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Remember Me: A Lively Tour of the New American Way of Death
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Remember Me: A Lively Tour of the New American Way of Death

4.5 16
by Lisa Takeuchi Cullen

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In Remember Me, Time writer Lisa Takeuchi Cullen has created a humorous and poignant chronicle of her travels around the country to discover how Americans are reinventing the rites of dying. What she learned is that people no longer want to take death lying down; instead, they're taking their demise into their own hands and planning the afterparty.


In Remember Me, Time writer Lisa Takeuchi Cullen has created a humorous and poignant chronicle of her travels around the country to discover how Americans are reinventing the rites of dying. What she learned is that people no longer want to take death lying down; instead, they're taking their demise into their own hands and planning the afterparty.

Cullen hears stories of modern-day funerals: lobster-shaped caskets and other unconventional containers for corpses; cremated remains turned into diamonds; and even mishaps like dove releases gone horribly wrong.

Eye-opening, funny, and unforgettable, Remember Me gives an account of the ways in which Americans are designing new occasions to mark death—by celebrating life.

Editorial Reviews

Cathi Hanauer
“Subtly funny, impeccably researched, and utterly fascinating . . . the liveliest book about death ever written.”
Mary Roach
“A must read for anyone who plans on dying.”
Publishers Weekly
This intriguing survey of America's rapidly mutating funeral customs probes the one force mightier than death: consumerism. Journalist Cullen explores the innumerable ways in which funerals are being personalized, publicized, economized, commercialized, trivialized and, perhaps, humanized. Among the many offbeat memorials she unearths are funerals with Hawaiian, tango or Harley-Davidson themes, as well as beer-themed caskets, eco-friendly funerals, "human diamonds" manufactured from a loved one's ashes, and a Colorado town that celebrates a do-it-yourself cryonics pioneer with its Frozen Dead Guy Days Festival, now a major tourist attraction. In the middle of it all, she finds, is an uneasy funeral industry, squeezed at the bottom by cheap Chinese caskets and the vogue for no-frills cremation and challenged at the top by finicky boomer customers demanding more elaborate and symbol-laden rites (one poignant graveside dove-release attracted a passing hawk, with off-message results.) Cullen isn't much given to muckraking or dark pens es; "Death is a big, huge bummer" is as morbid as she gets. Her set-piece retrospectives on the guests of honor at unusual send-offs sometimes seem dully eulogistic. But for the most part her vivid reportage and wryly sympathetic tone feel anything but embalmed. (Aug.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A fresh and funny look at what's new in funerals. Time magazine staff writer Cullen conducted her personal, on-site survey of funeral rites and after-death practices while pushing her infant daughter along in a stroller or toting her around in a backpack. Here she uses the present and past tense to distinguish between what she observed firsthand and what was described to her by event organizers or by friends or relatives of the deceased. A stroll through a funeral directors' convention introduces the merchandising of death and personalized services. The roles of funeral directors and party planners have merged into a new profession, Cullen reports: that of funeral planners, who arrange celebrations that bring people together to honor and memorialize the deceased. With cremation gaining popularity, some businesses, such as flower shops and casket-makers, are declining or under threat, and whole new industries are popping up. Cullen visits a woman who has chosen to have her husband's ashes made into a diamond she can wear; helps a pilot scatter ashes from his plane; and attends a burial at sea for which ashes have been mixed into concrete to form artificial reefs. Other options are freezing and mummification, a process she doesn't witness but describes graphically. She also observes classes at a New York mortuary school, where she finds that education is not keeping pace with the changes that are sweeping the business. The traditional rituals of a lavish Hmong funeral she attends in Minneapolis are fascinating, yet they are outmatched by her moving account of her Buddhist grandfather's funeral in Japan. In one unforgettable scene in this often lighthearted book, the author and her familyuse chopsticks to pick up the recognizable remains of the cremated body, starting with the feet and working upward, and place them in an urn. While occasionally flippant and straining to be clever, Cullen is mostly an amiable guide, and her tour is enjoyable and enlightening.

