The intensity of such a life, confronted with the reality of death and an enforced intimacy with the grief of others, deepens her emotions: At Westwind that emotional range was blasted apart, allowing for ecstasy and despair like I had never experienced. Another death-positive campaigner is Brandy Schillace , a cultural historian based in Cleveland, Ohio, whose book opens by lamenting the curtailment of western death culture. In their human-hair brooches and skeleton pendants she finds a message for the modern world: During the Victorian era, doctors began to replace clergy as the familiars of death; Schillace examines how dissecting cadavers became a rite of passage for medical students, and the attendant ways clinical science has sequestered the dying from everyday life.
Schillace teaches humanities at the medical school in Cleveland, and is shocked by how much information her trainee doctors have to cram, leaving little time for the literary or historical texts she sets them. End-of-life care is relatively well developed in the UK as opposed to the US, and hospices are consulted and respected for their expertise in providing a good death. There has been a near doubling in life expectancy over the last years. The success of specialised medicine and the development of institutionalised care has meant less and less of us now look after the sick in our own homes, so when a loved one wants to come home to die, family carers struggle: But at the same time she challenges the wisdom that everyone should be able to die wherever they want to, reminding us that families have a say too: This is the infuriating paradox McCartney wants to address: Those in the caring professions see how damaging this attitude is: Our lives might pass in a flash, but what we do with our own flash of light, and its inevitable dying, still matters.
Books such as these are a valuable contribution to the debate about death, but will also facilitate those private conversations. We are all just future corpses. In addition to her philosophical musings, Doughty presents a nice historical overview of death and its many resulting rituals. Particularly interesting was how a book - The American Way of Death - helped popularize cremation in this country. Doughty's relaxed conversational tone, positive attitude and great sense of humor keep a potentially depressing subject from getting too bleak.
She offers a unique perspective on the fate that awaits us all. This book made me do a little rethinking of my own.
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Doughty's mention that to incinerate one body uses as much energy as a mile car trip, made me question if cremation is right for me. And while it was Mary Roach 's Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers that first made me give some serious thought to what should happen to my carcass when I'm done using it, THIS book prompted me look up Green Burial options in my state. Hopefully, when I check out in a few decades - fingers crossed, knock on wood - the choices will be bountiful. But it doesn't hurt too badly to think about it now. After all, I'm just a future dead gal, typing.
View all 6 comments. Nov 22, Elyse Walters rated it really liked it. Thank You to the Mystery Person!! Thank You to the Mystery Person!!!! Is somebody trying to send me a message? Apparently, the author, Caitlin Doughty, a fascination with death, is her life's work. The very first sentence made me laugh a little anyway They ' must' know each other and I love Mary Roach I can't believe how much I enjoyed reading Caitlin's memoir.
However, I liked Caitlin's human warmth I also enjoyed her candor about her own struggles within the funeral industry her own infatuation and preoccupation- if you will about her own emotional- wired brain I think two books in a row - "imagining facing death" - and "behind the scenes" of what happens to the bodies Is enough for awhile to say..
Caitlin Doughty worked at a crematory in the San Francisco area. She said she had been both fascinated by and terrified of death since she was a little girl, when she witnessed a child's fatal fall in a shopping mall. This book is a combination of her stories about cremating bodies, her research into the history of death practices around the world, and tales of woe about her love life and attending mortuary school I saw this title on a few Best Of lists for the year, but I thought it was just OK.
This book is a combination of her stories about cremating bodies, her research into the history of death practices around the world, and tales of woe about her love life and attending mortuary school. She also writes about wanting to help educate Americans about death so we aren't so afraid of it.
So masterfully do we hide death, you would almost believe we are the first generation of immortals. But we are not. We are all going to die and we know it. As the great cultural anthropologist Ernest Becker said, 'The idea of death, the fear of it, haunts the human animal like nothing else. Death drives every creative and destructive impulse we have as human beings. The closer we come to understanding it, the closer we come to understanding ourselves. Caitlin's writing style is immature, and she relies heavily on pop culture references. If this is your first book about death practices, you might find her stories interesting.
