The Socialite Who Killed a Nazi With Her Bare Hands and 143 Other Fascinating People Who Died This Past Year: The Best of the New York Times Obituaries

Posted: Friday, May 17, 2013, 8:38 am

In brief

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It doesn't live up to the greatest title since "The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-up Zombies," but how could it?

In the Gulf War comedy, In the Loop, sinister Scotsman Jamie and his diabolical boss Malcolm debate the merits of
There Will Be Blood.

Jamie: "There was no *&%$@! blood!"
Malcolm: "There was some blood."
Jamie: "There was hardly any *&%$@! blood."

I had a very similar reaction to Socialite/Nazi. After imagining the lurid tales to be found in such a book, how disappointing was it that the Times mainly rounded up the usual stiffs, er, suspects (Steve Jobs, Gore Vidal, Whitney Houston)? Even the title killing wasn't all that. Did Nancy Wake lure an SS bigwig to his doom with some elaborate scheme? No, she just choked out some peon of a sentry. Seriously, I haven’t been so disheartened by a puny payoff since I looked at my W-2s.

Still, I always appreciate knowing who I can cull from this year's Christmas card list. (Joe Frazier? Smokin’ no more, eh? Check.) But where Socialite really succeeds is in shining a light on obscure personages like Ms. Wake or Eugene Polley ("an inventor whose best-known creation has fostered blissful sloth").

When Socialite falters, it's due to its journalist gray tone. Confronted by the demise of the truly evil (Kim Jong-il, Andy Rooney) the Times fails to register the appropriate sense of outrage. Seriously, after listing his crimes against humanity, is it really necessary to call him Mr. Qaddafi? Sorry, Times, but your New York betters-- the Ramones-- said it better: "Glad to see you go go go go-goodbye."