Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematorium Kindle Edition
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|Length: 273 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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Alternately heartbreaking and hilarious, fascinating and freaky, vivid and morbid, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes is witty, sharply drawn, and deeply moving. Like a poisonous cocktail, Caitlin Doughty's memoir intoxicates and enchants even as it encourages you to embrace oblivion; she breathes life into death. --Dodai Stewart, deputy editor of Jezebel.com"
[Doughty s] sincere, hilarious, and perhaps life-altering memoir is a must-read for anyone who plans on dying. --Katharine Fronk"
Caitlin Doughty is best known for her YouTube series Ask a Mortician, and she brings the same charisma and drollery to her essay collection Smoke Gets in Your Eyes. Think Sloane Crosley meets Six Feet Under After confronting mortality day in and day out, Doughty becomes more philosophical about her job. Evoking Kafka, she writes that 'the meaning of life is that it ends.' Everything must come to an end; it s just a shame this book eventually does too. --Kevin Nguyen"
Entertaining and thought-provoking. --Julia Jenkins" --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
About the Author
- ASIN : B00O45B8DK
- Publisher : Canongate Books; Main edition (April 16, 2015)
- Publication date : April 16, 2015
- Language : English
- File size : 1810 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 273 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #869,050 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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However Ms Doughty has acquitted herself quite nicely in this venture, one this reviewer is very interested in-about how do we want to leave this world and what it means to our loved ones. She describes the death care ritual and industry well and alludes to many alternatives. A review digression is appropriate at this point.
As an aging blogger who has spent his life as if there were no future, I happened to read Mary Roach’s book Stiffs and was inspired to make all of my end of life plans. They included what I imagined best for the environment and cheapest for my daughters who would have to bear the brunt of their old man’s demise. I won’t have much to leave them financially and so want to minimize costs at getting rid of what I leave. So I elected to donate my body to science and if Doughty is correct, there will be no cost to my kids for getting rid of my remains. That’s good. If my daughters want to have a memorial for me they can do that as long as the background music is Thelonious Monk.
I came prepared to read Doughty’s book knowing that my post-mortem life was assured, at least as far as I could plan. In the extraordinary event that I should be selected for the rapture then all bets are off. While I have always tried to be a reasonable man, it is my suspicion that the rapture requires other necessities. What do I know?
Back to the book at hand. Doughty’s is more a memoir of her experiences and philosophy, while Roach’s was of various ways a body can decompose. The former is very personalized and provided this reader with much inspiration about her history (short as it has been) to continue to think about how we view death in our culture. It is a discussion I have had with my equally aging peers many times.
There is something of a cult of longevity in this country. Futurists write about living for 150 years for example. We have a profound fear of death here as well. The commercial world is proffering their anti-aging solutions and slogans abound such as “50 is the new 70”.
It is true that later middle age is viewed differently than it was even when I was in my 20s. Older people are more vigorous as a rule, than they were 40 years ago. As the author points out, this anti-aging game is really for those that can afford it. I would suspect that if asked, Donald Trump would state a preference to live to be 150.
But all of the glory of youth and anti-aging is really a fool’s game. What are the costs of living beyond a reasonable lifetime? Resources go into letting some live longer and the population expands. My own 90 year old father has lost most all of his longtime friends to natural deaths. Simultaneously, people in poverty on an international scale get to suffer penury and starvation in order to live much shorter lives.
It is my own opinion that we ought to live lives with vim and when that wanes and nursing staff have to take care of us rather than a malnourished child living in poverty a few miles away, it is time to cash in the chips. It seems that we ought to fend for ourselves while we individually are able to but then let go when staff have to care for us. The costs of keeping an aging population (who can afford it) are misspent when there is so much need elsewhere.
My own mother only recently died and she shared my thinking. She had an option of having life extending surgery in her early 80s. She investigated the potential good of that exercise and discovered that there was a reasonable chance that the surgery could diminish her mental capacity. She opted out of that arrangement and lived several more years with her physical capacity dwindling but her mind sharp.
These are amongst the things that Doughty described in her book. She also made suggestions about the disposal of human remains when the time comes. This also a very emotional topic, one laced with cultural mores. It is her desire to have a green burial. Cremation has its good points but it is at a serious cost to our sketchy environmental resources. She likened the procedure to be akin to driving a car 500 miles. She describes other cultures and historical times who did a better job. The one I liked the best is one that if I had the wherewithal to do would be to go to a desolate place as death loomed, die and then let nature take its course like it does when a deer dies for instance. Flies, beetles, vultures and coyotes will prolong their own lives with the sustenance that my body could provide. I do not find that repulsive at all. Were I able to succinctly end my life that way I would. Doughty prefers to have plant life profit from her remains and there is nothing wrong with that.
