David Bruce: The Funniest People in Books, Volume 3 — Death


• After the philosopher Socrates was found guilty by an Athenian court of doing such things as corrupting the youth of Athens, he was condemned to be executed by drinking poisonous hemlock. He did so, dying at age 70. Later, after Alexander the Great, the Macedonian conqueror of Athens, died, the Athenians rebelled against anyone who had been associated with Alexander. The philosopher Aristotle, a Macedonian and the author of such works as the Poetics and the Nicomachean Ethics, had been Alexander’s tutor when Alexander was young. Aristotle chose to go into exile, rather than staying in Athens, so he could prevent the Athenians from “sinning twice against philosophy.”

• F. Scott Fitzgerald was buried in the Rockville Union cemetery in Rockville, Maryland. He wanted to be buried at St. Mary’s Cemetery, but since he was not a practicing Catholic, his burial was not permitted there. Later, the Church changed its mind and allowed Mr. Fitzgerald to be buried at St. Mary’s. When Mr. Fitzgerald’s body was exhumed, the casket was opened to make sure it was his body. It was. He was wearing an instantly recognizable Brooks Brothers suit. The epitaph for Mr. Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda, is taken from The Great Gatsby: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne ceaselessly back into the past.”

• John Kennedy Toole wrote a book titled A Confederacy of Dunces about a young man fighting against the absurdity so often found in this world. Mr. Toole tried to get his comic novel published, but he was unsuccessful and finally committed suicide in despair. Eventually, his mother succeeded in getting the book published, and it won a Pulitzer Prize. The title of Mr. Toole’s novel comes from these lines by satirist Jonathan Swift: “When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.”

• Obviously, writers consider writing important; otherwise, they would not do the hard work of writing. Julian Barnes, in his meditation on death titled Nothing to Be Frightened Of, tells a joke about a writer (himself) being told by his doctor that he is dying. The author asks how long he has left to live, and the doctor, understanding the question that lies behind the question that was specifically asked, replies, “I’d say about 200 pages — 250 pages if you are lucky or work fast.”

• Charles Dickens described Little Nell, a character that appeared in his novel The Little Curiosity Shop, as “a creature fresh from the hand of God.” Many, many people, including mature men, loved the character and were saddened when she, fictional though she was, died. Irish statesman Daniel O’Connell read the scene of Little Nell’s death while he was in a moving train, cried, “He should not have killed her!” — and threw the book out of a window .

• When Oscar Wilde was released from prison after serving two years, he went to Paris, where he saw a palm reader. She looked at his palm, inspected the line that indicated how long he would live, and then said, “By your line of life you died two years ago. I cannot explain the fact except by supposing that since then you have been living on the line of your imagination.”

• At the Players Club was a collection of plaster death masks, taken of the corpses of famous actors and playwrights, including Richard Brinsley Sheridan. An actress once said of Mr. Sheridan’s death mask, “Oh, he looks terrible.” Oliver Herford explained, “After all, my dear, he wasn’t very well when it was taken.”

• At Ferney, Voltaire had a church built. He also had a tomb for himself built, half in and half out of the church. That way, Voltaire explained, “The rascals will say that I’m neither in nor out.”

• While on his deathbed, Benjamin Disraeli carefully edited the proofs of one of his speeches, saying, “I will not go down to posterity talking bad grammar.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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Music Recommendation: Robertas Semeniukas — “Gitarų šėlsmas – Live”


Music: “Gitarų šėlsmas – Live”


Artist: Robertas Semeniukas

Artist Location: Lithuania

Info: “Gitarų šėlsmas” means “Guitar Revelry.”

Robertas Semeniukas – lead vocals, electric & acoustic guitars 
Viltė Ambrazaitytė – backing vocals 
Domas Žostautas – bass 
Jonas Lengvinas – drums 

Price: €1 (EURO) for track; €10 (EURO) for 12-track album

Genre: Rock Instrumentals.


Robertas Semeniukas on Bandcamp