View all 9 comments. I think this book gets the award for best opening line. Caitlin is 23 and lands her first job as a mortician. Well, turns out she is terrified of death. Has been ever since she saw a documentary that depicted death when she was very young. She is obsessed with thoughts of her, her family, and friends demise. The beginning wasted no time in taking me right into the world of the mortici I think this book gets the award for best opening line.
The beginning wasted no time in taking me right into the world of the mortician. I got to learn all about what it takes to be embalmed, OMG and just how a crematorium works. Yet, this is not the focus of the book. Doughty is on a mission to show how our society has become separated from the natural process of dying. She talks about other cultures, and the rituals they have around death. It is the doctor now. How our culture is separated from death. She went from thinking it was strange our culture doesn't see dead bodies anymore, to believing this absence is the root cause of so many of our troubles.
Death is now seen as a failure of the medical system, so we've cleaned it all up. Everything is designed to mask death. From our obsession with youth, to all the beauty products designed to keep us looking young, even the embalming, done to make us look our very best. This book really has a lot to offer. It's not a heavy read either, in fact, sometimes it's too light. Still, I learned a lot of valuable information. Being exposed to death properly, at an early age is very important.
I don't have to be embalmed, or even cremated. Most of all Doughty exposes the real fear of death, and is leading a call to teach people how to take care of their dead like our ancestors before us. Really an excellent read! View all 51 comments. Nov 21, Jenna rated it really liked it Shelves: Have you ever wondered just what happens to your body when you die?
Many people avoid thinking about death altogether, uncomfortable as we are with our own demise and that of those we love. Others have a curiosity that is considered macabre and abnormal in our culture. I fluctuate between the two, leaning more heavily towards the latter. Like the author of this book, I think it is better to learn about what happens when we die in order to become comfortable with death. Or as comfortable as is po Have you ever wondered just what happens to your body when you die?
Or as comfortable as is possible when thinking about how your body will break down into mere atoms, recycled and used for other living things. Most people don't want to die, but no matter what one might want, we're all going to die eventually What the heck is taking them so long anyway??! And Other Lessons from the Crematory is part memoir, part history and exploration of death practices in different cultures. Caitlin Doughty relates how she became terrified of death when, as a young child, she sees another child die. As an adult, she decides to confront her fears head on and goes to work in the funeral industry.
She gets a job at a crematorium and this is mostly what the book is about, her experiences there. It is both disgusting and interesting to read about the process of cremation. She also tells us about embalming which I find much more disgusting than cremation! Written with the same acerbic wit that so delighted me in her more recent book From Here to Eternity: Doughty makes death accessible in a way that not many people can do. There are some parts that left me squeamish and even nauseated at one point like when bucketfuls of liquefied fat escaped from the oven, pouring all over the floor , but for the most part it's simply interesting.
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I learned quite a lot from this book which more than makes up for any ick factor. Fans of the macabre will enjoy this book but so will many others. If you like the writing style of Mary Roach, you will appreciate that of Caitlin Doughty's as well. View all 8 comments. This review was also posted at Carole's Random Life This was the best little book that I didn't even know that I wanted to read. I have to say that I would have probably never picked this book up for myself.
I didn't even know that this book existed until it showed up at my house a couple of weeks ago. My initial impression of the book when I received was lackluster at best. I thought it was an advance copy of a book at first because the cover looks just so unfinished. Nothing about this book scr This review was also posted at Carole's Random Life This was the best little book that I didn't even know that I wanted to read.
Nothing about this book screamed "Read Me" at first glance. But then I decided to pick it up and my thoughts changed very quickly. Whatever stars lined up on the day this book found its way to my home, I can't say but I am very grateful. This really is the perfect book for me. I have a slight fascination with death. My favorite class in college was Death Education. When the local coroner came to class to give a presentation complete with slides, I was completely impressed.
