Caitlin Doughty wrote the book on death: Last year's Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, whose title references the popular Platters hit and the emotions associated therewith, but also ties to how actual smoke gets in your eyes when you're cremating a corpse and have to go in there and stir the bones. While many readers may not be able to relate to that last part, Doughty certainly can; she's been answering questions (and dishing the gory deets) about it in her web series Ask a Mortician since 2012. Tonight, she'll answer them in person at Fresh City Life.
Over the course of three macabre years, she's been asked everything from "Do you sever the hamstrings of corpses so they don't sit bolt upright during cremation?" (see above; answer: "Uh... no") to "What is the worst way to die?" (see below; answer: "Scaphism," which is, well, we'll let Doughty field this one).
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But there's more to Doughty's appeal than just gross-out stories and disturbing particulars; she's also wry, funny and thoughtful, and she's on a mission to change the way we think about death — to put away our fear and apprehension, to help us accept death as a natural consequence of life, even embrace it. But don't take it from us. Take it from the New York Times Review of Books:
[Smoke in Your Eyes] is more consequential than its spin potential, and though it contains frank descriptions of decay, body fluids and human ashes, it is ultimately more philosophical than lurid, more cultural critique than exposé. While the narrative is engaging and even wicked, it is also the least important element in a work that uses private experience to illustrate public insight, which in Doughty’s case is this: By systematically insulating ourselves from death’s physical manifestations, Americans are deprived emotionally, psychologically, spiritually and — not to be dismissed — financially, in ways our ancestors would have abhorred.
Doughty will read, discuss and sign books from 7 to 9 p.m. tonight at Fresh City Life at the Central Branch of the Denver Public Library, level B2 Conference Center; seating is limited, so registration is encouraged. See you on the other side.