Farewell, Godspeed is a remarkable collection of eulogies for some of the most notable figures of our time, delivered by the people who knew them best. In the words used to eulogize the great and celebrated men and women of the world--sometimes reverential, sometimes funny, always poignant--we come as close as perhaps we ever will to seeing the warm humanity beneath their public personas.
Cyrus M. Copeland has gathered some of the greatest of these writings about artists, scientists, authors, public servants, entertainers, and others who have captured our attention by making the world a better, or at least a livelier, place. Here is Andy Warhol's close friend describing Warhol's hidden spirituality. Albert Einstein's assistant recounting his humanism. Edward Kennedy remembering with a brother's tenderness the life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Larry McMurtry's lively and loving tribute to Irving "Swifty" Lazar. And Robert Bernstein, longtime publisher and friend of Dr. Seuss, memorializing him with special, never-before-published verse. Also included are the eulogies of the Challenger astronauts by President Ronald Reagan; Charles Schulz by Cathy Guisewite (creator of the comic strip Cathy); Bette Davis by James Woods; Bob Fosse by Neil Simon; Lucille Ball by Diane Sawyer; Martin Luther King Jr. by Benjamin E. Mays; David O. Selznick by Truman Capote; Karl Marx by Friedrich Engels; and Gianni Versace by Madonna.
In these moving and personal tributes we see at last the vulnerabilities and nuances of character that are often hidden from the spotlight, and the true personalities behind the names we remember.
Saying goodbye is never easy, but this compilation of eulogies mourning the loss of some of the greatest contemporary legends celebrates the beauty and humanity of words that bid loved ones a final adieu. Copeland includes scientists, musicians, politicians, actors, and others who have contributed to culture and society, whose eulogies by close friends, family, or colleagues bring to the fore a sense of the individuals, of who they were on and off the world stage. "In their recounting, we glimpse what made these people real-their fragile lives reconstructed as their vulnerabilities and nuances come to surface...Here also is a reminder of the heights of human accomplishment, told with the poetry of loss." With over 50 entries (Madonna on Gianni Versace, Ossie Davis on Malcolm X, Orson Welles on Darryl Zanuck), this collection pays homage to and often provides a unique perspective on the men and women whose lives and deaths influenced us all.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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December 22, 2003
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Excerpt from Farewell, Godspeed by Cyrus M. Copeland
By Max Eastman, political sympathizer and friend
Written on the occasion of her death
Isadora Duncan was the last friend I saw when I left Europe this spring. She stood in the little crowd on the platform at the Gare Saint Lazare. I was standing at the car window, laughing and half crying at the sadly funny excitement of people parting with their friends, and suddenly I heard her voice calling my name and "Good-bye!" She raised her hand when I caught sight of her, and stood still with it raised in the air and moving slowly in a serene and strong benediction. A great beam of that energetic and perfectly idealistic light shone out of her eyes to me. She looked very great. She looked like a statue of real liberty.
It made me sad for a long time, because greatness in this little world is sad. Greatness coming to an unhappy end is almost unendurable, and I had felt that Isadora was coming to an unhappy end. I felt it underneath all the delightful bubbling of her mirth when I saw her during the winter in Cannes. It was at the house of our friend Lucien Monod, a Communist and an artist. She had just received a cablegram that money would be forwarded for her memoirs, and she was full of laughing joy--that wild, reckless, witty joy that all her friends remember. Isadora could sprinkle the whole world with her wit and make it shine.
Isadora Duncan was one of the great men and women--more indubitably so, I think, than any other artist who has lived in our time. They speak of Duse and Sarah Bernhardt and Isadora as a trio of great women, but Isadora was incomparably above the other two. She was not only a supreme artist as they were, endowed by nature with momentous power and the perfect gift of restraining it, but she was also a great mind and a moral force. She used her momentous power, as the giants of mankind have always done, not only to entertain the world but to move it.
And she did move it. It is needless to tell how she changed the art of dancing. She was a revolution in that art, and so to some extent in the whole art of theater. All the civilized world acclaimed her, and recognized in that young brave girl's beautiful body, running barefoot and half-naked, running and bending and pausing and floating in a stream of music, as though the music had formed out of its own passion a visible spirit to live for a moment and die when it died--all the world recognized in that an artistic revolution, an apparition of creative genius, and not merely an achievement in the established art of the dance.
But I think few people realized how far beyond the realm of art--how far out and how deep into the moral and social life of our times--the influence of Isadora Duncan's dancing extended. All the bare-legged girls, and the poised and natural girls with strong muscles and strong, free steps wherever they go--they all owe more to Isadora Duncan than to any other person. And the boys, too, they have a chance to be unafraid of beauty, to be unafraid of the natural life and free aspiration of an intelligent animal walking on the earth--all who have in any measure escaped from the rigidity and ritual of our national religion of negation, all of them owe an immeasurable debt to Isadora Duncan's dancing. She did not only go back into the past to Athens to find that voluntary restraint in freedom that made her dancing an event in the history of art. She went forward into the future--farther, I suppose, than Athens--to a time when man shall be cured altogether of civilization, and return, with immunity to that disease if with few other blessings, to his natural home outdoors on the green surface of the earth. That made her dancing an event in the history of life.
Isadora was exiled--banished by more than an accident of the marriage law--from America. But nevertheless Isadora was very American. The big way in which she conceived things, and undertook them, and the way she succeeded with them, was American. Even her faults were American--her passion for "pulling off stunts"--"gestures" is the way she would say it--was American. She made a grand sport of her public position and character. She played with publicity like a humorous Barnum. Even her extravagant and really bad irresponsibility, which went almost to the point of madness in later years, was in the reverse sense an American trait. It was an exaggerated reaction against America's "righteousness." Wrongtiousness is what you would have to call it if you wished to appraise it with a sense of its origin.