I have never worked in the death industry but my husband actually has delivered caskets part-time for the past couple of years. This book deals with a difficult subject in a way that really pulls the reader in. I think everyone could find something in this book that they would relate to in these pages. I liked that this book made me think and it also made me laugh. I didn't think that this was a sad or depressing book at all which is kind of surprising when you think of the subject matter.
I learned a lot from reading this book. There are so many misconceptions regarding death and the funeral industry. I do think that most people really would appreciate this honest look at the subject. Each of the people that are in this book really add to the overall story. Everyone from Caitlin's co-workers to the families who have lost someone they loved really had a story to tell. I liked the parts that featured Caitlin's co-workers because I feel like it takes a special kind of person to want to do this kind of work.
People who work in the funeral industry really see people when they are at their worst but they must stay at their best. It has to be incredibly hard to do that day after day. I really appreciated the parts of the book that really let us see how much this kind of work affected the author. I liked the way that this book was written. I was completely engaged in the book from the very beginning. I think it reads almost like one of your friends are telling you a story.
Even the more educational sections that gave some history were completely mesmerizing. There was enough lighthearted and funny moments to balance out the sections that were really anything but funny. I would highly recommend to others. I think that this is a topic that we need to know more about and this is an entertaining way to get a peek. This is the first book by Caitlin Doughty that I have read but I would definitely read more of her work in the future.
I received a copy of this book from W. Initial Thoughts I loved this book! This isn't a book that I would have ever picked up for myself but it was a great fit for me. View all 3 comments. Yes, it is about death, but not in the way one would typically think. It was difficult for me to describe this book to friends who asked what I was currently reading, as most would give me a funny look when I said it is about a woman who worked at a crematory.
However, I can say with great confidence that Ms. Doughty has written one of the most interesting, thought-provoking pieces I have read in a very long time. She poses many questions and notions about death, and does something not Amazing! She poses many questions and notions about death, and does something not many would dare toe the line to do -- ask why we treat death and the process of dying the way we do in our country. Naturally, people tend to fear death, however death can be an incredibly moving experience for those of us left in its wake.
Having lost both parents, my siblings and I might have a different outlook on it than some others who have not experienced such loss. Doughty's work hit a nerve for me in this regard -- death is a devastating loss to the living, but can be a celebration of peace and freedom to those who have died.
I highly recommend this title to anyone who enjoys nonfiction works that can inspire deeper-level thinking and personal exploration.
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Did not meet author at convention. I briefly considered becoming a grief therapist before realizing I was just too misanthropic to pursue graduate studies in counseling. So in some ways I am both less afraid and more afraid of death than many of my peers. I feel like I think about it as a realistic possibility as opposed to a vague, scary, distant concept more than most people I know.
And I actually enjoyed it quite a bit; I read the whole thing in a single day. It sounds to me like Caitlin applied for a job in a crematory because she A has the kind of darkish personality that leads to a fascination with that kind of thing and B had a kind of useless B. She spent a year as a crematory operator in San Francisco before pursuing licensure as a mortician and becoming the death-awareness advocate she is today.
This book is chock-full of interesting facts about the death industry part of the reason Americans started embalming the dead was because the number of Civil War casualties was too many to deal with before the smell became unbearable for anyone tasked with transporting them and the rituals performed by other cultures a tribe in Brazil that was forced to give up their cannibalistic traditions. Caitlin talks a lot about the kinds of activities that she performed on a regular basis and how those things shaped her views on life and death: Even the science of how cremation works was incredibly interesting, such as how the day is scheduled according to the size of the bodies.
I was a little disappointed that she kind of speeds through her time in mortuary school because, by that time, she had already decided that she disagreed with the positions of academic morticians. Doughty is a mortician, and has a remarkably positive attitude towards death, and she questions the need for change in the way people view death and mortality in general. I found this all incredibly morbid, but it was really very interesting. The subject matter contained within this book is gruesome and abrupt.
