life stories

the center of the universe is the brain

Archive for the month “August, 2009”

A Week of Obituaries

Three deaths touched me over the last seven days.

The first was Karla Kuskin. In the years I worked at HarperCollins Children’s Books, I granted many permissions for the use of her poetry. She seemed surprised and overjoyed by the endless popularity of her work. I enjoyed working with an author who loved to share. She never held back or tried to control her art. Because of Karla and her willingness to share, millions of children have been exposed to the disease we call poetry. May this disease spread through generations into the future. Thank you Karla Kuskin.

The passing of Senator Edward Kennedy was the second death to grasp my attention. As a youth, I was confused by the Chappaquiddick scandal. If the same situation occurred in the last decade it would be the end to anyone’s political career regardless of privilege and connections – or perhaps because of them. But it happened at a time when the power of money, the closing ranks of the old boy network and the very name Kennedy could bring a hush to a story. Perhaps I should be grateful. Ted Kennedy’s public service was certainly not self-serving. He fought to improve public health and safety. He put his energy behind the Americans with Disabilities Act, helping to improve the lives of millions of Americans and beginning the end of discrimination against people living with disability. Ted Kennedy is an example of why we should accept that our public servants are not saints.

Today brought news of the death of Dominick Dunne. My personal experience of this unique individual was when I worked in the Williams College Alumni Relations Department. Oddly, one of my tasks was to handle alumni death notices. I wasn’t fond of Dunne, or of his writing. But he had qualities I admired. He collected people’s stories. He understood the importance of gossip. He gathered bits of information and pieced things together. Dunne frequently repeated, “I’m sick of being asked to weep for killers. We’ve lost our sense of outrage.” All too true.

I remember with some sorrow these three people with intersecting but very different stories. Farewell.


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