Cemetery-related Books and More
Epitaphs: A Dying Art
Edited by Samuel Fanous
Oxford: Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, 2016
Don't be fooled by the small and almost-delicate size of this tome. At first glance, it may seem like something from a vanity press, where all the care was put into making the cover look pretty and the inside was thrown together by someone who wanted to say they "wrote a book." I'm sorry to say that this was my first impression of the book. It was small and pretty with a mourning angel draped over a stone on the cover. I'd been pulled in by a book on epitaphs before, only to find one epitaph per page and no information about where it was from. That, my friends, was a vanity pressing. Fanous' book is not.
"Epitaphs" is thin and small, easy to carry around or drop in your bag. But it's what's inside that is surprisingly vast. The epitaphs themselves are from all over the world, though a good number of them are from England and America. To say Fanous has done his homework is an understatement. He has not only collected these epitaphs from his own cemetery wanderings, he's also done his research. "While some of the epitaphs in this book are from tombstones, others are from memorial inscriptions, sometimes composed and erected centuries after the death," he notes in his introduction.
The epitaphs have been organized by themes:
I particularly enjoy the epitaphs that tell stories. One tells of a man who fell to his death while coming down from a church steeple, and he was buried where he landed and died.
Some of the epitaphs are amusing, some are poignant and some merely explain what happened. Fanous note where each of them is located but doesn't go into other details so that the "final words" can speak for themselves.
I leave you with Fanous' words: "Epitaphs retain their power to move us. In the record of their struggles, joys, tragedies, and triumphs we recognize our own experiences and the essential elements that characterize human nature across the span of time and culture."
This will make a great addition to any taphophile's library.
Reviewed by Minda Powers-Douglas (8/18/16)
Evergreen in the City of Angels: A History of a Los Angeles Cemetery
by the Studio for Southern California History
Los Angeles, Calif.: Studio for Southern California History, 2014
While doing research for my book on the graves of silent film actresses, I pulled out my copy of "Evergreen in the City of Angels." Since it was about an LA cemetery, I thought there'd be a good chance a silent star was buried there. And I was right! African-American actress Louise Beavers is interred there. And while she is mostly known for her TV role as the title character in "Beaulah," her career started way back in the era of the silents.
After looking up her information for my own book, I started going through the book to rediscover its own merits.
The cemetery (see Atlas Obscura for an article on Evergreen) is located at 204 North Evergreen Avenue in LA. The cover of the book is not one of your traditional cemetery book covers, featuring a beautiful landscape or image of striking monument. What it does show is representative of the state Evergreen has been in for far too long. The cover photo is of a chain-link fence topped with barbed wire, a graffiti-covered sign stating the cemetery's pedestrian gate hours (and another on the back cover of a no trespassing sign, also covered in graffiti). There are also a few gravestones in the image and a couple of palm trees, but it's clear that the contributors of the book wanted to show the hardships of this burial ground inside their city.
The book isn't all doom and gloom, though. It's actually a lovely homage to the cemetery and its residents. It contains history, poetry, contributions by family members of those interred there, as well as beautiful photography. This book was a labor of love.
I received this book from Studio for Southern California History after donating to their successful Kickstarter campaign. I am so glad they were able to hit their goal and produce this second edition of their book. If you are interested in a cemetery book that features a group's love of a cemetery as well as the usual information that goes into one, this will be a great book for you.
Available through Amazon and other booksellers.
Reviewed by Minda Powers-Douglas (1/3/16)
Burden of Wings
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Last update 8/18/16
Copyright Minda Powers-Douglas 2004-2016
Copyright Minda Powers-Douglas 2004-2016