The World’s Most Perfect Obituary

Brooke Williams has just reviewed my Immortal for Quite Some Time for Salt Lake’s 15 Bytes. The review begins with these paragraphs:

The first thing I read on opening Scott Abbott’s Immortal for Quite Some Time was that “This is not a memoir.” I agree. This book is, in my opinion, the world’s most perfect obituary. I’ve been reading them in the newspaper since my mother’s death in 1994, when I realized that most of the people at her funeral had learned that she’d passed by reading her obituary.

Obituaries come in many forms. The long-winded list of an old person’s accomplishments along with his/her progeny; the death notice, spare and sparse with a funeral invitation; the personal note, written by the deceased prior to being deceased; and what I call “the treasure hunt,” a frustrating communique full of carefully crafted clues to a much larger story, intended to help those still living.

I say “treasure” because I believe that everyone has a unique story, which when told well becomes a universal story from which anyone can learn. I say “hunt” because to find the story the reader must fill in the vast and empty spaces between the clues.

And then, there are those obituaries suggesting that the deceased has unfinished business. These days the quantum physicists say that we don’t “end” when we die but go on to occupy another, possibly parallel universe. We can either believe that this is possible or not. I happen to believe it, based on personal experiences for which no other reasonable explanation exists.

Scott Abbott’s obituary for his brother John, who died of AIDS on July 21, 1991, may fall into the “treasure hunt” category except that the number of clues contained in its 256 pages leave, at least for this reader, little unfilled space. It is not frustrating. It is beautiful.

The whole review HERE.

Reviewing is a difficult task, which makes me doubly grateful for Brooke’s thoughtfulness.

About Scott Abbott

Ph.D. in German Literature from Princeton University, 1979. Then I taught at Vanderbilt University, BYU, and Utah Valley State College. At Utah Valley University, I'm Director of the Program in Integrated Studies and former Chair of the Department of Humanities and Philosophy. My publications include a book on Freemasonry and the German Novel, two co-authored books with Zarko Radakovic (published in Serbo-Croatian in Belgrade), and translations of a book by Austrian author Peter Handke and of a catalogue of an exhibit called "The German Army and Genocide." More famously, my children are in the process of creating good lives for themselves: as a model and manager, as a teacher of Chinese language, as a watershed scientist and science writer, as a jazz musician, as a corrections officer, as university students, and as parents. I share my life with UVU historian Lyn Bennett and our yellow dog Blue. Some publications at
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2 Responses to The World’s Most Perfect Obituary

  1. roughghosts says:

    Your book is on its way to me now, Scott. Financial concerns cut into most of my book purchases lately, but this was top of my list for a brief spending spree. Looking forward to it. I’ve only been scanning the wonderful reviews you’ve posted, so as not to spoil the reading experience.


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