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HarperCollins Publishers
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Read an Excerpt

1900–1989 (AND BEYOND)

In a town called Nederland, Colorado, outside a nuclear- bomb-proof house, inside a Tuff Shed, at the bottom of a large freezer, next to a half-eaten birthday cake, lies the body of Bredo Morstoel.

Or so I’d heard.

The story had been told and told again. Bredo Morstoel had died at age eighty-nine in his native Norway. His daughter Aud and his grandson Trygve Bauge had flown his body to Colorado, where the two were then residing. But Trygve, a budding entrepreneur in the field of cryonics, had decided to keep Grandpa around. Grandpa Bredo died in 1989, and in 2005 his body is still on ice in a Tuff Shed in Nederland.

When I first heard about Grandpa Bredo, I thought I would have to see for myself this curious experiment in human preservation. I thought Grandpa might teach me something about cryonics -- how it’s done, why we bother, what it says about us. But, as a townsperson says to me later, the preservation of Grandpa is the “1968 VW Bug of cryonics” -- hardly worthy of the scientific category, even such as it is.

What I stumbled into instead was a curious experiment in death celebration, or the story of a community that initially recoiled from death but came to embrace, laugh at, and profit from it. What I stumbled into was the Frozen Dead Guy Days festival.

Nederland is a no-stoplight town twenty miles west of Boulder, 8,233 feet above sea level. One spaghetti of a road takes you there, twisting and turning as it slithers up the snow-capped mountain. I am the white-knuckled, baby-on-board driver creeping up that road in an economy-size rental car as four-wheel-drive SUVs pile up behind me. The town has one inn and one supermarket and 1,380 residents -- a disproportionate lot of them, shall we say, different. There’s Toasty Post and the Iceman, and then there’s Amy the ghost buster (more on her later). In a recent mayoral race, the field of candidates included a convicted felon and a dog.

It takes serious eccentricity to stand out in that company, as Trygve Bauge did -- or, more important, it takes PR. Trygve was already known in the Boulder area for his self-publicized exploits running from immigration authorities (to avoid deportation for overstaying his visa) and staging a mock hijacking prank at the airport (to -- oh, who knows why). The skinny, long-haired Norwegian eventually drifted up to Nederland to build his dream home: a concrete-and-metal bunker that would withstand nuclear, biological, and alien attack. No one can remember Trygve ever holding a job. He seemed too busy pursuing his two passions: ice-bathing, in which he claims to hold the world record at one hour, five minutes and fifty-one seconds, and the practice of what he calls “life extension.”

Which brings us back to Grandpa Bredo. Not a whole lot is known about Bredo Morstoel, at least to the people of Nederland, being that he took up residence here only after his death. In the one photograph I’ve seen, he has tufty white eyebrows and ruddy skin, and he’s squinting at the camera. He worked for the parks department in Norway, was married, and had two children. He liked to paint, fish, ski, and hike. During a family vacation in the mountains in 1989, Bredo had a heart attack while napping and died.

I learn much of this through the sleuthing of Barbara Lawlor. Lawlor is Nederland’s Lois Lane, a one-woman media machine whose byline accompanies virtually every article and photograph in the weekly Mountain-Ear. Lawlor is deeply tanned and white haired and looks as if she could hike to Boulder and back in under an hour. A Wisconsin native who took the reporting job to support her four adopted children, she’s not one to suffer fools -- but a story is a story, so she wearily took Trygve’s incessant calls. It was Lawlor he called to witness his record-breaking polar-bear dip in an ice-filled cistern wearing a pair of boxers and a Norwegian flag. It was at Lawlor’s door that Trygve turned up one night demanding sanctuary from immigration officials. And, soon after Trygve was finally deported in 1994, it was Lawlor his mother, Aud, called with an odd and disturbing request.

“I remember it was Mother’s Day,” says Lawlor. “Aud came to me, crying, saying something about going down to Town Hall and getting help putting dry ice on her father.” After some questioning, Aud explained the situation. Lawlor knew this was more than just a scoop. “Well, I went to Town Hall for her and said, ‘There’s a dead body on this property,’ and they went nuts, and that’s how it all started.”

