Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach is the one-stop book for everything you ever wanted to know—or never wanted to know—about dead bodies. I read this book on the recommendation of Caitlin Doughty, who’s memoir Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and Other Lessons from the Crematory I also thoroughly enjoyed. Like Doughty, Mary Roach has a pithy and dark sense of humor, although at times Roach comes off as a bit less sensitive. Unlike Doughty, Roach is not a native to the mortuary industry and related realms, approaching these sensitive topics from the inside. Instead she is a celebrated journalist, in the spotlight right now for her latest book, Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War. Both Stiff and Grunt, among several other books, are part of a sort of series of works—all given one-word titles with clever subtitles—in which Roach examines a particular topic in depth. I think next I’ll have to check out Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife and Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex. Continue reading Review of Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
Last week, I got to hear author and revolutionary mortician Caitlin Doughty speak at the Strand as she promoted the paperback release of her New York Times best-selling memoir, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons From the Crematory. My review of Smoke was one of my very first blog posts here on this site back in July, and I’ve been a huge fan of Caitlin for several years. Needless to say, I was delighted to have the opportunity to finally meet her and get my advanced reader’s copy of the book signed. But before she signed any books, Caitlin addressed the modest crowd that was gathered in the Strand’s rare books floor to discuss her work in the death industry and answer any questions we might have about our own mortality. Her talk was both fun and informative, as you might expect from an alternative mortician-cum-Youtube star, and I’ve written up some of the highlights to share with you below: Continue reading Death-tastic Book Signing with Caitlin Doughty
The whole concept of starting a gothic blog came into my head when I first stumbled onto Jillian Venters’ Gothic Charm School blog a few years ago. Jillian is a wise and eloquent eldergoth with whom I share many of the same views regarding the gothic subculture and its aesthetic. I highly suggest you check out her blog, but I also recommend that you check out her book, as well.
Gothic Charm School by Jillian Venters is a collection of the amassed wisdom of the type that she dispenses on her blog, decorated with lovely illustrations by her husband. The Lady of the Manners, as she refers to herself, speaks in a charming style throughout the book (notable for her frequent use of the third person). Subtitled “An Essential Guide for Goths and Those Who Love Them,” Gothic Charm School is directed at a wide audience—both goths themselves and those outside the subculture who want to learn more about it. Jillian combines humor with practical advice in chapters ranging from “Dealing with roommates” to “Why friends don’t let friends dress like the Crow.” Continue reading Gothic Charm School Review–Book by a Fellow Goth Blogger
One of the things that makes goths special is that we are not afraid to look death in the face. We take special delight in exploring taboos, especially the taboo of death. The entire aesthetic of the gothic subculture reflects a time when people interacted heavily with death—specifically the Victorian era, with its elaborate mourning customs and associated wardrobe, art, and accoutrements. Unfortunately, much of mainstream American culture does not share our morbid proclivities. In fact, Americans seem to have become obsessed with shielding themselves as completely as possible from death and dying. We relegate death to the sanitized rooms of hospitals and allow funeral workers to whisk our loved ones away as soon as possible to be prepared for cremation or burial by total strangers. Did you know you can even order a cremation online and have your loved one picked up, cremated, and mailed back to you in an urn without ever interacting with a single human being or having to face any visual reminders of death?