Colleen McCullough

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Colleen McCullough, author of The Thorn Birds died at the age of seventy seven on the 29th January. The Australian wrote this as part of their obituary:

“Australia’s bestselling author was a charmer. Plain of feature, and certainly overweight, she was nevertheless a woman of wit and warmth.”

Pardon?

Use whatever words you like, but you clearly just called her not pretty and fat with a nice personality in her OBITUARY. That’s where you say nice things people. She’d be charmed I’m sure. I loved The Thornbirds, both the book and the series – the drama, the forbidden love, the serious crush on Richard Chamberlain who played the priest, and the devastation when he came out and I realised we could never be….. Ahem. Colleen McCullough was a stellar author, incredibly intelligent, and nice too. Twitter is currently abuzz with hilarious rude fake obits on the hashtag #myozobituary from all sorts of people including writers like Neil Gaiman. While this is funny, I’m not sure about how appropriate it is for humour to overtake the actual loss of a great writer. No more books from Colleen McCullough.  No more magic will flow from those fingers.

It’s nobody’s business if you’re fat or thin, gorgeous or have the face of a vampire bat sucking a lemon. What you look like shouldn’t define you. What defines you is who you are, what you do, and again, who you ARE. Obviously your looks are important if you’re a model, but even so, those looks aren’t who you are – some very pretty shells cover some very ugly inners.  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder anyway.

As a writer I’m hugely offended at what was said in that obituary. We write for you – what we look like has no effect on what or how we write, and most definitely not appropriate to mention in any sort of insulting way. Even if when I die my obituary begins with something like “She was gorgeous till the end, which was only to be expected….” I’d still be hugely offended – even though it’s so obviously true. Writing is an art and our craft. It’s a special craft – it consumes us, and takes over our lives. Give proper credit where it’s due, and not facile allusions to irrelevant perceived faults. Shame on the writer of that sad and shameful sentence – the shame is his, and not on anybody’s body shape. RIP Colleen McCullough – a truly great author and human being. download.jpgCC Photo copyright Louise Donald courtesy Simon & Schuster

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39 thoughts on “Colleen McCullough

    Mira Prabhu said:
    February 2, 2015 at 12:15 pm

    Reblogged this on mira prabhu and commented:
    The author of The Thorn Birds passes on at the age of 77…and The Australian rustles up an obit that diminishes a great writer…read Jo Robinson’s comments…interesting!

    Liked by 1 person

      jorobinson176 responded:
      February 2, 2015 at 12:51 pm

      Thank you Mira! It really does diminish how great a writer she was – I wonder what they’ll do to fix this.

      Liked by 1 person

    philipparees said:
    February 2, 2015 at 12:26 pm

    Well said Jo. I think the real give away word is ‘nevertheless…’ That really suggests that what you look like defines you!

    Like

      Jack Eason said:
      February 2, 2015 at 12:28 pm

      Except, when you are a writer Philippa, you’re looks don’t sell books; you’re talent does. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      jorobinson176 responded:
      February 2, 2015 at 12:50 pm

      And as if the “wit and warmth” sort of excuses the plainness and the weight, and totally kicks the author talent out of sight as to what’s important. I don’t think she’s plain anyway – she has a lovely face.

      Like

    Jack Eason said:
    February 2, 2015 at 12:28 pm

    Reblogged this on Have We Had Help? and commented:
    More from our Jo 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      jorobinson176 responded:
      February 2, 2015 at 12:52 pm

      Thank you Jack! MWAH! Never mind editors for Indies – looks like they need them for obituaries much more. ❤ 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    Charles Yallowitz said:
    February 2, 2015 at 12:38 pm

    Yikes on the obit. Though I think the twitter thing is a way of publicly shaming the source. It’s an odd alternate to open rage and ranting.

