If you’re a fan of macabre content on Youtube, you’ve probably already come across Caitlin Doughty and her popular web series “Ask a Mortician.” In her videos, Caitlin combines absurd, witty humor with professional insight to answer viewers’ questions about death. Apart from being a Youtube star, Caitlin has also founded an organization called The Order of the Good Death, which aims to dismantle the cultural taboos we’ve built up around talking about the fate that awaits us all. In 2015, she published her first book—a memoir called Smoke Get in Your Eyes and Other Lessons from the Crematory. You can read my glowing review of that book here. Now her highly anticipated second book has finally arrived, and it’s every bit as good as the first! From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death hits shelves tomorrow, October 3. You can also check Caitlin’s website to see if she’s doing any signings at the bookstores or cemeteries in your area. Continue reading Review of From Here to Eternity—Death Around the World
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
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?