My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Ed Snyder was blogging about visiting cemeteries before the idea even occurred to me. In fact, I wrote to ask his permission to call my blog Cemetery Travel. He was kind enough to say yes, because getting people to visit cemeteries is important to him.
All of Ed’s quirky personality comes through in this fun little book: his sense of humor, his love of life, his meticulous photographer’s eye, his passion for protecting and restoring cemeteries. He’s a storyteller, not a writer, so the text is straightforward and occasionally less polished than it might be, but it’s easy to get caught up in his wonder at the wildlife inhabiting a cemetery or his anger at how a cemetery has been treated. Just as soon as you think you’ve gotten Ed figured out, he’s gently brushing off the invitation of a prostitute outside the cemetery gates or dodging a pack of feral pitbulls in Mount Moriah or stopping by the grave of Nancy Spungen to tell the sad tale of Sid Vicious’s illegal burial there. He sounds like he would be a great person to poke around a cemetery with.
I was amused to see Ed’s experience visiting the grave of Elizabeth Barrett Browning in Florence was so similar to my own. Both of us arrived when the English Cemetery was closed. Both of us met Julia Bolton Holloway, the cemetery’s caretaker, who welcomed us into the graveyard, let us photograph to our hearts’ desire, and showed us her little museum. I was glad to see that nothing had changed between my visit in 1999 and his in 2010.
I’m envious that Ed got to hang out in Philadelphia’s Laurel Hill while a zombie movie was being filmed. I wish he’d been able to go out on the boat that scatters ashes in Long Beach, but the interview he did with the boat’s captain is fascinating. I’m glad that he researched the destruction of Philadelphia’s Monument Cemetery, which was demolished to build a parking lot — and essay that is worth the price of the book.
The only reason I took one star off the book is that I wish it had more of Ed’s beautiful black and white photos. I’m going to have to buy a copy of his Stone Angels book, too.
All in all, I’m grateful that Ed pulled together his favorite blog pieces to create this book. I hope it will bring more attention to The Cemetery Traveler and his work bringing Mount Moriah Cemetery back from the edge of dissolution.
I had the luck to publish one of the essays from the book on Cemetery Travel. You can read “The Allure of the Abandoned Cemetery” here: https://cemeterytravel.com/2015/11/20/deaths-garden-the-allure-of-the-abandoned-cemetery/
You can buy your own copy of the book in paperback on Amazon: https://amzn.to/34tPVS3
View all my reviews on Goodreads.