Author of the week
Caitlin Doughty clearly enjoys being around dead bodies more than most people do, said Bridey Heing in PasteMagazine.com. The 33-year-old Los Angeles– based mortician claims she’s had a lifelong interest in death but only recognized her calling when she pursued that interest by taking a job at a crematory shortly after graduating from the University of Chicago. “It’s hard to describe to people,” she says, “but really from the second that I started working at the crematory, it was, like, ‘Oh, this is what I’m supposed to be doing.’” She’s since found various ways to make it easier for people to talk about death, including hosting the YouTube series Ask a Mortician and writing a best-selling memoir. Her new book, From Here to Eternity, hops around the globe to show how unusual our particular funeral rites are.
Some of the practices she describes might disturb readers, said Tucker Coombe in TheHairpin.com. In Japan, she visited a hotel equipped with cold storage to let family spend time with a loved one’s body before cremation. And in Indonesia, there’s a tradition of mummifying and living with corpses for years. But Doughty frames our culture as the anomaly, and she questions whether our approach, which replaces close personal contact with an expensive process of embalming and burial, is healthy. In her mind, we’d gain a lot if we’d stop trying to distance ourselves from death. “When you sit with the body of a person you’ve loved, it’s clear that the person isn’t here any longer: They’re gone, they’ve left the building,” she says. “And you have to start integrating that into your reality.”
Epic Photography/Jamie Schoenberger, Sammy Z ■