DEATH by Greg Palmer


The Trip of a Lifetime
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 A sprawling survey of death practices around the world; a companion volume to a forthcoming PBS series. As the garish subtitle (lifted from a ride at a Buddhist death-oriented theme park in Taiwan) reveals, Palmer--a filmmaker, playwright, and broadcaster--tackles his subject with a heavy dose of irreverence. Death, he points out, permeates popular culture these days, from the Grateful Dead to resurrection motifs in Spielberg films. In fact, Palmer discovers, it's the rage across the globe. In England, he meets John Litten, an expert on funerals (``the funeral itself should be the knot on the bow of life''); in Ghana, he interviews Nana Adu, a fetish priest who casts lethal curses; and Australia turns up ``The White Ladies,'' a team of pretty female embalmers, while Ireland produces a man who both deals out and dodges death, a Sinn Fein terrorist. Most of Palmer's death-tripping takes place in America: He signs on to a tour of famous Hollywood death spots; pokes around a cryonic facility in California, where the corpses (``deanimated,'' not dead, insist the firm's owners) are stored in liquid nitrogen while awaiting resuscitation; wheels through a drive-in funeral parlor in Florida. Tempering all this weirdness are conversations with families that have lost children; with doctors working on longevity (one takes 83 pills a day); and with dwellers in a bullet-ridden urban ghetto. Palmer's patter, fast and flip (`` available to anybody with the money and the circulatory system to handle it''), falters only near the end, when he turns moralist to editorialize in defense of Jack Kevorkian and assisted suicides. A scrapbook of tidbits rather than a thought-out narrative; still, an enjoyable scamper through undiscovered country. (Eight pages of b&w photographs--not seen)

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-06-250802-4
Page count: 320pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1993


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