As she often pointed out, her subject matter makes people uncomfortable as does her job. It was clearly her goal to make people uncomfortable so that they could re-think their views on death and the disposal of loved ones. She discusses the cultural aspects of our beliefs about the process and how they are influenced by religious dogma amongst other things. The repugnance that is often felt when discussing the end of life process has also been heavily influenced by the death industry. Like all other commercial endeavors there must be something to sell. In this case it is to people who currently have a unique vulnerability. We want to honor the dead. We are also filled with emotion. Funeral orations do not remind us of when Joe went to prison for usurping the retirement funds of thousands. They do not expound on how Mary only married Brad for his sizeable portfolio. Rather they remind us of how funny the person in the casket was or how they loved the local football team. Certainly they also remind the audience of really good things the deceased did when they have done those things.
Ultimately the dead do not care what happens to their remains. It is likely that many or most state preferences and loved ones abide by those in most cases. Doughty’s goal is to have society rethink preferences and to expand them far beyond ornate sepulchers and embalming. She wants us to think beyond cremation and scattering ashes in the sea or other romantic notions about how we cycle from ashes to ashes.
Her goal is to have us rethink the potential of disposing of remains that considers the physical environment that we live in. It is also to reconsider the social and cultural environment. We may want to ask ourselves well in advance of our assumed demise (yeah we all may be hit by a bus tomorrow) and plan our exit in a way that costs all of humanity less than the dying industry would hope.
Doughty hit on many things that have been pondered (and actually acted upon) in these quarters. She provides insight that is profound and often in a mirthful way. She discusses many things that were pretty much spot on for this reviewer and that is my disclaimer.
The author of this book has been fascinated with the subject of death and dying since she was a young girl and witnessed the death of another young girl who took a fall at a local mall. For years afterwards she was filled with angst and trepidation and described herself as "functionally morbid."
When she went to college she got a degree in medieval history with a focus on death and rituals and afterwards got a job working at a mortuary - the Westwind Cremation & Burial.
This book describes her experiences facing death straight on and how it actually eased her own existential angst and made her better able to appreciate and enjoy her own life. We not only read (detailed) descriptions of what happens to bodies in a crematorium, we also learn about other mortuary practices and what really happens behind the scenes.
The author makes such an important case against our own culture's tendency to avoid death (and aging!) and to try to avoid its very existence. She points out how in the past and how even today - in other cultures - family and neighbors took care of their dead and witnessed dying all the time. She points out how important that is to accepting our own death and by doing so, make it less frightening and esoteric.
Lest I give the impression that this is a depressing book, for me it was not. There are so many laugh-out-loud moments and when I finished the last page I found myself with a little less of my own existential angst.
This book reminded me a lot of science writer Mary Roach and I feel like I'd love to hang out and be friends with both of them. Ms. Doughty has such a pleasant writing style and when you're finished reading, you will not only have been entertained but educated as well. She takes on this sobering and angst-filled subject with an abundance of wit and sensitivity. I hope this book gets the attention and audience it deserves.
Top reviews from other countries
This book does not shy away from the more difficult subjects, such as cremation of babies, the homeless, medical specimens, etc. She documents it all, and in very good fashion. There are jokes to lighten the mood, but they're tastefully done and don't take away from the subject. If you've ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes of a crematorium, this is definitely the book to read.
Alongside Caitlin's work at the crematorium, she also explores the subject of death, and the Western world's difficulty, almost avoidance of it. It's true that the majority of deaths in the Western world are all hushed up and behind closed doors, and perhaps this is what leads to a lot of peoples fear of death - lack of acceptance. It happens to us all.
I couldn't put this down. Great read, would recommend to anyone with even a slight interest in the subject of death.
This is certainly not a tabloid-style, reveal-all story; it's written compassionately and with huge respect for the dead and those left behind. But it is an honest account of the author's life and times in the industry, an industry I, and I suspect most other people, know very little about.
Although Doughty talks about the American culture around death, I still found this an insightful & grounding book that helped me feel & work my way through my Grandad's death.
You rock Caitlin Doughty for your straight talking, humanitarian death talk. Thank you. I recommend looking at The Order of the Good Death website.
The book arrived promptly.