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CREMATION IN AMERICA

Fred Rosen, Author . Prometheus $25 (275p) ISBN 978-1-59102-136-0

This unusual piece of writing is equal parts social history and personal memoir. Rosen, a columnist for the New York Times and author of Lobster Boy , has gathered anthropological facts on the treatment of human remains in recorded history and goes on to lobby for cremation as a cheaper alternative to traditional burial, even for those whose religion frowns upon it. Curious readers will be able to pick out the pertinent research, such as the shift in cultural thought surrounding cremation from heretical act to sanitary public solution. However, Rosen's nonobjective approach to his subject and frequent use of rhetorical questions to introduce his ideas weaken the effectiveness of the data dramatically. The author can't seem to decide whether he's offering casual gossip or serious journalism. The appendixes, "Famous Celebrities Whose Ashes Were Scattered on Land" and "Famous Celebrities Whose Ashes Were Scattered on Water," are arguably the most inviting sections. This is best suited for younger readers with a nascent sense of the macabre. (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 02/09/2004
Release date: 02/01/2004
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