The business of writing obituaries may seem, at first glance, a morbid affair. Just think of the title of Gay Talese's 1966 Esquire profile of the New York Timesobituary writer Alden Whitman: "Mr. Bad News." But obituary writing is far from depressing and some of the best non-fiction writing of the past 20 years has appeared in the obituary section. The writing is, at turns, poignant, lively, empathic, and full of wit. And a generation of obituary writers have paid tribute to celebrities as well as everyday people.