If one is pretty squeamish, then maybe give "Smoke gets in your eyes, and other lessons from the crematorium" is partly a memoir and also partly tells us the history behind death customs. If one is pretty squeamish, then maybe give it a miss, as Doughty goes into terrific detail of life working in a crematory. She seems to be very honest with her feelings and opinions, but not in slightest bit disrespectful when she does so. She tell us about the first time she had to shave a male corpse or the first time she came into contact with a decomposing corpse. I think, personally, Doughty tells us the gruesome and difficult to prosess details, not to shock, but to enable her readers to feel more comfortable when it comes to discussing death.
I feel she did that amicably. I found this book to be thought provoking, interesting and even funny, at times, and I'd certainly recommend it. Nov 02, Jay Green rated it it was amazing. Yes, I finished it on Halloween. Except I would have been happy for it to have had another pages to devour. I'm still on a kind of coming-to-terms-with-Dad's-death reading program, and since we followed his wishes and had him cremated, this book seemed like it would offer real insights into that process and help me understand what his remains went through.
But it was better than that. Caitlin Doughty offers a down-to-earth but always matter-of-fact and everyday approach to death and Yes, I finished it on Halloween. Caitlin Doughty offers a down-to-earth but always matter-of-fact and everyday approach to death and dying.
She doesn't pretend to offer much information on the experience preceding death how to accompany a dying person in their final days or hours, for instance or how to cope with grief and grieving, but that isn't really her metier, and I've been able to research elsewhere into those aspects of the death process. What she does provide is a clear and comprehensive account of what crematoria workers do, how they deal with the decomposing body, and how she came round to being a advocate for natural death.
I have to confess to a bit of a crush on her after reading this and watching her videos, but it's mostly because she genuinely offers empathy, help, and kindness in relation to a left-field subject in a not-at-all-weird way, and such kindness is a trait that's sorely lacking in this day and age. View all 5 comments. Jul 10, Darlene rated it really liked it. And Other Lessons from the Crematory is difficult to characterize. It's part memoir and part history of death customs; but it is also an advocacy for a much needed change in the way our society views death, the deceased and our own mortality.
The author, Caitlin Doughty, describes herself as a 'death-positive' mortician. She also blogs about issues and attitudes regarding mortality and she has a web series called 'A "The meaning of life is that it ends. She also blogs about issues and attitudes regarding mortality and she has a web series called 'Ask a Mortician'.
Caitlin Doughty explains that she has always had a complicated relationship with death. From the time she realized that the fate of human beings was death, she battled warring feelings of fear and curiosity. This book really is a result of her long emotional journey. She describes that, as a child, she witnessed a bizarre accidental death of a young girl at a shopping mall and this death has always stayed with her. So at the age of 23, with her newly minted degree in medieval history in hand, Caitlin Doughty decided to explore death in a more 'up close and personal' way.
She got a job as crematory operator at Westwind Cremation and Burial mortuary in Oakland, California and her experiences there were another step in her journey to make sense of her personal feelings about her own mortality and also to explain the way Americans experience death. Although the subject matter of this book may seem morbid and gruesome, I found Ms. Doughty's writing engaging, humorous and not at all grim. Certainly, if you are squeamish, then this book may not be for you because Ms. Doughty DOES describe in great detail although as tastefully as possible her experiences working in a crematory.
She discusses her first time shaving a corpse to prepare him for a family viewing before cremation and all the emotions engaging in that very intimate act evoked in her. She relates her duty of keeping watch of the body inside the cremation chamber and the shock she felt when she witnessed a flaming, glowing skull. And she describes being repulsed and curious about viewing a corpse with the blackened skin of advanced decomposition and a thick, spidery white mold covering the face.
All of her descriptions are startling and arouse feelings of revulsion but Ms.
