My method for picking out books at the library is not sophisticated: I look for the shelf where the covers face outward (which is usually New Releases or Staff Picks) and then surf until I see something that piques my interest. The real issue is limiting myself to only as many books as I can read in one checkout period, or, barring that, only as many books as I can carry on my own without hiring a Sherpa.

In my my most recent visit to the library, I managed to escape with only three books:

“A Column of Fire” by Ken Follett – a mighty tome of roughly a thousand pages about the continuing adventures of the people of Kingsbridge- I already knew it would be a reliably entertaining read.

“Factotum” by Charles Bukowski – because writerly folk love to get gushy about Charles Bukowski and I was interested to see what all the fuss was about.

and “Confessions of a Funeral Director: How The Business Of Death Saved My Life” by Caleb Wilde – because, fuck it, why not?

“A Column of Fire” was a new release, Hot off the Press! the library dust jacket assured me, which meant that it came with special rules like: “Thou shalt only keep this book for one week” and “Thou shalt return this book to the same library from whence it came” And “Thou shalt receive NO RENEWALS”. So at least it was easy to prioritize. It turns out that I can only read for hundred and ninety five pages in a week- at least when it’s a week where I’m working significant amounts of overtime and not commuting by bus. So I had to return it half finished in the hopes that it’ll still be there when I go to check it out again. Fingers crossed.

In the meantime, I decided to find out what a funeral director might feel the need to confess. March is typically a gloomy month for me: even in sunny California where the sky is blue and the grass is green and it’s warm enough to go outside for regular vigorous exercise, I have to fight off the bad humors. In like a lion, out like a lamb, lubricated by tears the whole way.

A book about death seemed like a good idea.

That said, it’s a beautifully written book exploring the philosophical nuances around death-culture in America from the point of view of someone who, I daresay, knows the shape and color of it better than the rest of us. The author is almost exactly my age, and, like me, an introvert, and I suspect we have similar senses of humor and a similar philosophical bent. Each of the chapters is less of a confession and more of an anecdotal illumination of different elements of death-care, which, in the very best traditions of storytelling, make the deep thoughts easy to grasp and get right down into the guts of the reader. (How many times have my film professors given the note that “it’s not what you make the audience think, it’s what you make the audience feel.”)

And also, it’s not a great book to be reading on the bus during the month of March with no tissues. Voice of experience.

At any rate, it turns out it’s also a blog, Confessions of a Funeral Director if you want to check it out without having to, you know, check it out. Also, in the spirit of attribution, I should mention that I shamelessly stole the word ‘bibliotherapy’ right out of the book. Because anyone who uses a word like ‘bibliotherapy’ is ok by me.

~ by Gwydhar Gebien on March 20, 2018.

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