No deep excavations into the mysteries of human demise here, but shovelfuls of intriguing tidbits for anyone curious about...




An amusing if grisly compendium of everything we never wished to know about mortuaries, cemeteries, and other less savory aspects of the Big Casino.

Anne Rice biographer Ramsland (Prism of the Night, 1991) seems hell-bent to corner the literary market on all things ghoulish yet true (see Ghost, below), but her chipper inquisitiveness seems incongruous in depicting “Strange Embalmings,” famous disinterments, the occasional rogue funeral home that treats clients as “a side of beef rather than a person,” and the like. Still, her enthusiasm knits together wide-ranging topics that feel more anecdotal than narrative. Noting that her introduction to the industry “was through scary movies like The Comedy of Terrors [with] Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, and Boris Karloff,” she is intrigued by the wholesome sensitivity and respect for tradition of the funeral directors she meets from firms including the online Electronic Funeral Service Association; the Upper East Side’s Frank E. Campbell Funeral Home, which since 1898 has originated many funerary customs; and a small-town Ohio establishment whose proprietors continue the disappearing tradition of living onsite: “[I] could just imagine the children . . . fantasizing about corpses and ghosts.” Although Ramsland touches on sensitive social issues relating to the changing face of death, such as the controversial purchase by conglomerates like Service Corporation International of many independent funeral homes and the discreet rise of for-profit cemeteries, her personal predilections seem to lead her towards the juicier pulp details. She adeptly locates these within history and culture, so that, for example, Poe’s work informs discussion of premature burial, sufficiently feared in the 19th century to inspire alarm-equipped coffins. Her depictions of such notorious postmortems as those of Lenin and Eva Perón add more depth to sections on autopsies and embalming, and she offers memorable examples of the tapophile’s (that is, gravestone fanatic’s) obsessions, like hard-to-find slave cemeteries and the alleged Parisian gravesite of Jim Morrison.

No deep excavations into the mysteries of human demise here, but shovelfuls of intriguing tidbits for anyone curious about what begins when life ends.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-06-018518-X

Page Count: 256

Publisher: HarperEntertainment

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2001

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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A sharp, compelling, and impassioned book.


A London-based journalist offers her perspective on race in Britain in the early 21st century.

In 2014, Eddo-Lodge published a blog post that proclaimed she was “no longer engaging with white people on the topic of race.” After its viral reception, she realized that her mission should be to do the opposite, so she actively began articulating, rather than suppressing, her feelings about racism. In the first chapter, the author traces her awakening to the reality of a brutal British colonial history and the ways that history continues to impact race relations in the present, especially between blacks and the police. Eddo-Lodge analyzes the system that has worked against blacks and kept them subjugated to laws that work against—rather than for—them. She argues that it is not enough to deconstruct racist structures. White people must also actively see race itself by constantly asking “who benefits from their race and who is disproportionately impacted by negative stereotypes.” They must also understand the extent of the privileges granted them because of their race and work through racist fears that, as British arch-conservative Enoch Powell once said, “the black man will [one day] have the whip hand over the white man.” Eddo-Lodge then explores the fraught question of being a black—and therefore, according to racist stereotype—“angry” female and the ways her “assertiveness, passion and excitement” have been used against her. In examining the relationship between race and class, the author further notes the way British politicians have used the term “white” to qualify working class. By leaving out reference to other members of that class, they “compound the currency-like power of whiteness.” In her probing and personal narrative, Eddo-Lodge offers fresh insight into the way all racism is ultimately a “white problem” that must be addressed by commitment to action, no matter how small. As she writes, in the end, “there's no justice, there's just us.”

A sharp, compelling, and impassioned book.

Pub Date: Dec. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4088-7055-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2017

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