The wrong side of history
The Thorn Birds
Yesterday, the best-selling author and neuroscientist Colleen McCullough died at the age of seventy-seven. McCullough was one of Australia’s best-known and most popular novelists, whose success was firmly established with the publication of her second novel The Thorn Birds in 1977. It was later made into a highly successful TV miniseries starring Richard Chamberlain. McCullough followed on her success with a string of bestsellers including An Indecent Obsession (1981), The Ladies of Missalonghi (1987), The Touch (2003) and her Masters of Rome series of historical novels. McCullough’s books have sold in excess of 30 million copies.
But McCullough had originally studied medicine before successfully moving into neuroscience and becoming a respected teacher at the Department of Neurology at the Yale Medical School in New Haven, CT.
By any standard, most people would be content with just one of McCullough’s incredible careers, and one would think that a national newspaper like The Australian might write a glowing obituary, eulogizing this talented and brilliant Australian woman. Well, most of us would, but that’s not what The Australian decided to focus on when writing her obituary, instead they considered her most relevant attributes as being “plain of feature, and certainly overweight,” though she was also “a charmer.”
It’s dispiriting to think how this ever got past the paper’s sub editor’s desk—unless of course the paper is completely staffed by sexist idiots—which, who knows, perhaps it is? What is more disturbing and inexcusable is how a woman of such great achievement should be so casually demeaned and undervalued.
Thankfully, it’s not all doom and gloom as the stupidity of the Australian’s obituary has seen an amusing response from the Twittersphere, where people (including writers Caitlin Moran, Neil Gaiman, Joanne Harris and comedians Katy Brand and Craig Ferguson) have been tweeting their own mock obituaries (#myozobituary), which you can read below.
#myozobituary would be “Although she grew a disappointing arse, she nonetheless got laid & won awards."— Caitlin Moran (@caitlinmoran) January 30, 2015
'Spotty of chin and wide of thigh, she nonetheless summoned the courage to leave the house and do things.' #myozobituary— Katy Brand (@KatyFBrand) January 30, 2015
Although his beard looked like someone had glued it on & his hair would have been unconvincing as a wig, he married a rockstar #MyOzObituary— Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) January 30, 2015
In spite of being a girlie & writing a book about chocolate, managed to be quite stroppy & piss a whole bunch of people off. #MyOzObituary— Joanne Harris (@Joannechocolat) January 30, 2015
Although a shouty malodorous vulgarian he nevertheless enjoyed most episodes of house hunters international. #MyOzObituary— Craig Ferguson (@CraigyFerg) January 30, 2015