Daily Archives: July 18, 2013

It’s Hard to be Famous After You’re Dead

Rest in Pieces: The Curious Fates of Famous CorpsesRest in Pieces: The Curious Fates of Famous Corpses by Bess Lovejoy

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Unlike the usual “how they died” encyclopedias, Rest in Pieces is an encyclopedia of “what happened to them after they died.” Lovejoy’s criteria for inclusion in the book: the people had to be famous and they couldn’t rest peacefully in an undisturbed grave for eternity.

That’s not to say this doesn’t include the stories you expect: Vladimir Lenin’s permanent snooze in his mausoleum in Red Square, Evita Peron’s postmortem kidnapping, the road trips of Einstein’s brain. In addition to those, Rest in Pieces probes the mystery of the Skull & Bones skull said to be Geronimo’s, the penis said to be Rasputin’s, and the organ found in Mary Shelley’s writing desk. It even explores more recent dispositions, like Hunter Thompson’s fireworks display and Osama bin Laden’s burial at sea.

Lovejoy’s tone leans toward the snarky side of respectful, which feels appropriate. The only other way to go would be sustained outrage: how could Dorothy Parker’s ashes have been kept in a filing cabinet? How could Americans lose Thomas Paine’s body? How could Galileo Galilei been buried in a closet?

A fascinating page-turner. I look forward to seeing what Lovejoy will investigate next.

You can have a copy of your very own, courtesy of Amazon: Rest in Pieces: The Curious Fates of Famous Corpses.

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