Margalit Fox in 2018

Margalit Fox (born April 25, 1961)[1] is an American writer. After earning a master's degree in linguistics, she began her career in publishing in the 1980s. In 1994, she joined The New York Times as a copy editor for its Book Review and later wrote widely on language, culture and ideas for The New York Times, New York Newsday, Variety and other publications. 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 nonfiction books.


Fox was born in Glen Cove, New York, one of three daughters of David (a physicist) and Laura née Garfield.[2] She attended Barnard College in New York City and then Stony Brook University, where she completed her bachelor's degree (1982) and then a master's degree in linguistics in 1983. She received a master's degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 1991.[3] Fox also studied the cello.[4]

In the 1980s, before attending journalism school, Fox worked in book and magazine publishing.[4] She joined The New York Times in 1994 as a copy editor for its Book Review.[5][6] 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.[3][7] Fox moved to the obituary department of The New York Times in 2004.[4] 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.[6] She left the newspaper with about 80 advance obituaries that continue to give her New York Times bylines years later.[8] Since 2013, Fox has been a member of the usage panel of the American Heritage Dictionary.[9]

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[10] and again in 2015 for "beat reporting".[9] 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."[7] In 2014, The Paris Review called Fox "An instrumental figure in pushing the obituary past Victorian-era formal constraints".[5] In its 2015 roundup of "Best journalism of 2015", Sports Illustrated referred to her as "The great NYT obit writer".[11] In 2016, Atlantic Monthly described her as "the finest obituarist at The New York Times".[12] 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.[13] Her writing is featured in The Sense of Style (2014), the writing guide by Steven Pinker.[9]

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."[5] Fox is featured in Vanessa Gould's 2016 documentary film Obit about the New York Times obituary staff.[14] 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."[8]

In their review of Conan Doyle for the Defense (2018), The Guardian said Fox "has worked hard to reshape a classic Edwardian murder case to make it fit with our times. In particular, she wants us to see that the racialisation of crime is nothing new: bad science and economic insecurity have long been responsible for creating 'out groups' on whom we dump our worst terrors."[15] Reviewing the same book, The Wall Street Journal praised Fox's "eye for the telling detail, a forensic sense of evidence and a relish for research."[16]

In 2022 her book, The Confidence Men: How Two Prisoners of War Engineered the Most Remarkable Escape in History, was nominated for the Edgar Award in the category of Best Fact Crime.[17] The New York Times Book Review said that Fox "unspools the men's delightfully elaborate prison-break scheme in nail-biting episodes that advance like a narrative Rube Goldberg machine".[18] Later that year, Thunder Road Films announced that it was developing a film adaptation of the book, with Fox writing the screenplay.[19]

Fox is married to writer and critic George Robinson.[3]