Police and town officials raced up the dirt roads to Trygve’s bunker. Sure enough, in a Tuff Shed a few feet from the house was a wooden sarcophagus containing a lot of ice and the body of Bredo Morstoel. It also held the intact remains of one Al Campbell of Chicago, apparently the first paying customer of Trygve Bauge’s backyard cryonics lab.

All hell, as they say, broke loose. The dailies and the wires beat Lawlor’s weekly to the story, and within days Norwegian camera crews were camped out on Lawlor’s floor. COLORADO TOWN FINDS 2 BODIES ON ICE; MAN HOPED TO REVIVE THEM, read a May 12, 1994, Chicago Tribune headline. The Associated Press followed up with frozen bodies get chilly reception from town leaders.

Chilly? Nederlanders were horrified that their bucolic mountain town was now known in England and Japan for its resident frozen dead guy. In an emergency session of the Nederland Town Council, officials slapped together an ordinance heretofore outlawing the storage of dead human or animal parts on residential property -- thereby effectively banning pork chops from freezers. The law didn’t affect Grandpa, who, as locals like to say for the yuks, was grandfathered in.

So Grandpa Bredo remained in Nederland, outside a nuclear-bomb-proof house, inside a Tuff Shed, at the bottom of a large freezer, next to a half-eaten birthday cake. (Campbell’s body was immediately shipped back to Chicago.) The Tuff Shed is new and improved, donated by the company.The rickety wooden sarcophagus has been replaced by a stainless-steel box. The bombproof house is currently uninhabited, but a local hired by Trygve visits Grandpa every five weeks to replenish his bed with eight hundred pounds of dry ice.

Or so I’d heard.

What People are Saying About This

Cathi Hanauer
“Subtly funny, impeccably researched, and utterly fascinating . . . the liveliest book about death ever written.”
Mary Roach
“A must read for anyone who plans on dying.”

Meet the Author

A New York–based staff writer for Time, Lisa Takeuchi Cullen was its Tokyo correspondent, as well as a writer for Money. A recipient of a fellowship from the International Reporting Project, she is a graduate of Columbia University's journalism school and a member of the Asian-American Journalists Association. Cullen was born and raised in Kobe, Japan. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and their daughter.

