Remember Me: A Lively Tour of the New American Way of Death

Lisa Takeuchi Cullen, Author
Lisa Takeuchi Cullen, Author . Collins $24.95 (218p) ISBN 978-0-06-076683-2
Paperback - 218 pages - 978-0-06-076684-9
Ebook - 240 pages - 978-0-06-203068-9
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This intriguing survey of America's rapidly mutating funeral customs probes the one force mightier than death: consumerism. Journalist Cullen explores the innumerable ways in which funerals are being personalized, publicized, economized, commercialized, trivialized and, perhaps, humanized. Among the many offbeat memorials she unearths are funerals with Hawaiian, tango or Harley-Davidson themes, as well as beer-themed caskets, eco-friendly funerals, "human diamonds" manufactured from a loved one's ashes, and a Colorado town that celebrates a do-it-yourself cryonics pioneer with its Frozen Dead Guy Days Festival, now a major tourist attraction. In the middle of it all, she finds, is an uneasy funeral industry, squeezed at the bottom by cheap Chinese caskets and the vogue for no-frills cremation and challenged at the top by finicky boomer customers demanding more elaborate and symbol-laden rites (one poignant graveside dove-release attracted a passing hawk, with off-message results.) Cullen isn't much given to muckraking or dark pensées ; "Death is a big, huge bummer" is as morbid as she gets. Her set-piece retrospectives on the guests of honor at unusual send-offs sometimes seem dully eulogistic. But for the most part her vivid reportage and wryly sympathetic tone feel anything but embalmed. (Aug.)

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