Selected obituaries


  1. ^ "Fox, Margalit 1961-",, 2008, accessed September 28, 2023
  2. ^ Ravo, Nick. "Dr. David Fox, 78, a Physicist Blacklisted in the McCarthy Era", The New York Times, May 10, 1999; "Margalit Fox", Goodreads, accessed September 28, 2023
  3. ^ a b c "About the Author",, accessed June 16, 2013
  4. ^ a b c Cowen, Tyler. "Margalit Fox on Life, Death, and the Best Job in Journalism",, August 24, 2016
  5. ^ a b c Ronan, Alex. "The Art of the Obituary: An Interview with Margalit Fox", The Paris Review, September 23, 2014, accessed May 24, 2016
  6. ^ a b c d Fox, Margalit. "She Knows How to Make an Exit. You’re Reading It." The New York Times, June 28, 2018
  7. ^ a b Karampelas, Gabrielle. "Margalit Fox and Kiese Laymon win Stanford's 2014 Saroyan Prize for Writing", Stanford News, Stanford University, August 21, 2014
  8. ^ a b Tate, Leslie. "Margalit Fox: From Shoveling Commas to Changing The New York Times' Obits",, May 2021
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Margalit Fox". The New York Times. Retrieved December 27, 2020.
  10. ^ "2011 Winners". Newswomen's Club of New York. Archived from the original on November 3, 2013. Retrieved October 7, 2012.
  11. ^ Deitsch, Richard. "Best journalism of 2015; GameDay ratings soar this year and more", Sports Illustrated, December 22, 2015
  12. ^ Meyer, Robinson. "Not Doomed Yet: Obama and China Slow Coal's Roll", Atlantic Monthly, January 20, 2016
  13. ^ Ferguson, Andrew. "The Artist of the Obituary", Commentary, October 1, 2013, accessed May 24, 2016
  14. ^ a b Dries, Kate. "'Died Is Died Is Died': Talking with Vanessa Gould and Margalit Fox of Obit", The Muse: Jezebel, April 20, 2016
  15. ^ Hughes, Kathryn. "Conan Doyle for the Defence by Margalit Fox: review – a case worthy of Sherlock Holmes", The Guardian, June 13, 2018. Retrieved March 21, 2023
  16. ^ Mullen, Alexandra. "Conan Doyle for the Defense Review: The Case of the Innocent Man", The Wall Street Journal, July 26, 2018. Retrieved March 21, 2023
  17. ^ "MWA Announces the 2022 Edgar Award Nominations". Mystery Writers of America. January 19, 2022. Retrieved January 22, 2022.
  18. ^ Jennings, Chris. "Breaking Out of Prison With a Ouija Board and Some Clever Tricks", The New York Times, June 1, 2021. Retrieved March 20, 2023
  19. ^ Grobar, Matt. "Basil Iwanyk’s Thunder Road to Produce The Confidence Men Film Based on Margalit Fox’s Non-Fiction Book, With Fox Adapting; WWI Tale Follows British P.O.W.s Escaping Turkish Camp Via Ouija Board",, May 18, 2022
  20. ^ Fox, Margalit (September 18, 2004). "Virginia Hamilton Adair, 91, a Poet Famous Late in Life, Dies". The New York Times.
  21. ^ Fox, Margalit (June 25, 2009). "Betty Allen, Opera Singer and Educator, Dies at 82". The New York Times.
  22. ^ Fox, Margalit (January 1, 2012). "Emmett L. Bennett Jr., Ancient Script Expert, Dies at 93". The New York Times. p. 24.
  23. ^ Fox, Margalit (April 10, 2012). "Christine Brooke-Rose, 89, Inventive Writer". The New York Times. p. 17.
  24. ^ Fox, Margalit (May 13, 2013). "Dr. Joyce Brothers, Psychologist Who Dispensed Advice to Millions, Dies at 85". The New York Times.
  25. ^ Fox, Margalit (May 20, 2007). "Robert N. Buck Dies at 93; Was Record-Setting Aviator". The New York Times. p. 28.
  26. ^ Fox, Margalit (February 5, 2002). "Robert Chapman, 81, Roget's Thesaurus Editor". The New York Times. p. 23.
  27. ^ Fox, Margalit (April 13, 2012). "Lili Chookasian, 90, Contralto Praised for Her Velvety Voice". The New York Times. p. 21.
