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Remember Me: A Lively Tour of the New American Way of Death Hardcover – August 1, 2006

4.3 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

“Subtly funny, impeccably researched, and utterly fascinating . . . the liveliest book about death ever written.” (Cathi Hanauer, author of Sweet Ruin and My Sister’s Bones and editor of The Bitch in the House.)

“A must read for anyone who plans on dying.” (Mary Roach, author of STIFF)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: HarperBusiness; First Edition edition (August 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060766832
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060766832
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,315,399 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Michael J. Edelman TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 1, 2006
Format: Hardcover
In 2003, author Lisa Cullens was given an assignment by her editors at Time Magazine to look into new trends in funeral services among Baby Boomers in America. This seemed fertile ground for inquiry- after all, around 2.3 million Americans will die in the coming year, and as the population ages, this number will double, if population trends continue, by 2040. Cullens' editor was particularly curious in seeing her write about "wacky" new trends in funerals- NASCAR coffins, artificial diamonds made from the cremated remains ("cremains", in the language of the industry) of loved ones, and that sort of thing. But what she discovered on her journey went well beyond the curious and the strange, although that aspect is represented in this book. She discovered how, as the ethnic and cultural profile of this country continues to change, funeral customs have changed, too, among both the immigrant communities and the native born.

Cullens' journey takes her from the mundane- traditional funeral homes in New York- to the exotic- a Hmong funeral in St. Paul. Minnisota- and the truly bizarre, a pyramid in Salt Lake City where a fellow by the name of Corky Ra prepares bodies in something approximating ancient Egyptian mummification. Along the way she visits schools of Mortuary Science, casket discounters, mourning families, and Dr. Gunther von Hagens, the German scientist/showman, with his traveling exhibit of "plastinated" cadavers. Interwoven with Cullens narration are the stories of a number of recently deceased people, and how they, or their families, chose the celebration that followed their departure.
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Format: Hardcover
I loved it. I learned a lot about a subject that you really don't want to sit down and discuss with your family and/or friends. Lisa Takeuchi Cullen wrote in such a way that turned a normally sad experience into an elightening journey. I learned I really didn't know as much as I thought I did about the funeral business in America. It is not a depressing book. I laughed at many stories (and the puns...intended, I'm sure). I enjoyed her sort of "journaling" style. I did not want to read a book filled with statistics and business plans. I could not put this book down because each chapter was so interesting. On a recent trip I even got to see the Reef Balls mentioned in the book. A wonderful read and a book that just may change your final decision.
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Format: Hardcover
This fascinating, fun and quirky book takes death out of its usual context of fear and sadness and explores the modern rituals of death in a way that is emotionally easy to read. I felt a little trepidation reading this book, since my best friend's mother just died last month and I wondered if it might hit to close to home, but Cullen found a way of speaking about death and its rituals that is both respectful and irreverent, and it enriched my thoughts about death rather than cheapening them.
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Format: Hardcover
James Joyce knew that there was "fun" in any "funeral". Actually, he called it (in _Finnegans Wake_) a "funferal" or fun-for-all. The pun is an old one, but according to Lisa Takeuchi Cullen, plenty of people nowadays are more interested in fun farewell parties and creative novelties than in the standard weepy postmortem sendoff. In _Remember Me: A Lively Tour of the New American Way of Death_ (Collins), Cullen has reported back on a tour of unusual obsequies and memorials. She does give a nod to the traditional funeral (called by one marketer the "greet 'n weep") by dropping in on a class for morticians-to-be, but most of her chapters have to do with less ordinary ways of dealing with the inevitable end. She is not, she informs us upfront, updating the classic 1963 exposé _The American Way of Death_. The funeral industry, perhaps reluctantly, has had at least limited reform since that shocker. The variations on commemorations and dispositions she describes here are not a response to reform, but to demographics and the market. The time has simply come for baby-boomers, having "bulldozed most cultural norms from sex to music to hairstyles" to take on their reforms for the big sleep. Many of the new ways of dealing with the departed are funny, some are very strange indeed, and many are deeply moving, not only for the participants, but also on the pages as Cullen describes them.

One big change in disposition of loved ones is that cremation is much more accepted than it used to be. 56% of those getting a cremation will wind up in an urn. There are traditional marble urns, the sort that would have looked good on a mantel a couple of centuries ago. There are wooden boxes like shoeboxes, but with intricate lid carvings.
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Format: Hardcover
Lisa Takeuchi Cullen's Remember Me, takes us on a journey to the discovery of new and invasive ways that people are reinventing how they want to be buried all across the country. Throughout her journey she finds the disparity between the individualization of American's and the funeral industry. Cullen's research is very humorous and engaging for all readers, but at the same time it gives people a better sense of the reality of death. The impact of different burials within modern day society is changing and she explains this to her viewers from first hand experience. People who were involved in the Baby Boom are growing and the traditional practices that they followed are becoming uncommon as the norm today. At the end of Cullen's introduction she makes a very powerful statement in regards to the title of the book, it states, "remember me that is all their loved ones asked" (Cullen, xvii). Even though times are changing this is one commonality that is found within her research across the country. The brilliant presence that she brings to her words helps us see our environment and the individualization that each person amongst it brings into the content of this book.
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