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Margalit Fox in 2018
Margalit Fox (born 1961) is an American writer. She began her career in publishing in the 1980s, before switching to journalism in the 1990s. She joined the obituary department of The New York Times in 2004, and authored over 1,400 obituaries before her retirement from the staff of the paper in 2018. Fox has written several non-fiction books.
In the 1980s, before attending journalism school, Fox worked in book and magazine publishing. She joined The New York Times in 1994 as a copy editor for its Book Review. She has written widely on language, culture and ideas for The New York Times, New York Newsday, Variety and other publications. Her work was anthologized in Best Newspaper Writing, 2005. Fox moved to the obituary department of The New York Times in 2004. There she wrote over 1,400 obituaries before retiring as a senior writer in 2018, penning an article for the paper about her own retirement. She then began to pursue book writing full-time. She left the newspaper with about 80 advance obituaries that continue to give her New York Times bylines years later. Since 2013, Fox has been a member of the usage panel of the American Heritage Dictionary.
The Newswomen's Club of New York awarded Fox its Front Page Award in 2011 for her collection of work at The New York Times and again in 2015 for "beat reporting". In 2014, she won Stanford University's William Saroyan International Prize for Writing for her book The Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code. The New York Times also ranked the book as one of the "100 Notable Books of 2013." In 2014, The Paris Review called Fox "An instrumental figure in pushing the obituary past Victorian-era formal constraints". In its 2015 roundup of "Best journalism of 2015", Sports Illustrated referred to her as "The great NYT obit writer". In 2016, Atlantic Monthly described her as "the finest obituarist at The New York Times". Calling her "The Artist of the Obituary", Andrew Ferguson wrote in Commentary magazine: "Margalit Fox is one of those writers ... whose every paragraph carries an undercurrent of humor ... you're never more than a few sentences away from an ironic aside or wry observation or the sudden appearance of some cockeyed fact. ... Stranger still, Fox maintains her writerly bounce despite her regular subject, which is death. ...Fox is ... the best writer all around, at the New York Times. Her writing is featured in The Sense of Style (2014), the writing guide by Steven Pinker.
Fox has said: "In the course of an obit, you're charged with taking your subject from the cradle to the grave, which gives you a natural narrative arc. ... 98 percent of the obit has nothing to do with death, but with life. ... We like to say it's the jolliest department in the paper." Fox is featured in Vanessa Gould's 2016 documentary film Obit about the New York Times obituary staff. She considers that her journalism work was the perfect training for book writing: "All of the structural devices that a book requires - the formal techniques that give a story its shape; keep it moving along nicely; and introduce the reader, bit by comfortable bit, to new concepts - are already fully present in any good newspaper article. It becomes, then, simply a question of magnitude ... and endurance."
She is married to writer and critic George Robinson.