Doughty is never disrespectful in her writing. Instead, she is matter-of-fact and entertaining and you can't help but feel she is regarding you knowingly.. It's apparent that Ms. Doughty's motive in providing the realistic and often ghastly details of death is not to shock or disturb; rather, I believe she is being intentionally provocative, hoping her readers will become familiar, if not entirely comfortable, with the reality facing all living beings She has become painfully aware through her work in the funeral industry, that many people have become quite separated and isolated from death and that has resulted in a culture that is full of fear, misconceptions and often in total denial of their own mortality.
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes
In order to understand how society has become so distant from the thoughts and emotions regarding mortality, Ms. Doughty provides a kind of history of death practices in the United States. Death practices in America were constant for hundreds of years. When a person died, the family of the deceased mostly women took charge of preparing the body for burial.
The family members would wash the body, wrap it in a shroud and lay it out in the home for several days, keeping a constant vigil over the body because of a belief that the corpse might awaken. Meanwhile, other family members or a local cabinetmaker would assemble a plain wooden coffin and the body would then be placed in the ground. The tradition of the family caring for their dead was the norm until the Civil War. It was the Civil War which started the shift in America's death rituals.
Because of the massive casualties incurred during the war, there was a need to devise a new way to transport the large number of dead soldiers back got their families. This need led to the development of various embalming fluids which could be sued to preserve the dead for their train rides home, often in the extreme summer heat of the American south. This technique of embalming the dead caught on and although initially, these 'undertakers' were not the medical professionals they are considered today, the death industry became quite lucrative.. It was the period from the turn of the twentieth century until the s that death rituals went from being performed in homes to being taken care of by 'professionals' providing more and more elaborate funerals, fancy coffins and extravagant flower arrangements.
And of course, more people began dying in hospitals than at home. These societal changes led to changes in how we thought of or rather didn't think of at all of the deceased. Family members were isolated from their beloved deceased for the first time in history. Although the extravagant funerals seem to be a thing of the past and there has been an increase in cremations in recent years, families are still very much left out of the death process.
This removal of the family from this last phase of life is part of what Caitlin Doughty is determined to change Through her years at Westwind Cremation and Burial; her extensive research into the history of America's death rituals and the death rituals from cultures around the world and her subsequent training in mortuary school, Caitlin Doughty, formed the educated opinion that America needs to change its relationship with death She concluded that when death became 'big business' and people began making a great deal of money off of the deceased and their families, a shift began to occur in Americans' thinking about death and mortality and people began to be pushed out of the end of life care of their family members.
Making that choice means we will continue to be terrified and ignorant of death Doughty advocates for better laws at all levels of government.. In the end, Ms. Doughty believes that connecting emotionally with our own mortality and participating in meaningful death rituals are important for the LIVING Replacing the myths and superstitions regarding death and the deceased with information and facts won't take the sting out of death but perhaps a bit of knowledge combined with meaningful rituals can provide comfort and acceptance.
This book is an honest, funny and thought-provoking look at a subject that is relevant to all of us and I highly recommend it! View all 7 comments. My fascination with the macabre and death is perhaps a case of staring at the boogeyman till he loses its power over me. This book gave me the opportunity to stare very hard! Part memoir, part research and full of the right intentions this book covers a range of death related topics: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers which is more of a laugh a minute type of book, this one handles the subject with a bit more compassion even though a healthy dose of humor is also present.
Trust me on this! The writing is not bad for someone who does not make a living off of it but its no literary masterpiece and overall is around a 4 star rating. However what the author is trying to do with this book and her very cheesy You Tube videos, is bring education and demystification to us, a culture that will do everything we can to ignore our own mortality.
For that effort she gets my full 5 star rating. May 10, Book Riot Community added it Shelves: A little bit morbid, a little bit gross, a whole lot empowering.
Smoke Gets In Your Eyes - Deborah Lippmann
She ends on a philosophical look at life and A little bit morbid, a little bit gross, a whole lot empowering. She ends on a philosophical look at life and death, how our culture views death, and how we can change that. Caitlin Doughty, at the age of 23, has produced an impressive, well researched commentary on how we as a society perceive death, talk or not talk about death, and view the body and what happens post-mortem.
