JavaScript disabled or chat unavailable.

Have a question?

We have answers!
Chat Monday-Friday, 8 AM - 5 PM (except MS state holidays)
Phone: 601-432-4492 or Toll free: 1-877-KWIK-REF (1-877-594-5733)
Text: 601-208-0868
Email: mlcref@mlc.lib.ms.us

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Always Look On The Bright Side Of Death

I've been merrily whistling that tune to myself ever since I ran across one of our books on the new non-fiction display: The Whole Death Catalog: A Lively Guide To The Bitter End. This is the end-all be-all Book of the Dead. The author, Harold Schechter, found room for anything and everything even remotely related to the dead and dying including:
  • Instructions, like how to make your own mummy, how to make your own corpse, and yes, how to make your very own Hand of Glory (really complicated, let me assure you!)
  • Useful websites, like The Death Clock to find your date of death (mine is Monday, October 14, 2030) and Dead Baby Jokes, which warns that those who are squeamish ought to visit Cute Quotes instead. (Please note-I am squeamish.)
  • Superstititions, like "If you see an ant in winter, all the members of your household will die" or "If you walk or ride past a cemetery without tucking in your thumbs, one of your parents will die" (p 135).
I could, and would, go on and on. I promise to bring this to a quick and bloodless end and leave you with my two top toxic tidbits:
  • "Ancient Greeks...buried their dead in coffins from a special limestone that was supposed to speed composition. As a result, these coffins were called sarkophagi, or 'flesh-eaters' (from the Greek sarx, meaning 'flesh,' and phagos, meaning 'to eat'). The word sarcophagus subsequently came to mean any stone coffin" (p 109).
  • In some cultures, when a husband died, the wife was expected to quickly follow suit. "In the Melanesian New Hebrides (and yes, I had to know where that was!) ...a special conical cap made of spiders' webs was used for smothering widows--the task being performed by the widow's son. (p 236)"
How do you make a cap out of spiders' webs?

Schechter, Harold. The Whole Death Catalog: A Lively Guide To The Bitter End. New York: Ballantine Books. 2009.

1 comment:

  1. Wow. Sounds like a good conversation starter book to have on your coffee table.

    Great blog, by the way. We just started one here at MS Department of Archives and History. Check it out! http://mdah.state.ms.us/senseofplace/

    ReplyDelete