The Day of the Dead: And Other Mortal Reflections

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F. Gonzalez-Crussi has garnered wide critical praise and a passionate readership for his elegant and distinctly personal essay style. Here Dr. Gonzalez-Crussi takes up where his celebrated Notes of an Anatomist left off and ponders human mortality from his unusual perspective - the perspective of, as he puts it, "a corpse handler." The Day of the Dead is anything but funeral, however; the author's sensibility and writing style see to that. A visit to an embalmer apropos of a television documentary, for example, gives rise to a spirited discussion of the rather extraordinary "postmortem careers" of John Dillinger and Evita Peron, the latter rendered nearly indestructible by the embalmer's art. In the essay entitled "Of Skulls in a Heap and Soft Parts in Glass Jars," Gonzalez-Crussi visits a hospital in his native Mexico for the singularly vivacious celebration of the Day of the Dead - November 2 - and an exploration of the Mexican Way of Death. But it is in the essay "Lights, Camera, Stillness! Death and the Visual Arts" that the author gives perhaps freest play to his imagination, taking the reader across time, continents, and media to reflect evocatively on the intersection of art and death. That essay is an appropriately breathtaking conclusion to this provocative and entertaining volume.
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Houghton Miffin Harcourt

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