Comments on economics, mystery fiction, drama, and art.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Two Obituaries

Two of my favorite writers, who both epitomized what it means to be a public advocate for what they strongly believed, have died this week. While they wrote very differently, and in very different fields, their work has moved and informed me in more ways than I can count.

Tony Hillerman, who wrote mysteries set in the American southwest, died a few days ago at age 83. His obituary in the New York Times is here. (My brother told me about this; I was amazed I had not already heard.)

Addendum: I decided to re-read Hillerman's first book, The Blessing Way, in which the main character is a tribal policeman named Joe Leaphorn. I'd forgotten that this exchange is in The Blessing Way, but it's something that I have remembered since I first read the book. Leaphorn is talking to an older Navajo, a singer/healer, who asks Leaphorn if he believes in witches. Leaphorn's answer is: "My grandfather, I have learned to believe in evil." It is, unfortunately, a lesson the world still forces us to learn.

Studs Terkel, whose first name was really Louis (the "Studs" was adopted, apparently, from James T. Farrell's Studs Lonigan character), and who listened better and recorded more eloquently the lives of "ordinary" (many of whom turned out to be truly extraordinary) died today at age 96. Hard Times and Working remain among the most profound books I have ever read. His obituary in the Chicago Tribume is here. (Living, as I do, just outside Chicago, this was not something that it was possible to miss.)

I knew them only through their works, and that was enough, really, to have been profoundly influenced by them.


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