Three books on the end of life from three very different vantage points recommended by Beth Abdallah, Fellow of Odd Salon and connoisseur of the macabre.
Death: Regardless of culture or status, color or creed it comes for us all. That knowledge is terrifying for some, while for others it provides a source of morbid curiosity, beauty, and even amusement. These three books offer unique and varied perspectives on the only thing in life that is guaranteed other than taxes.
Rest in Pieces: The Curious Fates of Famous Corpses
Bess Lovejoy, Simon & Schuster, 2013
Author and friend of Odd Salon Bess Lovejoy has compiled a tantalizing collection of macabre and oftentimes hilarious accounts of people whose remains after death couldn’t be left well enough alone. There are tales of religious relics, corpse hostages, curses, and in poor taste pranks. It’s a fun romp through a field of the dismembered remembered and impossible to forget.
The Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs and the Perverse Pleasures of Obituaries
Marilyn Johnson, Harper, 2006
This little book is a cornucopia of delightful quips, poignant messages of grief, and a range of historical as well as contemporary context behind the writing of obituaries and why we humans are so fascinated by them. It delves into everything from traditional obituary grammar and punctuation to the nicknames given to obit writers and a multi-cultural and historical look at how and why we eulogize our dearly departed for the public’s reading pleasure.
Beyond the Dark Veil: Post Mortem and Mourning Photography
The Thanatos Archive, Last Gasp, 2014
This book is the most special to me. When I was 6 years old and visiting my paternal grandmother, Situ in Arabic, I was flipping through a photo album, delighting at pictures of my father and his siblings when they were young. Then I discovered a photo of my four year old Uncle George, dressed in a black suit and laying in a tiny coffin lined in white
satin. I have been fascinated by Memento Mori in its many forms ever since. This beautifully bound book, with its embossed cover, and page after thick and glossy page of color plates, newspaper clippings, and even advertisements is a gorgeous collection of post mortem photography. Many of the images are disturbing, many are heartbreaking, many are heartbreakingly beautiful. I love this book.
Beth Abdallah is one of the founding Fellows of Odd Salon and a nationally-certified American Sign Language Interpreter. She is also an enthusiastic appreciator of the Fortean and macabre, and creator of pretty, shiny things. Additionally she is an actor and writer for the vintage-style radio drama podcast Twelve Chimes It’s Midnight which can be found on Soundcloud, iTunes and Facebook.
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