill Fallon at November 10, 2012 1:29 PM | Permalink