People are talking down 2016, but as the year draws to a close we can’t help wonder if it’s really been an especially sad one for the deaths of so many varied artistic talents or if every year naturally has its share of losses. It would certainly seem that way with the recent losses in December of novelist Georgia Blain, her mother Anne Deveson just three days later, and in the same week the passing of Miles Franklin-winning, Australian-born author Shirley Hazzard.
Consider some others who left the bookish realms this year. Some authors, others connected to the book world in other ways. There was of course To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee, and Italian novelist and philosopher Umberto Eco, others were poetic through their music (and their known love of books) such as David Bowie, Leonard Cohen and Prince. Others we remember for their humour (and autobiographies) such as comedian Victoria Wood, and others for their acting roles, embodying renowned book characters: how could we forget Alan Rickman immortalising the role of the slimy Professor Snape from the Harry Potter series? Others we lost include local literary lights such as the novelists Georgia Blain, Gillian Mears, and Cory Taylor.
Here are just a few who departed this world in 2016:
Harper Lee (pictured, left). The author of To Kill a Mockingbird had already caused quite a stir when the prequel of her iconic novel, Go Set a Watchman was released in 2015. Then we lost her on February 19 2016, at the ripe old age of 89.
Umberto Eco. On the same day acclaimed Italian author of In the Name of the Rose died, aged 84.
David Bowie. The musician was renowned for his love of books (see the full list here) and died earlier this year.
Gene Wilder. The actor immortalised one of Roald Dahl’s most memorable characters Willy Wonka in the 1971 big screen version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
Leonard Cohen. Known primarily for his sublime music and lyrics, Cohen was also a published poet and author.
Muhammed Ali. Bookish Boxer? Indeed – not only did he spawn many a biography, he was also famed for his rhyming couplets and many of the most famous novelists of his day – think Norman Mailer – penned many words about the man. (see more in this New York Times article: Muhammed Ali Inspires Writers in Life and Death.)
Alan Rickman aka Severus Snape. The British actor was critically acclaimed on stage and screen well before the Harry Potter movies but many book lovers will find his role as Professor Snape his most unforgettable. Who else could have nailed the sneer that masks so much inner turmoil?
Eliezer ‘Elie’ Wiesel: The Romanian-born American Jewish writer, Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor was the author of 57 books, one of his famous was the novel Night, part of a trilogy based on his experiences at the notorious Nazi concentration camps, Auschwitz and Buchenwald.
Cory Taylor. The Miles Franklin nominated Australian author wrote her last book Dying: A Memoir, after she was diagnosed with melanoma. It was was published just before her death on 5 July 2016.
Gillian Mears (pictured, left). Mears was an Australian short story writer and novelist, best known for the books The Grass Sister, The Mint Lawn, and Foal’s Bread. She died on May 16 2016.
Edward Albee. The Pulitzer Prize-winning American playwright wrote many classic plays, but is best known for his 1962 play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf which became even better know when its characters were immortalised in the movie version starring real life sparring partners, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.
Georgia Blain. The Australian author wrote compellingly and heartbreakingly of her brain tumour in her columns entitled The Unwanted Guest, for The Saturday Paper. She died on 9 December at just 51 years of age. Her mother, writer and broadcaster, Anne Deveson, passed away just three days later, aged 86.
Shirley Hazzard. Hazzard was best known for her 1980 novel The Transit of Venus and more recently, The Great Fire, for which she won a Miles Franklin award. The Australian-born author died on December 12, 2016, at 85.
What do you think? Has 2016 been a bad year? Who were you sad to lose in 2016? Let us know in the comments below or the Facebook comments.