Obituary Generator

I’ve started writing obituaries for fun in my spare time.

It’s almost Halloween in this, the year of the ongoing difficulty. Does the above statement really shock you?

I’ve become a little bit obsessed with their form and language. How do you even begin to conceive a form aimed at summing up somebody’s life, let alone do so in a way that it can be consumed in print by thousands of friends and strangers? It feels so dated, but then I suppose there’s nobody (yet) to lodge a complaint about the quality of their obituary.

So I started reading them. My friend Sean started to save me the obituary pages from the Irish Times, which he regularly purchased. Our relationship is such that he only barely rolled his eyes when I asked him to do so. Several weeks of reading their every gruesome detail has resulted in my extraction of the following formula for generating a generic obit. 

SURNAME, Firstname. (Address, formerly of Address) Date, [mood at time of death]1, circumstance at death2, [Present Particible Modifier + Noun] to Name3, {repeat as necessary} Removal from Location, Date and Time. 
~ Quote in Italics~

1 – (e.g. peacefully)
2 – (e.g. surrounded by…)
3 – (e.g. Loving carer to Mary, caring lover to Ignatio…)

The form of an obituary is simple and direct, but limited. It will never truly capture either the essence of a person’s life, or the immensity of their absence from it. It is, on the other hand, a near-classic and under-utilised structure in the realm of literature. I hereby set about to change that.

Headstones, of course, are famed for their brevity…

Now, not to make light of death during a global pandemic, but but I think there are two ways in which we can view this formula.

  1. As an outdated and limiting form, from which true expression of the instance of loss cannot possibly be captured, or would be inappropriate to do so.
  2. As a classic form which, when applied creatively, opens up the possibility for wider experimental use in literature.

“Please stop now before you ruin our day” I hear you cry! Too late. Let me give unrequested examples of each.

Example One

MCGIMPY, Patrick. (Cork Road, Tipperary, formerly of Tipperary Road, Cork). September 19, 2020, screaming with resolute fury, surrounded by so-called friends whom he never truly cared for. Over-achieving brother to Patricia, Padraig, and Pablo. Disappointing son to Patricia snr. and Patrick snr. Imagined acquaintance to the author of this obituary. Removal from his own arse, September 20, 8pm.
~You Never Truly Lose Those Who Never Existed~

Example Two

MUG, Ceramic “I Hate Mondays” Garfield. Second cupboard from the left, formerly of the third cupboard from the right. September 19, 2020, tragically in a microwave induced hand slipping incident. Beloved of Christopher. Coveted by Johnny and Mike. Derided by Aisling and Katie. Removal to the Black Bin sometime tomorrow, if it stops raining.
~I Hate Saturdays Now Too~

There might be something entertaining in it. I’ll keep messing around with it if I get the chance before reaching my own, natural, conclusion…

Happy Halloween!



Time Immomentum

Despite being busier than I’ve ever been creatively, I recently realised that I haven’t had a completed piece of work staged in almost 3 years. It’s somewhat cathartic to admit that rather than ignore it as I have been, but I’m still worried. At what point do I stop being allowed to refer to myself as a theatre maker? When do they call to my house and cut my membership card in half with a scissors? After how many years of idling does my hardware automatically reboot and I restart as a wannabe Instagram personal trainer?

Maybe I’ll restart as somebody who can actually play the piano…

I haven’t had a completed piece of work staged, but that’s not to say I haven’t been working. I’ve probably never been more prolific to be honest. I’ve been writing, re-writing, and researching practically non-stop for as far back as I can recall. I’ve had several “work in progress” showings, but any “progress” implied by such a term at the time hasn’t necessarily gained momentum. Some might say my “work” has “progressed” to a shuddering halt. I’m not one of them, but I’d stand by their decision to take that tack.

Behind the scenes, I’ve been lucky enough to be supported in making my work for the past two years by Cork Midsummer Festival, The Everyman Theatre, and Corcadorca via their joint mentorship programme Tessellate (through which I received mentorship from the incredible Lorraine Maye, Julie Kelleher, and Conall O’Riain). I’ve also had training opportunities with the Abbey Theatre, and was even shortlisted for their emerging playwright programme “Abbey Works” last year. In the past few weeks alone I’ve spent time in The Everyman working on a new project having been selected for Mermaid Arts Centre’s “Gap Day” programme (thank you Arts Council).

So there is work ongoing. Too much work, really. I’m actually a bit of a workaholic when I actually break down my schedule. I never take a day off, I have multiple projects on the go at once, and they’re all brimming with potential. It’s just that, for the most part, these projects are all still being developed exclusively in my head. It was recently suggested to me that there might be an underlying mental health condition at play. I think that might have something to do with my current confusion and concern. Until the day I found out, I had assumed that everybody’s mind worked with the same chaotic, frenetic verve that mine did. It turns out that constantly thinking about forty different things isn’t normal. Who knew!

I’ve been feeling particularly useless lately, so I’ve decided to resurrect this blog in the hope that having some form of outlet for all the ideas clogging my brain will free up space for the ideas I can actually see to fruition. I don’t expect many people to read it, so please accept my apologies if you do stumble across it. It’s partly therapy, partly an attempt at organising my brain. If I put the ideas down here they can exist on their own without the need for my constant supervision or attention. Maybe once they’re out in the light of day I can spot ways to give them a second life. Or maybe I’ll just clear enough room in my head to start enjoying mine again.