To state the obvious, 'Passing Parade' is a collection of the obituaries and memorials that Steyn has written over the years about the famous, the infamous, and quite a few people in between. Sometimes admiring, sometimes biting, and often laugh-out-loud funny, Mark Steyn's writing is always eminently readable. One thing I appreciate about the obituaries is his honesty; Steyn doesn't bother trying to be charitable to those who don't deserve it, eschewing the old bromide that one shouldn't speak ill of the dead. Some of the dead- Idi Amin, for example- should have ill spoken of them, and Steyn doesn't hold back. Nor is he reserved in praising those who have earned it, such as Pope John Paul II. He also draws attention to those whose deaths might otherwise pass unremarked: Judy Garland's third husband...Frank Sinatra's pianist...the guy who invented Tang and Cool Whip.
Steyn frequently goes beyond the cut and dried facts about his subjects, recounting anecdotes of little-known events in their lives, their quirks and foibles ... odds and ends that bring them alive for us and make them human. Sometimes he doesn't even talk about the deceased so much as the circumstances surrounding their death, and what it says about the people and that period of time. One example of this is Princess Diana and the curious, almost cult-like, hysterical mass mourning which took place following her demise.
Whether you (like my grandmother) have a fondness for obituaries, or an interest in people, their lives and times, or just love great writing, I highly recommend Mark Steyn's 'Passing Parade'. It is a genuine pleasure to read.