My rating: 3 of 5 stars
What an amusing little book this is. I found in amongst other treasures on the Death shelf at the Brand Bookstore in Glendale, California. Why is it all the SoCal used bookstores have these brilliant Death shelves? The Brand is, by far, the best, which I guess is due to Eddie, bless ’im.
Anyway, Murphy describes After The Funeral as a “necrobiography.” In some lights, it might just be. But it’s really closer in tone to its subtitle, a collection of post-mortem adventures. Of course, there’s Eva Peron, who’s body was shellacked, hijacked, buried under an assumed name in Italy, exhumed, had someone else’s corpse kidnapped and ransomed for her return to Argentina, and was finally buried at government expense in a bomb-proof mausoleum in the Recoleta Cemetery.
Evita got lucky when her survivors elected to leave her remains in one piece. Contrary to legend, Byron’s heart reposes (albeit, in a jar) alongside his body in England. His lungs, however, were granted to the Greeks, so they could honor part of their hero in the land of his death. Mary Shelley kept Percy’s heart in her desk, which it crumbled to powder. A gravedigger saved a skull he claimed was Mozart’s, which changed hands several times before coming to rest in the Mozarteum in Salzburg.
Molière, whose grave was used to make Pere Lachaise Cemetery attractive to the masses in 1817—and begin the whole garden cemetery movement, was probably never exhumed from St. Joseph’s Cemetery until that and other graveyards were emptied out, their anonymous contents shifted to the Paris Catacombs. Does a pilgrimage count if you visit the grave but not the occupant alleged to be buried within?
If you wanted to visit the grave of Christopher Columbus, the pilgrimage would take you to four different cities: Valladolid and Seville in Spain, Santo Domingo and Cuba in the New World. Each claims to hold the remains of the explorer, who died in profound obscurity.
After the Funeral makes for very entertaining, if sobering, reading. Who would have guessed that the price of fame would include having your bones and entrails scattered hither and yon, while impostors repose in your tomb(s)?
A hard cover edition is available on Amazon: After the Funeral: The Posthumous Adventures of Famous Corpses
This review was originally published in Morbid Curiosity #4.