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Remember Me: A Lively Tour of the New American Way of Death 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Lisa Takeuchi Cullen¿s book, Remember Me, is essentially a travel log through a variety of death rituals in America. Cullen wrote this book as an assignment from Time Magazine where she works. She was on a mission to see how baby boomers were reinventing and personalizing death. One can easily tell what Cullen opposes when analyzing the death industry. She is obviously against funeral directors and their obsession with money. She approaches her distaste for funeral directors and their unethical business transactions in a roundabout way. At times she is witty or clever about it, others she is passively aggressive. Either way, she doesn¿t like them. Cullen¿s vision for this book was to expose the new trends in the funeral business. She was ultimately showing the readers that ones funeral doesn¿t have to be bleak it can be a celebration of the life they¿ve lived. Cullen touched on many different concepts that are starting to circulate in the death industry. She has chapters on Life Gem (a company where cremains are turned into diamonds), Plastination (an art exhibit where human bodies are basically injected with plastic and are forever preserved.), and greenies (all-natural cemeteries). While she did touch on a variety of different options for one¿s remains, I felt that at times she was advertising a little too much with the specific companies involved. The books movement seemed a little cluttered or chaotic, her thoughts may have been able to flow easier. Overall, I felt that this was an insightful and helpful guide to our death industry. Cullen unveiled a diversity of choices that Americans can now make with regards to their death. There is nothing that American¿s love more that options, and after reading this book you will be aware of quite a few of them. Cullen also did her homework she deserves an affirmation for her research having traveled personally to each style ritual, usually with her baby on her back. I also found Cullen writing style very likeable and easy to read, she is funny and sensitive. I would definitely recommend this book to people who are both in and out of the death industry, it is an eye opener.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Lisa Takeuchi Cullen takes you along as she sets out on a taboo voyage through American ideals of death in her novel ¿remember me.¿ Armed with pen and paper, wit, a brand new baby, and a bag of huggies, as she embarks on this journey. The book itself is complex in its writing but simplistic in the emotions conveyed. At one point the reader may be finding themselves choked up, after hearing about the widow after a twenty year marriage. However, this is really a story about life then death. It depicts the new American vision of death, and the celebration of life that correlates with it. It really gets the reader thinking that life may not be the final frontier, in a sense that even tough our soul is gone, our body can still make a difference. From ¿green¿ burials founded by Memorial EcoSystems, to the idea of our ashes being sent to the bottom of the ocean in artificial reefs. It is evident that Cullen seeks out the answers to questions many of have asked before. What more is their after we dead? The answer? NASCAR coffins, diamond rings made of our cremated remains, and of course that one of a kind urn made out of motorcycle parts. Death is inevitable, and this book keeps that notion in the front of your mind, but it does so through laughs, tears with an occasional, ¿are you serious?¿ Overall it is a must read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Lisa Cullen¿s book, Remember Me: A Lively Tour of the New American Way of Death, is a captivating read. In the book, Cullen depicts how the baby boomer generation is personalizing and customizing their own funerals. Some wish to be made into diamonds while others want their remains to be on display in museums. Furthermore, Cullen comments on the evolution of the funeral planner in the 21st century. Despite such grim topics, Remember Me remains light-hearted and strangely funny. This is a perfect book for anyone who has a dark sense of humor. Lisa Cullen is an excellent storyteller as well. She includes several memoirs in her books which are both well written and accurate. Her audience often feels like they personally know the person which Cullen is writing about. In other words, Lisa Cullen projects the lives of several people very clearly and effectively. These accounts are, by far, the strongest parts of the book. Remember Me: A Lively Tour of the New American Way of Death is not without its flaws however. The biggest problem with the book is that it is extremely unorganized. The stories have no chronological order. They are randomly placed and it defiantly hurts the book¿s message. Another deep problem with the book is that Lisa Cullen seems to ¿drift off¿ at times. She dabbles into many unrelated and irrelevant tangents. Her audience then has no idea what she is talking about or why. Overall, Remember Me: A Lively Tour of the New American Way of Death is a light-hearted and fun book. There are some major flaws within the book, but if one is willing to overlook them, then he or she will probably learn something new while having a good time doing so.