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Grave Matters
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Grave Matters

2.93 of 5 stars 2.93  ·  rating details  ·  15 ratings  ·  5 reviews
The one universal fact of life is death. Yet different cultures define and react to death so variously that the events surrounding it are a key indicator of the exuberant inventiveness of each society. In Madagascar the bereaved may be required to engage in drunken incest, in contemporary America to watch the postmortem video. The Yoruba of Nigeria mourn the young but joyf ...more
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published September 15th 1997 by Henry Holt & Company (first published September 1997)
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Unfortunately, I couldn't get into this one. The subtitle is "A Lively History of Death Around the World," which didn't explain that it was a gloss of anthropological studies around the world. I think the author's tone is meant to be humorous, but it struck me as condescending. I struggled through the first chapter, in which he makes the point that humans grieve different deaths in different ways in different societies around the world -- and anthropologists almost always misinterpret what they' ...more
I really enjoy Dr. Barley's writing when he's in autobio mode, but as a scientific treatise this is a disorganized mess. "Celebrations of Death: The Anthropology of Mortuary Ritual" by Metcalf and Huntington is better organized, better written, and all-in-all better book. I think Barley tried to create a book more accessible to the masses than what many of anthropology tomes are, but the problem is that the audience doesn't change. Trailer Park Tracy isn't going to wander into a bookstore and pi ...more
I quite enjoyed this one overall (as much as you can enjoy reading about death, anyway). While some of the organization seems illogical or repetitive, the information Barley has collected here is fascinating. You can also tell he had an enjoyable time in the writing, making puns about modern Western philosophy “putting Descartes before the hearse” and commenting on wax effigies of deceased royals that “seem merely to be playing Errol Flynn rather badly.” Barley also isn’t afraid to challenge and ...more
Willa Grant
Meh- looks like thoughts strung together without any connections. Kind of stream of consciousness but not as entertaining. I was really not taken with this book. Death is one of my favorite subjects but this one is a miss.
While most people probably won't, I found it interesting. It isn't a single story, but a collection of instances and experiences of different cultures ways of dealing with death.
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