Doomed and Famous
320 pp., 5 x 8 in, 20 b&w illus.
- Published: February 2, 2021
An obituarist opens his archive to celebrate the obscure and the eccentric.
In Doomed and Famous, an obituarist opens his archive in celebration of the most marginal and improbable characters, creating a meta-fiction of extinction and obscurity. For many decades Adrian Dannatt tracked and dredged the dead, with a macabre disregard for the etiquette of mortality. His specialty, much in demand among even the most mainstream publications, was to memorialize those whose eccentricity or criminality made them unlikely candidates for the fleeting immortality of a newspaper necrology. Dannatt maintained a veritable lust, perverse certainly, for capturing and celebrating such wayward existences. This book is a selection of some of the best—meaning most improbable—of these miniature biographies.
Here are arranged an almost fictive cast of characters including an imaginary Sephardic count in Wisconsin, a sadomasochist collector of the world's rarest clocks, a discrete Cuban connoisseur of invisibility, an alcoholic novelist in Rio, a Warhol Superstar gone wrong, a leading downtown Manhattan dominatrix, a conceptual artist who blew up a museum, and many others. Dannatt terminates this volume with his own putative extinction, performing the difficult if not dangerous task of penning his personal life history and ultimate end.
Doomed and Famous is a rare pleasure. A collection of obituaries mainly (but not always) of men, whose unusual lives Dannatt documents with a zealous commitment to the brief, the suicidal, the addicted, the long-lived, the extraordinarily rich, the flamboyant, the insouciantly poor, the innately glamorous and the artistic.
[A]n enjoyable celebration of eccentricity, frequently tinged with melancholy.
Henry Hitchings, Times Literary Supplement