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April 24, 2013
Jewish World Review
Sept. 25, 2009
/ 7 Tishrei 5770
In Defense of Dead People
True story. A friend of ours was at our home recently for dinner. During the course of the evening she happened to see an autobiography on our bookshelf of a very famous movie star, someone that she liked. Since she had never read the book, she asked if she might borrow it. My wife was happy to let her take it, knowing it would be a book she would really enjoy reading. I should mention that our friend is a big movie fan and in fact has worked in show business herself.
After a few days our friend called and told my wife that she had thought it over and decided not to read the book after all. "I just started thinking," she explained, "Why would I want to read an autobiography about a dead person?" I may not have her exact words here, but by and large this was her reasoning. Bear in mind too that this friend is not a kid, she is a middle-aged, college educated woman.
So let me get this straight. We should only read books written by and about people who are currently alive. You know, the important people like Mackenzie Phillips and George Hamilton. The thinking is that reading books about dead people is a waste of time. The logic of that mindset is nonexistent anywhere outside of a kindergarten or mental hospital, but then again, logic in general has little to do with the thinking of so many so-called sensible people today.
What this means of course, is that we should disregard the biographies of all human kind throughout recorded history. Hey, when you're dead your dead, right? Don't read books on Washington, Adams or Lincoln. Forget about all those doornails like Moses, Jesus, Confucius, Guttenberg, Newton, Voltaire, Bacon, and Aristotle. Forget the dead poets, the dead playwrights. Don't read books on any of the great historical figures ever again because they're dead. And we all know that there's nothing to learn from a dead person. Listen, if they were so smart, they wouldn't be dead.
And while we're at it, we shouldn't waste out time listening to music written or performed by dead people either. Trash all that out-of-date music by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Brahms, and Strauss. Those boys are dead you see, they're not worth listening to. Toss out those old-fashioned Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald recordings. They're dead! Dump those Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, and Gershwin tunes. They're dead! What should we do about the Beatles since half of them are dead? Maybe just listen with one ear.
And don't watch movies with dead people in them. Casablanca, Gone with the Wind, Wizard of Oz, Singin' in the Rain, Showboat, Citizen Kane, An Affair to Remember, Some Like it Hot, Vertigo, Ben-Hur, The Searchers, It's a Wonderful Life, forget them all. Old. Dead. Yechh. Better to stick with the latest Ben Stiller or Jennifer Aniston or Megan Fox picture. After all, these actors are still alive…for the time being.
Oh, one other thing…stop going to all those galleries and museums that display the work of dead artists. You know, that old junk by has-beens such as Michelangelo, Da Vinci, van Gogh, Degas, Picasso, and the rest. They are all deceased, you know. Just go to the new galleries which showcase the fresh, fully-alive work of artists that are above ground.
In conclusion all I can say is this. If you walk into my home and take away all the books, movies, music, and art created by dead people, then I will be living in an empty house. No, wait. I take that back. Tom Wolfe, Thomas Sowell, Michael Caine, Doris Day, Debbie Reynolds, Keely Smith and John Pizzarelli are still alive.
If I prefer the writings, the art, the films, and the music of the dead, which, for the most part I do, what does that make me? Well, I know I'm not dead; my wife would have buried me. So I must be among the living dead…..ooooohhh! Scary! Happy early Halloween, kids.
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JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. A freelance writer in Southern California, you may contact him by clicking here.
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