She brings the death industry to light as well as the options available for burial or cremation. She speaks frankly and does not gloss over details that some may find distasteful. This is a book written by someone who has spent a lot of time ruminating over what makes a good death and what should happen with the body.
She has worked in various facets of the death industry, most notably a crematory and has attended mortuary school. Admittedly, I approached this book with some level of apprehension, presupposing that a book about cremation would be awfully dull. Yet, I was pleasantly surprised at the level of wit and humor sprinkled within such a dark and morbid topic. The author is wise well beyond her years. The fact that she can discuss these topics and make them so riveting, compelling, and in some cases, downright laughable make this book not only a super important read, but a highly enjoyable one.
I am an emergency medicine physician. I see dead people often.
One of the greatest gifts I can give a patient and family, is a death with dignity. Too often, patients come through the ER, without a hope of surviving a tragic accident or disease, yet everything is done to try. The more humane option in my opinion is to speak to the family about the prognosis and how much they want done. These conversations can lead to a much more peaceful end of life, and lead to a much more gratifying experience by all involved nurse, physicians, family and loved ones.
Caitlin speaks to the increasingly ever-aging population; the increasing physician-shortage, especially in the area of geriatrics; and the increasing need for care-givers for the elderly.
These are critically important topics which need increased awareness and discussion to be held on many levels. Caitlin speaks about the need for people to think about their own mortality and what they would like to happen with their bodies after their death. It is a huge burden to families and loved ones, emotionally and financially, to know what to do these circumstances when the wishes of the deceased are unknown.
This is a book that everyone should read. It is a book that will hopefully change misconceptions about death and encourage more conversations. Death should not be such a mysterious process. For pictures, discussion questions, links, please visit: View all 4 comments. Oct 20, B.
This is a quick read and a relatively light, frothy take on a dark subject. Doughty adopts the authorial persona of "cheerful goth" which largely works for her approach, combining anecdotal accounts of her time in the death industry with repeated polemics to bring death back into our daily awareness through proximity to bodies and decay, a la her "Order of the Good Death.
The biggest problem with her narrative is the astounding lack of progress that it shows. She talks all of the time about her philosophy of death and treats it as fully formed from basically before she started working at her first crematory, but then repeatedly violates her own principles without any rationale. For instance, she decries the professionalization and normalization of embalming, yet decides to go to mortuary school to learn the trade.
She believes in the importance of keeping the dead in the home and avoiding the masks of embalming to conceal death, yet runs her own grandmother through the death industry machine in its most disneyfied and obtrusive forms. Either she's deeply lacking in self-awareness, or more charitably, has bungled the timing of her story and is unable to imaginatively place herself back in the mental space she inhabited before this became a personal crusade.
If she only lately came to her current position through these traumatic and formative experiences, you have an interesting memoir of her journey to death activist. As it stands, you have the story of a funny but slightly airheaded young woman who is estranged from her own espoused doctrines. Doughty seems like too smart of an author for the latter to be true, so I will simply assume she was not given adequate editorial assistance to tell her story in the gripping manner it deserves.
That said, this is written in a breezy, slightly humorous, and winkingly irreverent way that definitely will appeal to fans of Mary Roach.
"Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" lyrics
I expected more of a literary memoir partially judging the book by its cover but this is pure bubblegum. Sure, she tosses in a lot of literary references about death, but the book's true nature is decidedly more pop. There's nothing wrong with a little bubblegum sometimes. That of being a mortuary worker. Sounds like bliss to me. Until I read this book which shattered those daydreams. There are some unsavory, heartbreaking and infuriating parts of the job that I never considered like. Incinerating Babies Gushing molten fat Cheap ass relatives Moving heavy bodies into the incinerator by yourself Heads.
But then again, no job is perfect, right? Caitlin Doughty captures her experiences while working at a mortuary and later going to school to make it official, with humor, insight and horror.