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Eccentric Lives: The Daily Telegraph Book of 21st Century Obituaries

    eccentric lives the daily telegraph

    Death is no laughing matter, try telling that to the Daily Telegraph who injected humor as part of their obits section since the 80s. Eccentric Lives: The Daily Telegraph Book of 21st Century Obituaries collects some of the best wry obits printed and not printed to our delight. You know it is not polite to talk ill of the dead. I will make an exception this time around. Now we can enjoy some of that cheeky humor of the dearly departed who left their bones behind while tickling our own bones. Bring out the dead!

    In the late 1980s, the Daily Telegraph transformed the traditionally dry and stolid world of obituaries, ushering in a new way of writing about the dead that was vivid, gently subversive and richly comic. Telegraph obituaries became a byword for entertaining journalism, celebrated for their deadpan tone and sympathetic eye for human quirks and eccentricities.

    Difficult as their marriage had been, it had lasted 63 years, and those who loved them would think of their nightly routine, which Jones managed to keep going except in the very darkest times, of their lying beside one another in bed and reading jointly, and silently, the novels of Angela Brazil. John read more slowly than Jean and she would patiently wait for him to nod, vigorously, as a signal that she could turn the page of “Monitress Merle” — or “Jean’s Golden Term.”

    Here is a gallery of the most entertaining of these eccentric lives from the recent past, most of them never before published in book form. They amply demonstrate that in an age of committees and bureaucracy and increasing pressure to conform, eccentrics of all kinds have continued to thrive. From the oddball to the prophet, they have plowed their own furrow. These miniature biographies are charming, funny, and often moving, but always compulsively readable.

    Andrew M. Brown was born in 1969 and has been obituaries editor at the Daily Telegraph for nine years. He wrote his first obituary, a stock or advance obit of the actor James Garner, more than 20 years ago. He previously edited the opinion pages of the Sunday Telegraph and has contributed to The Spectator, The Oldie and the Catholic Herald among many other publications. He is married with three children and lives in south London.