    Liked by 1 person

      jorobinson176 responded:
      February 2, 2015 at 12:55 pm

      You’re right. I read quite a few, and honestly they really will make you laugh. Also the saving grace is that they don’t actually mention her, so maybe it’s not a bad thing – that paper’s going to have to do some serious damage control now – they’ve managed to insult authors and anyone who isn’t thin in one sentence.

      Like

        Charles Yallowitz said:
        February 2, 2015 at 1:19 pm

        Humor can be a powerful tool in the face of such things. Has the paper commented?

        Like

          jorobinson176 responded:
          February 2, 2015 at 1:32 pm

          It actually can – maybe we should send out tweets too. That tool of a journalist who wrote that obit certainly needs shaming. Apparently they say that it’s an old obit that slipped by editing or something like that – definitely not believable as an excuse.

          Like

            Charles Yallowitz said:
            February 2, 2015 at 2:27 pm

            Weird. I didn’t think they kept obits on reserve.

            Liked by 1 person

              jorobinson176 responded:
              February 2, 2015 at 4:39 pm

              I’ve never heard of it. I know that some South African paper published an obituary for Nelson Mandela before he died – that was just the craziest thing. According to the Australian the writer of the obituary for her is dead too – which just takes it to a new level of weird.

              Like

                Charles Yallowitz said:
                February 2, 2015 at 4:44 pm

                Disturbing too. Maybe they have them ready for celebrities beforehand. That way they can release them the following day. A very morbid database is out there.

                Liked by 1 person

                  jorobinson176 responded:
                  February 2, 2015 at 4:47 pm

                  You’re spot on – it’s really morbid and not a very good reflection on journalism either. Creepy to think that someones writing about you dead when you’re still alive and kicking. Maybe for royalty and celebrities – still though it’s not cool.

                  Like

                    Charles Yallowitz said:
                    February 2, 2015 at 6:00 pm

                    It’s like they have very little faith in the subject’s survival.

                    Like

    davidprosser said:
    February 2, 2015 at 1:30 pm

    Hear, Hear Jo,
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    Karen Wyld (@1KarenWyld) said:
    February 2, 2015 at 1:37 pm

    As an Australian, I can honestly say that this newspaper does not represent us, nor does it properly demonstrate the respect we had for Colleen McCullough. We currently have a bad case of ‘Rupert Murdoch’, which has infected the quality of our media – and government. Apparently this obituary was written some years ago, and the (undisclosed) journalist has since passed away.
    Re the twitter #: Its an Australian thing. We ‘take the mickey’ out of the rich and powerful when they are not doing the right thing. Its our form of satire – the people Vs the privileged. From what I have heard of the late great Ms McCullough, it is thought that she’d be laughing in heaven at everyone giving the finger to Murdoch and his tabloid, on her behalf.

    Liked by 1 person

      jorobinson176 responded:
      February 2, 2015 at 1:46 pm

      I’ve actually just been reading about how not fond of Rupert Murdoch Australians are. I think it’s great how Aussie bloggers are so widely expressing their disgust too – you guys rock! I can’t get my head around why anyone would write an obit years before someone does – what about the things they still get to do? I’m actually ok with the tweeting thing – I think that Twitter can put people in their places very well. The image of Colleen giving Murdoch the finger from heaven has just given me a massive laugh. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

    inavukic said:
    February 2, 2015 at 2:52 pm

    I loved her energy for life, love her work, love her from all sides – may she rest in peace

    Liked by 1 person

      jorobinson176 responded:
      February 2, 2015 at 4:40 pm

      Me too Ina – she was one of the greats, and the thought of her never writing another book is a massive loss to the readers of the world.

      Like

    noelleg44 said:
    February 2, 2015 at 3:58 pm

    Thank you for this, Jo. We lost a powerful writer and voice in Colleen McCullough. This obit was the subject of a lot of comments at a Sisters in Crime meeting yesterday, and they were not complementary. While I loved the Thornbirds, her later books situated in ancient Rome were tours de force. I loved all of them, and there will be a hole in my reading life without her books.