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Lisa Takeuchi Cullen is an explorer, a tour guide, and historian as she narrates the nonfiction novel Remember Me: A Lively Tour of the New American Way of Death. Through her incredibly descriptive language, Cullen takes the reader along for the ride as she tours the U.S. trying to find out how Americans deal with the death of their loved ones. The novel acts as Cullen¿s diary of all the various events that occurred during her travels. Due to the very diverse nature of our country, there is no longer a traditional American funeral, and Lisa Cullen constantly reiterates that fact throughout the book. For those who care about the environment, there is the option of ¿green¿ burials where a biodegradable casket is used, and embalming chemicals are avoided. For the jewelry enthusiasts, human cremains can now be turned into diamonds! This novel finds all of the most eccentric ways of memorializing the dead, and displays them in a witty dialogue between the narrator and the reader¿s imagination. In addition to giving facts and details, the Lisa Cullen nonchalantly offers her opinions as well. Cullen asserts her belief that Americans, as well as others around the world, want more say in the planning of funerals. Consumers are in control in the US, and the funeral industry is beginning to understand the importance of personalization in funerals. Cullen sheds light on the questionable business tactics of the funeral industry, particularly when it comes to the sale of caskets, and she often comments on how much power the industry maintains. This novel provides its readers with new perspectives and offers them more options than a local funeral home is willing to provide. Lisa Takeuchi Cullen did not know what she was going to find when she embarked on her journey, and that is what makes the novel so interesting. The novel is a game of follow the leader in which Cullen leads us through her personal stories and revelations regarding the ¿New American Way of Death¿. Lisa Takeuchi Cullen puts the ¿fun¿ in funeral!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Lisa Cullen¿s Remember Me gives a look into the 21st centenary¿s way of dealing with death. With the increased demand for personalization in funerals today Cullen looks into how American¿s achieve just that. Being a journalist for the Times Cullen uses those skills to get an inside scoop into the quite taboo subject of death. By interviewing many people who do not share the traditional view on funerals and death she allows the readers to learn about and understand many seeming strange ideas. From taking cremated ashes and transforming them into brilliant diamonds, to plastination, to modern mummification the readers are drawn into this world that for many may be quite foreign. Cullen¿s use of sharing personal stories of those who died (and at times those who have yet to die but already have their ¿after-death plans¿ together) allows those reading the story to relate on a very personal level and understand why someone might want to be made into a diamond or mummified. Her comparison and contrast of these different methods works well to be able to understand these different options clearly. Also, her addition of her own quips during her explanation really lightens up this would-be morbid subject. I really enjoyed reading this book. I felt that Cullen did a good job in tying the book together and making it flow and maintain interest. It really opened my eyes to a world that I was quite unfamiliar with. I now have a much better understanding of what I want to happen to me when I die, while also giving me motivation to bring this subject up to my family without feeling strange about it. If you enjoy an interesting read that will make you think, this could be a good choice for you.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In her latest book Remember Me: A Lively Tour of the New American Way of Death, Cullen travels the country, crashes funerals, attends death conventions, and conducts interviews with relatives of loved ones. No, she does not have a sick obsession with death and dying. She does, however, have an assignment: to discover the new ways people in America bury their dead, and to get an insight into the business of death. On her journey, she encounters the environment-friendly green burials, meets the people of LifeGem, who turn cremated ashes into diamonds, and encounters various methods of preservation, such as mummification, cryonics, and plasticization for display in a body museum. She more than accomplishes her mission. Cullen manages not only to inform but through her satirical wit and subtle humor, manages to ridicule some of the most outrageous ways people are getting buried, and uncovers the greedy side of the funeral business and the people who fall into that trap. Thus she successfully presents both sides of the argument over death and burial, and finds ways to support both, all the while, completing her primary objective of informing her readers. Her ability to write with such subtle humor and wit deserves appreciation. With that said, I found Cullen¿s book to be a good read. I was informed, but more importantly, I enjoyed her approach to her morbid subject: She avoided the trap of being too formal by adding a touch of humor, and she went beyond her assignment by exploring both the good and the bad of the new American way of death.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Remember Me by Lisa Cullen looks at what happens to us when we die. Not in a theological sense, but in the physical sense of the various ways we handle our remains. A good amount of it focuses on how things are changing in the world of undertaking and funeral arrangement. She doesn¿t only research these changes and trends she goes out and experiences them. She examines things ranging from ¿green¿ burials to having one¿s cremated remains turned into an actual diamond. She sets out to find what death is like in America today and does a very good job. She has collected many stories of individuals and then observed how they dealt with their remains. She also looked at it from the business angle and the undertaking industry is changing in America. For a book with such a heavy topic, death, it is lighthearted and funny. It deals with very emotional issues, yet still keeps you laughing through the whole thing. I enjoyed this book and got a lot of insight into the world of death that I would not normally have gotten. I hadn¿t thought much about the undertaking industry prior to reading this. The only times it ever concerned me is when a family member died and even then I did not have much involvement in the arrangements for the funeral. I enjoyed this book and it made me ponder my own arrangements for when I die, but I have not made up mind and will hopefully have many years till I must.