  28. ^ Fox, Margalit (December 8, 2010). "Hugues Cuénod Dies at 108; Versatile, Light-Voiced Tenor". The New York Times. p. 20.
  29. ^ Fox, Margalit (May 31, 2012). "Leo Dillon, Celebrated Illustrator of Children's Books, Is Dead at 79". The New York Times. p. 27.
  30. ^ Fox, Margalit (March 30, 2016). "Patty Duke, Child Star and Oscar Winner, Dies at 69". The New York Times. p. 18.
  31. ^ Fox, Margalit (August 29, 2007). "John Gardner, Who Continued the James Bond Series, Dies at 80". The New York Times. p. 21.
  32. ^ Fox, Margalit (January 19, 2006). "Jim Gary, Sculptor Inspired by Junk, Dies at 66". The New York Times. p. 21.
  33. ^ Fox, Margalit (February 4, 2012). "Dorothy Gilman, 88, 'Mrs. Pollifax' Novelist". The New York Times. p. 19.
  34. ^ Fox, Margalit (May 20, 2012). "Crawford Greenewalt Jr., 74; Shed Light on an Ancient City". The New York Times. p. 22.
  35. ^ Fox, Margalit (July 18, 2006). "Arthur Haggerty, 74, Master Dog Trainer, Dies". The New York Times.
  36. ^ Fox, Margalit (August 2, 2006). "Frederick G. Kilgour, Innovative Librarian, Dies at 92". The New York Times. p. 8.
  37. ^ Fox, Margalit (May 11, 2013). "Alice E. Kober, 43; Lost to History No More,". The New York Times.
  38. ^ Fox, Margalit (December 19, 2015). "Kurt Masur, acclaimed international conductor, dies at 88". The Seattle Times.
  39. ^ Fox, Margalit (November 24, 2011). "Anne McCaffrey, 85, Author of Fantasies". The New York Times. p. 33.
  40. ^ Fox, Margalit (November 20, 2011). "René Morel, Master Restorer Of Rare Violins, Dies at 79". The New York Times. p. 30.
  41. ^ Fox, Margalit (February 1, 2012). "Patricia Neway, Operatic Soprano Who Won a Tony, Dies at 92". The New York Times.
  42. ^ Fox, Margalit (November 25, 2010). "Ingrid Pitt, 73, Horror Star Who Survived Nazi Horror". The New York Times. p. 37.
  43. ^ Fox, Margalit (July 24, 2002). "Chaim Potok, 73, Dies; Novelist Illumined the World of Hasidic Judaism". The New York Times. p. 17.
  44. ^ Fox, Margalit (May 28, 2010). "Anneliese Rothenberger, German Opera Singer". The New York Times. p. 21.
  45. ^ Fox, Margalit (February 2, 2005). "Albert Schatz, Microbiologist, Dies at 84". The New York Times.
  46. ^ Fox, Margalit (July 6, 2011). "Jane Scott Is Dead at 92; Veteran Rock Music Critic". The New York Times. p. 18.
  47. ^ Fox, Margalit (March 31, 2007). "Tony Scott, Jazz Clarinetist Who Mastered Bebop, Dies at 85". The New York Times. p. 16.
  48. ^ Fox, Margalit (January 17, 2024, updated January 19, 2024) "Peter Schickele, Composer and Gleeful Sire of P.D.Q. Bach, Dies at 88". The New York Times.
  49. ^ Fox, Margalit (August 18, 2006). "Rudi Stern, Artist Whose Medium Was Light, Dies at 69". The New York Times.
  50. ^ Fox, Margalit (October 25, 2011). "Swami Bhaktipada Dies at Age 74; Ex-Hare Krishna Leader and Felon". The New York Times. p. 29.
  51. ^ Fox, Margalit (September 7, 2011). "Keith Tantlinger, Builder of Cargo Container, Dies at 92". The New York Times. p. 25.
  52. ^ Fox, Margalit (February 13, 2006). "Dave Tatsuno, 92, Whose Home Movies Captured History". The New York Times. p. 21.
  53. ^ Fox, Margalit (August 26, 2006). "Marie Tharp, Oceanographic Cartographer, Dies at 86". The New York Times. p. 13.
  54. ^ Fox, Margalit (March 28, 2010). "Blanche Thebom, 94, Star At the Met and Beyond". The New York Times. p. 26.
  55. ^ Fox, Margalit (October 5, 2010). "Dolores Wilson, Met Soprano, Dies at 82". The New York Times. p. 29.
  56. ^ Fox, Margalit (May 8, 2008). "Frances Yeend, 95, Soprano At City Opera and the Met". The New York Times.