    Liked by 2 people

      jorobinson176 responded:
      February 2, 2015 at 4:45 pm

      So true Noelle. Losing a great author is a big deal – they’re all incomparable in their own unique ways, and we’ll never read their words again. So much to say about her without ever considering her weight for an instant. I’ll miss her, and nobody will ever be able to write like her. Like even though I really enjoyed Alexandra Ripley’s Scarlett, she could never write like Margaret Mitchell. Huge loss to the world of books.

      Like

    Smorgasbord - Variety is the Spice of Life. said:
    February 2, 2015 at 5:41 pm

    Reblogged this on Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life and commented:
    Jo Robinson points out that the obituary for the wonderfully talented writer Colleen McCullough had some rather unnecessary embellishments.. and Jo – I used to sneak out of bed and watch Dr. Kildare through the crack in the door…I was a bit devastated too when all was revealed.. just think we could have both been fighting over the same man….

    Like

    mysm2000 said:
    February 2, 2015 at 5:44 pm

    Well said, Jo. This highlights an unfortunate truth about our society in general today — a great many people have no concept of what is appropriate or acceptable. Not only the writer is at fault here, but the editor and the publisher. RIP Colleen McCullough. There are those who truly appreciated you.

    Like

    Elizabeth Hein said:
    February 2, 2015 at 6:06 pm

    I’ve been disturbed by the response to Ms. McCullogh’s obit. People seem to find it funny. I find it appalling. Who cares what size her body was? It did not impact her talent, which is what she should be remembered for.

    Like

    Barb Drummond said:
    February 2, 2015 at 6:10 pm

    There is never a description of the obituary author, is there? Women seem to have their age mentioned more than men too.

    Like

    Silver Threading said:
    February 2, 2015 at 6:22 pm

    One of my favorite books. ❤

    Like

    Sherri said:
    February 2, 2015 at 7:03 pm

    That’s shocking, I just can’t get over it! Oh Jo, I adored Thornbirds too, the books and the TV show. And yes, had the crush on Richard Chamberlain too…! I love your post in honour of Colleen McCullough, so well written as always and you have written a wonderful tribute to her my lovely friend 🙂 ❤ ❤ ❤ xxxxxxxxxxxx

    Like

    Let's CUT the Crap! said:
    February 2, 2015 at 9:11 pm

    This is such bad taste as well as disrespectful. A terrible shame to be belittled by one’s own country’s paper. Not to keep beating this thing, I wonder about edits at that newspaper. Since it appears the obituary was written years ago, wouldn’t someone check to see if it was up-to-date and see the poor choices of words? Shame. Shame.

    Like

    Jet Eliot said:
    February 2, 2015 at 9:34 pm

    Great post, Jo, and right on. I will miss this wonderful woman.

    Like

    teagan geneviene said:
    February 2, 2015 at 10:42 pm

    You tell ’em Jo. I love it when you get on a soapbox. Huge hugs. 😀

    Like

    coastalcrone said:
    February 3, 2015 at 12:08 am

    I am glad I did not see the rude jokes and remarks. How dare they!!!!

    Like

    olganm said:
    February 3, 2015 at 12:25 am

    You tell them Jo!

    Like

    S.E.May said:
    February 3, 2015 at 5:03 am

    It would not surprise me if Colleen actually wrote that herself and left it to be used. She was such a matter of fact woman, I can hear those words coming straight from her mouth.
    She would not have been offended, she would have leaned back and howled laughing.

    Like

    mgill0627 said:
    February 3, 2015 at 5:36 am

    Well that’s just sad. What kind of journalist would write something so shallow? RIP Colleen McCullough, one of my all time favorite writers. Truth to tell, I never had the slightest idea what she looked like.

    Like

    theowllady said:
    February 4, 2015 at 2:57 am

    Reblogged this on theowlladyblog.

    Like

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