Guest More than 1 year ago
An upbeat guide to the rapidly transforming American funeral, Cullen¿s light-hearted descriptions make a morbid, gritty subject into something a little bit easier to chew. I feel that the basic concern of this novel is the outbreak of consumerism within American death. This primary pretext along with the author¿s own curiosity may have been what led to the completion of the book. The author¿s vision of the subject is light-hearted and attempts to incorporate wit and light humor into the momentum of the book. Cullen describes several different ways of treating life¿s final chapter, including the Green burial a way for any certain person who wishes to become closer to the earth in a natural process using a degradable coffin. Other ways the author analyzes include the decoration of the coffin with NASCAR numbers, football teams, or even a brand of beer. One can have a coffin shaped like a tomato if they wish, or even be buried in a Mercedes Benz. Cullen outlines her adventures throughout the novel, in her search for understanding of the way of death. She flies with a pilot, scattering ashes into the sea. She audits mortuary school classes. She meets a woman who has decided to make her dead husband¿s ashes into a diamond. Throughout the novel, one seems never to feel fear or negativity because of the mention and discussion of dying. Cullen does a great job of keeping the reader happily interested through her use of language.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Remember Me: A Lively Tour of the New American Way of Death by Lisa Takeuchi Cullen can certainly be described as both lively and semi-morbid. Lisa Cullen travels the world investigating the new variety of options that people have when they die. She conducts interviews, attends funerals, and shows the gradual change from traditional to personalized funerals amongst the Baby Boomer generation. Cullen picks funerals that really show that ceremonies are for celebrating the life of the deceased as well as a time for mourning. Cullen¿s writing is both witty and fresh, which lightens the graveness of the subject, making it both informative and highly entertaining to read. She covers a wide array of funeral choices from green burials, to turning ashes into diamonds, to preserving your body in a mummified form. Her tasteful criticism of the profit-driven funeral industry provides some insight into the dark motivations of the industry, but does not set out to expose the problems in a magnified light. She is not a muckraker, but merely a journalist who sets out to inform the public of choices available to them. Lisa Cullen poses the question: ¿What is it like to be a consumer shopping for after-death options?¿ She answers this question by explaining certain trends and recounting stories of people who chose various options. Cullen summarizes the people¿s lives and explains why they and their family made the decisions they made. She talks why one person decided to do a green burial, why one was made into a diamond, and why another one chose to be cremated and set to sea. Each person had his/her reasons and each choice reflected a part of their personality. When Cullen tells the stories of these people it makes it easy to understand their choices. After reading the different accountings, I felt as if I knew each person. I was touched by the families¿ experiences and each option now had a special meaning. This book illustrated new alternatives that I would have written off as absurd. It made me think about what I might want for my funeral and how certain memorials would reflect my personality more than others. I recommend this book because it not only gives people options, it also makes people think. This book puts death in a perspective that is not scary or taboo, but thoughtful and sentimental. Death will come no matter how much we try to hinder it, but it is comforting to know ways that we can always be remembered.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The novel ¿Remember Me,¿ by Lisa Cullen, takes the reader through a ¿tour of the new American way of death¿ (Cullen xii). We follow Cullen as she embarks on her quest to investigate the social, cultural, and business ends of morbid subject of death in the United States, while focusing mainly on the Baby-boomers who seem to be the catalyst for the new age of funeral planning. Cullen delves into the new-age techniques from ¿green¿ burials to plastination to FAVs (the fantastic afterlife vehicles) and many more. Cullen¿s bright and breezy tone of voice lightens the mood surrounding the darkness normally associated with death. While still paying respect to the deceased, she finds means to add her own sense of humor causing those ¿laugh out loud¿ moments which really adds to the novel¿s appeal. Cullen¿s style of writing this way does not leave the reader in a solemn or glum mood at the conclusion, but instead in a thought provoking and more enlightened frame of mind. This novel truly opened my eyes to the vast world of death and funerals. Cullen provides such a great expanse of knowledge on the subject using her skills as a reporter for Time Magazine. With everything she provides, I found myself thinking, ¿Wow, I¿m going to have the greatest funeral of all time,¿ and then had to stop myself, trying not to get too excited about my own death. This is just the effect Cullen has She keeps the reader eager to learn while humorously recounting her journey around America.