This installment: funeral rituals around the world (nf); a life reflected in books (nf); and a syndrome that seems extremely positive (nf).
From Here to Eternity by Caitlin Doughty
Remember The American Way of Death, a ground-breaking expose of the funeral industry? Well I think Doughty is a Mitford for our times. She’s a funeral director who tells it like it is—or should or might be—if the industry, regulations, and our own attitudes could see the light. Subtitled Traveling the World to Find the Good Death, this book takes us along to witness rituals that don’t try to whisk away the body but instead give it honor and attention. From mummies in Indonesia to bone-sorting in Japan to communing with skulls in Mexico and more, it’s an eye-opening journey. She’s also very funny as well as passionate and well informed. (I blush to say I didn’t realize the ecological nightmare of cremation but have my prepaid plans in place. Oh well…) Fascinating.
My Life With Bob by Pamela Paul
Subtitled Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues. This charming, candid memoir by the editor of the New York Times Book Review takes us through her life so far through the lens of literature. Which sounds Very Serious but is actually a great way to get down, from her shy childhood to her adventurous travels to the Wrong Man and finally the right one (whew). Throughout, the list of books (BOB) she faithfully keeps reflects her state of mind at the time and her growth along the way. And let’s hear it for those flaws—they make for very entertaining reading.
The Boy Who Loved Too Much by Jennifer Latson
Subtitled The Story of Pathological Friendliness, this book follows Eli and his mother Gayle for six years. He has a genetic disorder, Williams Syndrome, which includes elfin features, short stature, a heart condition, musical ability, and unmitigated affection for everyone around him. Gayle, who brings him up alone, has to struggle constantly to protect him and rein him in. Adolescence brings even more challenges and of course she’s always worried about his future.Her fierce dedication has to face the need to let go and ultimately by the time he’s in high school, he seems to be on the way to relatively happy and functional adjustment. Scientific background material here as well, but essentially a story of love under extreme pressure—my favorite kind of book.
Back next week.