Here’s one for the literary publicists in the audience.
Colleen McCullough, author of The Thorn Birds, was an internationally bestselling author and a neurophysiologist. Before selling more than 30 million books worldwide, she led a successful scientific career featuring stints at Yale Medical School and at the the Royal North Shore hospital in Sydney, Australia. It’s safe to say that in her 77 years of life, she accomplished remarkable feats.
Yet, upon her passing last week, among the first things The Australian mentioned in McCullough’s obituary were that she was “plain of feature” and “certainly overweight.” The intro goes on to virtually marvel at the fact that the author was “nevertheless” charming and able to attract men anyway.
Cue the international outcry of “What the actual $#%^!?”
Fans and members of the literary elite alike took to social media to voice their outrage and disappointment.
Bestselling author Neil Gaiman lamented the obit on Facebook, writing:
“So, Australia’s bestselling novelist dies. She was also a neurophysiologist. So The Australian’s obituary begins by letting us know that she was (in their opinion) unattractive and overweight…I’m in Australia right now surrounded by friends who are baffled and hurt. Sigh.”
Meanwhile, comments on the newspaper’s website echo similar sentiments and include these gems:
Not all women make their careers by twerking or being mindless reality stars. Many women have depth and intellect and serious achievements.
Congratulations on your graduation from the H.L. Mencken School of Obituary Science! It’s awesome that your little paper is going to be famous around the world. Thank goodness you have all been represented so well!
Who knew it was possible for wit and body fat to inhabit the same body. Which dinosaur wrote this? More remarkably, which editor deemed it fit to publish! I can only assume that this is one of those pre-emptive obituaries that’s rolled out when the person unexpectedly departs and was in fact written sometime ago, perhaps around the Jurassic period. The reading public awaits your retraction and apology.
We think everyone who has worked with an author — or any celebrity, really — as a client can relate.