Whether Inspiring, Incomprehensible, insightful, bleak, or absurd, last words can be spoken by the living as well as the dying. Among the dying, last words are truly final, as was the case with Dylan Thomas, who uttered “I’ve just had eighteen straight whiskeys. I think that’s the record.” Famous Last Words records the parting shots of dozens of folks no longer with us, from those dead for political reasons to those who themselves decided to end it all. And it records the words of those who went on with their lives after uttering a memorable farewell but whose reputation was made by their words, often to their lasting frustration, such as the infamous Richard Milhous Nixon: “You won’t have me to kick around anymore, because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference.”Famous Last Words also preserves the last words of those inhabiting the world of fiction, whether in a book, on the stage, in a movie or on TV. Blanche DuBois’s “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers” ranks right alongside Charles Foster Kane’s “Rosebud” and Sidney Carton’s “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done… .” The mutterings of the imagined are always floating around in our culture’s consciousness, kicking lustily.
Author Alan Bisbort consulted unimpeachable sources and original texts in compiling this compendium of 140 choice good-byes. But not only the farewells capture our attention: Bisbort’s concise, witty, and informative text adds revealing context to the quoted words. Famous Last Words is fascinating, illuminating, and immensely rewarding. Reading through the pages may reveal some unifying impulse behind all those bye-byes; if so, you have truly stumbled uponthe meaning of life.
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