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Keeping Up With the Dead


A friend recently directed me to a Website called “Death Clock: The Internet’s friendly reminder that life is slipping away.” It enables you to calculate, “second by second,” how much longer you might expect to stick around. I enter my birthday: March 22, 1949; my smoking status: non- (never mind the Marlboro bummed at a cocktail party twice a year); and my Body Mass Index, a figure arrived at by entering my height and weight. I click on “Check Your Death Clock” and a date comes up: Thursday, November 16, 2006. What the . . . ! There must be a mistake. I know life is short, but it’s not that short. Heart pounding, I go back and study the questionnaire. Under the category of Temperament, I change “Pessimistic” to “Normal” and click again: Sunday, January 1, 2023. Phew. Still too soon, but it’s a date I can live with (as it were). Only what’s this about January 1? At least it should happen at night. I don’t want to miss my friends’ annual New Year’s Day party.

The Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs, and the Perverse Pleasures of Obituaries
Marilyn Johnson. HarperCollins. 256 pages. $24.95.


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