Do you ever see news stories about authors and actors you thought long gone and think, “Gosh, is s/he still alive?” Or, if the story is an obituary notice, one’s response might be, “Gee, I thought they were already dead.”
On Facebook, it’s not always easy to tell. Occasionally somebody posts a link to an obituary and people think, “Oh no,” and then somebody says, “Hey guys, this happened last year.”
The bottom line is this: the general population thinks the elderly are already dead–or should be. People assume Clint Eastwood will be directing and starring in movies with Oscar buzz when he’s 120. But, if you’re not old and not Clint Eastwood, folks assume your dead.
I assumed Don DeLillo was dead until he released a new book this year. Good for you, I thought. My mood went downhill quickly when one critic said the novel looked like a rough draft of one of the author’s earlier novels. Hell, he’s 84, give him a break.
Some of the confusion comes from the romance novel biz in which the books of dead authors keep getting released under new titles. Years ago, a lot of people thought Victoria Holt was still alive when she wasn’t while others thought she was dead before she was.
I wonder how many people think Tom Clancy is still alive and still writing “Op Center” novels.
Every year about this time, we start seeing such headlines as “People We Lost This Year.” I think we also need, “People We Lost Who We Presumed were Already Long Gone” and “People We Presumed Were Long Gone Who Are Still With Us.” In the political arena, we need “People Who Are Still Alive Who Shouldn’t Be.”
Sure, this sounds rather cynical, but the public needs somebody out there “keeping score” to keep us from stumbling into so many faux pas.
I think now of the Lee Marvin character in “Cat Ballou” in which he and his horse were always drunk. He stumbled into a funeral thinking it was a birthday celebration and acted accordingly. I hate it when that happens.