Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: smoke-gets-in-your-eyes
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-03-10 01:33
I swear I'm okay
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory - Caitlin Doughty

I've been thinking about death a lot. And not in an existential way or in a 'oh man she needs professional help' kinda way. I've been thinking about the culture of death and how I'd like my own death to be handled. To that end, I chose a few titles which I'm convinced has skewed the way my co-workers view me. (lol but really) The first is Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty. (I'll be discussing her second book at a later date.) This is the autobiographical story of how Caitlin came to work in a crematory and the path that it led her down to discover the 'good death'. It's an exceptionally frank discussion of death but more specifically death culture (or lack thereof) in the United States. Here in America it's a taboo subject. Many people choose to remain ignorant of the reality of death because of a fear of their own (and their loved one's) mortality. Caitlin talks about the current death practices of burial, embalming, cremation, green burials (many different kinds), and donation to science. It reminded me that I should really draw up a will with the specifics of what I want and then discuss it with those who will most likely be honoring my wishes. (And you'd better do what I say or I'll haunt you! hahaha but really)


The truth is we are all going to die one day. Wouldn't it be better to see this as natural and be prepared for it? Having open discussions with those who will be charged with taking care of you after you have died makes the process less fraught with uncertainties and fear. Centuries ago, death was embraced because it was necessary to confront it head-on. There were no mortuaries like we know them today. The family was the one who cleaned, wrapped, and sometimes buried the bodies. The grieving process wasn't rushed but was allowed to progress naturally. (Think about the last funeral you attended and how the viewing was timed. Nowadays, you have to leave the cemetery before the casket is even lowered into the earth. Everything is orchestrated and sterile.) I don't think it's morbid to plan ahead and to try to make it as simple and straightforward as possible so that in the end it's about the life that I led and not the stress and confusion of what to do with me once I'm dead. 8/10


Something I made a few years ago about a similar book.


What's Up Next: The Portable Nineteenth-Century African American Women Writers edited by Hollis Robbins and Henry Louis Gates


What I'm Currently Reading: Fly on the Wall: How One Girl Saw Everything by E. Lockhart


Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2015-03-10 03:45
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, by Caitlin Doughty
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory - Caitlin Doughty

Surprisingly, I'm the first person to check out my library's copy of Caitlin Doughty's Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory.


When Doughty was eight years old, she witnessed the accidental death of a girl at a mall. The incident led to Doughty developing a series of rituals to ward off her own death and the deaths of her parents and loved ones. While Doughty eventually grew out of her death-related OCD, she never lost her interest in all things Death...


Read the rest of my review at Summer Reading Project.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2014-10-24 03:29
Smoke Gets In Your Eyes: And Other Lessons From the Crematory
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory - Caitlin Doughty

One-sentence review: A lovely little starter book from Caitlin Doughty, gently introducing readers to some of her thoughts about death culture and the American death industry by talking about the evolution of her own thoughts on the subject; but I hope a more in-depth (non-memoir), researched volume will arrive someday, pressing her points with data, biology, and examples. 


I follow Doughty online. I love the mission that she's on: to get Americans to talk about death, to live with it, and to understand it, so that it's a part of their lives. A point she's careful to make in the book is that life is more beautiful because we die, and I believe that's true. It gives life meaning, purpose, and an urgency that's essential to creativity. A corollary to this is the fact that fear of death prevents us from understanding our lives. Americans have removed themselves from death so thoroughly, we're often at the point of not quite accepting that we will inevitably all die. Most have never even seen a dead body in its natural state, which is almost inconceivable given that everyone dies. Instead, we shunt our sick to hospitals, stuff our elderly in nursing homes, and flood ourselves with horror movies and Halloween gore, trying to satiate those deeper questions we have, titillating our fear, and dancing around more meaningful thoughts about mortality.


This isn't Doughty's "green-burial revolution" book, which I mistakenly thought it would be. But she does include most of the important points she covers on her website, "The Order of the Good Death," and in her YouTube series, "Ask a Mortician." Namely: family and friends should know to ask for "witness" cremations, where they view the body burning and even push the button; bodies don't need embalming unless they're going to be shipped overseas; families can wash and shroud the body themselves; the body is the family's quasi-property (no one can force you to do anything you don't want with it); other than in the case of Ebola, corpses are not health hazards, even when they decompose; you have to see death up close to grow comfortable with it.


What she neglected to cover. There are so many persuasive facts Doughty failed to talk about while discussing what we erroneously call "traditional burials"--that is, burials with an embalmed body, a gasket-sealed metal casket, and a steel or concrete vault surrounding the body in the ground. The millions of gallons of eco-unfriendly formaldehyde-based chemicals that go in the bodies, down the drain, and into the ground; the energy wasted in producing caskets and vaults that ultimately do nothing to preserve the body; and more. I wanted statistics and comparisons and examples. I wanted to hear about how an embalmed corpse decomposes (versus a natural corpse). I wanted to hear about the chemistry of "liquid cremation" and what exactly gets handed back to the family. (Are the bones still all that's left, and are they crushed? Where does the used [lye-like] liquid go, and why is it safe for the environment? How many times can you reuse the liquid?) My friend read the book at the same time I did, and pointed out that too much depth, too many facts, too much "non-fiction" might have scared away Doughty's target audience. Instead, she argued, this is a personable, warm account of Doughty's first year as a crematory operator, and her experiences in mortuary school, with the message tucked away as stories, not as data. That is, just enough to get the hipsters interested in her cause, without scaring them away with morbid prose; just enough to get her some professional "cred," while the funeral industry studiously ignores her. My friend may be right, this is probably a better opening literary gambit than what I wanted: a dry, revolutionary, be-all, end-all "green burial" tome from an expert in the field.


But thirty is perhaps too young for a memoir. I loved the personal observations in Thomas Lynch's The Undertaking, but I think it was because he was old enough to have something to say. With Doughty, you get the sense that her own feelings about death are not quite settled. She admits to having been afraid--before her job in the crematory inured her--of her body being "scattered" after death. But while she wants to believe she has overcome that fear, her slight disdain for some of the uses for bodies donated to science betrays a lack of comfort with her claim that our "borrowed" bodies return to the earth one way or the other. The notion of cosmetic surgeons practicing on decapitated cadaver heads, or bodies being tossed out of planes to test parachutes, does not seem to please her, knowing that the dead person probably hoped to enrich other areas of science. But doesn't this ignore the point that the dead body doesn't care? Finally, while I was interested in her near-suicide story, I wasn't sure how it advanced the cause of the book. (It did fascinate me that, like so many people in their twenties, even this dynamic, intelligent, pretty person was a bit adrift, trying to find her place in the world and to find people [other than her devoted family] who would love her.)


Neither here nor there. I thought these books, in displays near each other, were cute doppelgangers. 


More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?