The creator of the Mobituaries podcast fleshes out that material and also includes a wealth of supplementary essays and other new information.
Writing with Greenberg (English/Montclair State Univ.; The Cambridge Introduction to Satire, 2019, etc.), CBS Sunday Morning correspondent Rocca (All the Presidents’ Pets, 2004) displays his eclectic interests, ranging from Lord Byron, who makes two separate appearances, to the New Jersey Turnpike service areas. Most major sections feature a “mobituary,” which is a lament, sometimes serious, sometimes ironic, sometimes amusing, for someone or something no longer with us. Among these are Thomas Paine, the original Siamese twins, medieval medical practices, Prussia (“always coming up in the context of wanton militarism, which made me think…I’m pretty sure it must be German”), the idea of homosexuality as a mental illness, Billy Carter, Farrah Fawcett, and myriads more. Following most of the mobituaries is a section dealing with cases similar to the one(s) he has just discussed. His section on people confused for each other shows his playful sense of humor—e.g., he includes Joan of Arc and actress Joan Van Ark. As his lengthy Works Consulted testifies, Rocca has done his homework: His sources include not only biographies and histories, but also interviews (where possible) with the people involved. Occasionally, a small error intrudes—Mary Godwin was not yet Mary Shelley when she began work on Frankenstein—but the research is generally sound throughout. Though much of the tributes are funny and wry, others are quite moving (Sammy Davis Jr., a “supernova talent”). Rocca also reminds us of some long-forgotten figures—comedian Vaughn Meader, for example, who rocketed to fame with his John F. Kennedy impersonations and then plummeted after JFK’s death. Political attitudes are sometimes patent, sometimes not.
A spicy blend of humor, irony, wit, facts, fable, and heart.