by Michael Largo
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & K & lt;/span & ick the bucket. Buy the farm. Bite the dust, pick out a harp, take a dirt nap. Croak. No matter how you say it, you can't escape it. But what about the guy who invented pencils, the inventor of self-adhesive bandages, or the man who envisioned credit cards? How did they cash in their chips? Find out about them and others in The Portable Obituary.
Although more people are reaching the century mark and beyond, there's one thing nobody escapes: We're all going to die. Officially, technically, we die because our heart stops. The end. But the truth is, there are lots of ways people have met the Grim Reaper. Cleopatra is said to have died from the bite of an asp. Bobby Leach, who survived a trip over Niagara Falls, slipped on a fruit peel and died of gangrene 16 years later. According to Largo, Babe Ruth's big, differently developed brain was what ultimately killed the famous baseball player.
I was tickled to death when I got this book, but now that I've come to the end, I have mixed feelings. On one hand, The Portable Obituary is fun and lighthearted, despite the subject. Largo writes with humor and so much irony and wit that you almost feel compelled to read the next obit and the one after that, kind of like a literary bowl of peanuts.
The problem is, this book is littered with so many errors that the enjoyment is tainted with a sense of hey-that's-not-true disbelief. And these aren't esoteric things; many were facts that could have been easily checked. Archimedes' entry contains iffy info. There's a glaring error in Helen Keller's profile, a completely wrong notation about the first African American to win an Oscar, and a major goof that will have Gunsmoke fans ready for a showdown on Main Street.
If you approach The Portable Obituary as a lighthearted book and you don't particularly care that it's not 100 percent factual, then you'll be happy to bury your nose in it. If you want something that you can trust, though, this book will irritate you to death.