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found Lisa Cullen's book to be a happy march through an often dismal subject--death. Not many Americans think about death, and when they do, it's often not their own that they ponder over. But after reading 'Remember Me', I found that I couldn't help but consider my own way of exiting this world. The concept of this book is not the days leading up to one's death, but the days after. (Although if you're searching for such a book, there's always the classic 'The Death of Ivan Ilych' by Tolstoy and the more medical-driven 'How We Die' by Sherwin B. Nuland) Cullen sets out to explore the unorthodox methods of funerals, everything from being buried in your favorite sports car to having your ashes compressed into diamonds for loved ones to wear. (Who wouldn't want to wear grandma around their neck to prom?) The author surmises that the next generation of people to die--baby boomers--will put an interesting twist on the funeral industry. This generation is used to getting what they want and in large numbers why should that be any different with dying? Throughout the pages, Cullen explores death and dying with a wit usually reserved for the living--make no mistake, this is not a sad book by any means. There may come a time when you will laugh at the idea of being buried in a beer bottle-shaped coffin, ultimately feeling guilty for laughing at this person's death. No worries as Cullen explains, that's the reaction the deceased probably wanted. Sad processions have now turned into happy parties that celebrate the deceased's life, and with Cullen you're invited to every one. Cullen set out to explore the American take on death and does a marvelous job discovering our own unique spin on it. Her words are detailed and make the pages fly by quickly. I, for one, appreciated her sense of humor that is rampant throughout the book. Cullen proves that while death is, at its very roots, a sad subject, treating it with a little flair and humor is ultimately for the best.
Guest More than 1 year ago
After receiving the assignment to write an article about funeral trends among baby boomers, Lisa Takeuchi Cullen became intrigued with the new trends evolving in the ¿new American way of death¿. As a journalist, Cullen is programmed to ask questions in order to inform others. The main question she asked herself when writing this book was, ¿What¿s it like to be a consumer shopping for after-death options today?¿ (xii). The course of the book takes Cullen through a series of `adventures¿ per se, including, crashing funerals, scattering ashes from an airplane, looking at plastinated cadavers at Body Worlds, visiting an earth-friendly cemetery, seeing a human diamond at the National Funeral Directors Association convention, and many more. She listens to family members and close friends speak of their loved ones who had passed away. Lisa Takeuchi Cullen does not merely make a few phone calls to funeral directors or looks these trends up on the internet, but she actually takes the time to get involved and at times has even taken her baby daughter, Mika, along for the ride. She is a true journalist, as many of them are not anymore. When Cullen first started her investigation into the emerging trends among the Boomers, she had a typical journalists approach to the subject. She felt as though she would feel detached from her surroundings, which lasted until she gave birth. After traveling around the country with Mika, Cullen became certain of death and gained a whole new perspective of the realities that the families had to face with the death of a loved one and what do with the body once it has taken its last breath. The usual way the approach death and its rituals is to look through a religious point of view. However, in this book Lisa Takeuchi Cullen does not address the stereotypical ways to do things, which was startlingly refreshing. Surprisingly, the new trends in American society steer clear from religious beliefs and focus on celebration, which left this reader glued to the pages. I must agree with Cullen and Euripides, ¿Never that which is shall die.¿ Lisa Cullen does remarkable reporting and keeps the reader fascinated with what¿s to come. This book does not set in stone the way that I want to my funeral to be, but it has given me insight into the many options available and has kept me wondering.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Many argue that laughing in the face of death is a risky business, and that making fun of the dead is disrespectful. Cullen does neither of these as she explores the new American way of death, namely, new funeral and burial trends in America. Beginning as an article for Time magazine, Cullen¿s report transforms into a journey that takes her across the United States and exposes her to some uncommon, and oftentimes peculiar, funeral practices. Following Cullen along her journey opens one¿s mind to the various ways now available in which one can personalize their last rites, even to go so far as to turn yourself into a diamond, a coral reef, or to become tree food. Spontaneous, light-hearted, and remarkably witty yet respectful, Cullen achieves more than simply a listing of new trends in the area of funeral practices. She spreads new light on the seemingly dark, secretive funeral industry and stumbles along the way into meeting some unique individuals whose stories breathe life into a book about death. As Cullen shares the experiences of the journey, her vivid descriptions (and humorous asides) make one feel as if they were a part of the journey themselves. She encounters no ¿dead ends¿ as she gracefully moves from topic to topic. Cullen also incorporates into her book research, statistics, and interviews which add a sense of seriousness and professionalism to the book. Even if you would not agree with some of the funeral practices described in Cullen¿s novel, Remember Me, reading this book exposes you to the many different possibilities available for final internment. With each example, individuals explain the reason for their burial wishes. Whether or not it changes final resting plans, Remember Me is a curious read that makes one ponder: ¿How do I want to be buried¿ and remembered?¿
