Nathaniel Popkin in The Rumpus:
Robert Rauschenberg, Mary Ellen Mark, Christopher Hitchens, Osama bin Laden, Václav Havel, Cy Twombly, Susan Sontag, Chinua Achebe, David Foster Wallace, Arthur Danto, and Thomas Kinkade: you are very dead. You, too, Günter Grass, Mikhail Kalashnikov, Roman Opalka, Tom Clancy, and the 13 other critics, painters, musicians, and inventors whose lives are the subjects of this alluring volume of eulogies by the writers Stefany Anne Goldberg and Morgan Meis.
Most of these 20th century people have died since 2008, around the time that Goldberg and Meis began writing the eulogies, which have appeared in The Smart Set, n+1, 3 Quarks Daily, and the New Yorker. The eulogies, to which the authors lend a homespun energy and quiet integrity, aren’t distant summations, but rather, they say, opportunities for intimacy. “It’s almost as if the person becomes more real by having so recently left us,” Goldberg and Meis write in the introduction. They suggest that “death gives us a chance truly to connect our own life with the life of the person who has died.”
Dead People is, then, a book of connections and interrogations, the object of which is the nature of reality itself and how we face it, if we can. Goldberg and Meis fix a gentle but inquisitive gaze on the lives of their dead as if they are modeling the form of their inquiry on its function. Some particularly monstrous realities of the 20th century—mass slaughter, failed ideologies, fast food, the dispossessed—demand courage to bear, but are also fertile ground for writers and artists. Those who faced them, the authors assert, directed the cultural flowering of their century.