THE DAY OF THE DEAD by F. González-Crussi

THE DAY OF THE DEAD

And Other Mortal Reflections
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 The genesis for this latest collection of elegant essays from Gonzalez-Crussi (Pathology/Children's Memorial Hospital, Northwestern University; On the Nature of Things Erotic, 1988, etc.) was a BBC TV-series that started out to be a sort of day-in- the-life-of... but soon came to focus on death and dying. This isn't the book of the show, however, but Gonzalez-Crussi's later musings and reflections. The opening piece describes a prototypical funeral home in a working-class Chicago neighborhood, presided over by an octogenarian obviously pleased with his life's work. Gonzalez- Crussi quotes liberally from the embalmer's own writings on the death of John Dillinger, as well as on the fate of Eva Per¢n's body--subjected to elaborate preservation, veneration, and then attempts by anti-Per¢nistas to destroy it. The scene then switches to Mexico City, the author's birthplace, for essays dealing with the elaborate festivities surrounding the Day of the Dead. On this occasion, which takes place during the first week of November, pre- Columbian and Catholic customs blend in celebrations in which the departed are offered food and drink amid special offrendas--flower- bedecked altars with motifs of cheerful skulls and skeletons. This combination of irreverence, merriment, and fatalism, Gonzalez- Crussi suggests, characterizes the Mexican attitude toward death, a sharp contrast to the European legacy of lugubriousness and ``danse macabre.'' Meanwhile, in one of his most vivid pieces, the author recalls his solitary trip at age nine to a poor Mexican neighborhood: There, he viewed the body of a young child in a room in which the glorious abundance of flowers couldn't mask the stench of the decomposing body. Finally, Gonzalez-Crussi describes an autopsy, and discusses how death has been depicted in the arts. While Gonzalez-Crussi brings some levity to his subject here, the overall tone is serious--appropriately so--and should stir readers into their own memento mori.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-15-181192-X
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Harcourt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1993




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