Guest More than 1 year ago
Lisa Takeuchi Cullen's book, Remember Me, is a lively exploration through America's new way of death: all the trends, all the reasons, all the details. What began as an article assignment on the 'wacky ways Americans were reinventing the rites and rituals of death', became a curious excursion with enough information for a book written on maternity leave (Cullen, x). Before reading Remember Me, I had always thought that you were either buried or cremated, and I hope I am not wrong in assuming I was not the only one. Cullen reveals many new funeral trends I have never heard of. There's 'green' burials, modern mummification, turning cremains into diamonds, being plastinated and displayed, being made into an artificial sea reef, even tradition funerals are not so traditional anymore with personalized coffins. Cullen, although a little skeptical at times, takes us along in her journey, introducing us to new, interesting people, and giving us the full scoop on these different ways of death. In each chapter, we are shown a new trend, given the full details of what exactly happens with each, told the price of such a choice (which in some cases can be very high), given the reasoning behind the method by the person behind it, and are even given little life stories of people who had passed and whose families chose one of these trends, or someone who is planning one for themselves. Of course, Cullen is a little biased, and who wouldn¿t be when it comes to what is done with your own body? Cullen makes it clear that certain things are not for her (such as mummification, cryogenics, or burials at sea), but she still gives all the information she can, so you can decide on her own. Only the cryogenics is still portrayed as somewhat crazy, but in Cullen's defense, it is a little hard to make a festival based off of a dead guy on ice in a shed seem normal. A book about death, no matter how interesting, sounds as if it would be very depressing or morbid. However, Cullen's clever wit keeps the book light-hearted. I found myself laughing aloud on more than one occasion at the little comments she added to her stories (feeling a little guilty after, considering the subject matter), and I know I am not the only one. Cullen has a real gift for story telling and puts it to good use in Remember Me. Not only was the book very informative and interesting, but it was, plain and simple, a good read. I enjoyed every page and am now thinking about becoming a diamond...
Guest More than 1 year ago
A thoughtful, and thought-provoking, commentary on American rituals attendant with death and the hereafter. Laugh-out-loud segments followed by genuine teary-eyed passages. Very much like attending a funeral of a close family member.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Journalism is an interesting profession. Journalists, armed only with an understanding of written communication, strive to learn enough about a topic to inform the public. Their efforts produce results that vary from dead wrong to almost right. Lisa Takeuchi Cullen¿s efforts fall very close to the right end of the scale. She set out to document changes in American death rituals brought on by the ¿Me¿ generation of baby boomers. In the end, she discovered as much about the nature and purpose of ritual as she did about the way that boomers are reinventing this final life stage. Cullen did have some challenges that she really did not overcome. Her thesis presumed a commonality of traditional death ritual, both regionally and denominationally, that is simply not there. She also assumed a public familiarity with tradition, that usually simply does not exist. Having spent six years taking initial death calls for a funeral home, I have found that the vast majority of people are unfamiliar with death ritual and process. I do not get the impression that Cullen had a firm understanding of the role of tradition as she formulated her thesis. As a result of the shortcomings of her thesis, she spent half of the book looking at a relatively tiny portion of funeral services looking for trends that might evolve. She did a great job of picking several of these small movements that may become larger trends. Some of her chapters, however, seem to be as much ¿Ripley¿s Believe It or Not¿ as a good discussion of trends in thanatology and death ritual. However, even if they are not overly informative, they are certainly entertaining. Cullen did a lot of things right. She avoided the hazard of describing in detail the rituals of various popular American religious groups. However some description of a normative traditional experience might have been helpful. She looked at death rituals with a life affirming flair. The book has a light feel to it that makes it a pleasure to read. It is worth the read just for the laughs, which are plentiful. In the end, Cullen discoverd the value of tradition in a time of shock and denial. Tradition gives us something to do when we don¿t know what to do. I only hope that the Boomers learn that lesson as quickly and easily as Cullen did.