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by Frank Gonzalez-Crussi


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This collection was inspired by Gonzalez-Crussi’s involvement in a BBC documentary which brought him back to his native Mexico for its Day of the Dead festivities

This collection was inspired by Gonzalez-Crussi’s involvement in a BBC documentary which brought him back to his native Mexico for its Day of the Dead festivities. The best pieces here involve a detailed recounting of the post-mortem adventures of Eva Peron’s corpse, the discovery of a statue of the Azetc death goddess Coatlicue, a very poignant memory from Gonzalez-Crussi’s own childhood, and an autopsy he conducted in front of a film crew. This isn’t his best book, but Gonzalez-Crussi's essays are always thoughtful, urbane, and good reading.

The Day of the Dead and Other Mortal Reflections (Harcourt Brace . The BBC production (director Kevin Hull) was entitled Day of the Dead, which was filed in the British Film Institute archive

The Day of the Dead and Other Mortal Reflections (Harcourt Brace, 1993). Foreign translations of Dr. Gonzalez-Crussi’s books include: Dutch, French, Spanish, Italian, German, Portuguese, Slovakian, Czech, Polish, and Japanese. The BBC production (director Kevin Hull) was entitled Day of the Dead, which was filed in the British Film Institute archive. It was part of the TV Series Bookmark, and was first aired in the UK on April 27, 1992 (Channel BBC-2)

Gonzalez-Crussi has garnered wide critical praise and a passionate readership for his elegant and distinctly personal essay style. Here Dr. Gonzalez-Crussi takes up where his celebrated Notes of an Anatomist left off and ponders human mortality from his unusual perspective - the perspective of, as he puts it, "a corpse handler". A visit to an embalmer apropos of a television documentary, for example, gives rise to a spirited discussion of the rather extraordinary "postmortem careers" of John Dillinger and Evita Peron, the latter rendered nearly indestructible by the embalmer's art.

This isn't the book of the show, however, but Gonzalez-Crussi's later musings and reflections. Gonzalez- Crussi quotes liberally from the embalmer's own writings on the death of John Dillinger, as well as on the fate of Eva Per¢n's body-subjected to elaborate preservation, veneration, and then attempts by anti-Per¢nistas to destroy it.

by F. González-Crussí. A collection of essays that look at mortality from the cold-blooded perspective of morticians and embalmers, with a visit to a Mexican hospital on that country's lively celebration of death. ISBN13:9780156001427. Release Date:October 1994. And Other Mortal Reflections. The opening piece describes a prototypical funeral home in a working-class Chicago neighborhood, presided over by an octogenarian obviously pleased with his life's work.

ESSAYS THE DAY OF THE DEAD And Other Mortal Reflections. By F. Gonzalez-Crussi. Cemeteries, hospitals and funeral homes are hardly the usual backdrop for an entertaining collection of essays. To answer these questions he takes the reader on a whirlwind tour of the modern-day netherworld of coroners and undertakers, cemeteries and pathology labs, dipping into history, literature, film and his own memories. Dr. Gonzalez-Crussi is a marvelous storyteller as well as a meticulous observer, and he has written a book about death that is pulsing with life.

The Day of the Dead: And Other Mortal Reflections

The Day of the Dead: And Other Mortal Reflections. Frank Gonzalez-Crussi. Gonzalez-Crussi starts with the history of embalming – with the origins from Egypt as spiritual and for the dead, to modern day techniques that are more for a profitable business and for the living to remove the harrowing aspects of death, to expunge its painful appearance. As he points out, people in America are likely to live closer to a funeral home than to a police station. He is naturally skeptical about extolling embalming, but is not ready to condemn the practice either while predicting the rise of cremation and other forms of closure.

Gonzalez-Crussi writes] with a flowing prose style. There is much here for immediate and future pondering.

A collection of essays, the sequel to Notes of an Atomist, looks at mortality from the cold-blooded perspective of morticians and embalmers, with a visit to a Mexican hospital on that country's lively celebration of death.

Comments: (2)

Realistic
Frank Gonzalez-Crussi is a pathologist and a professor of pathology in Chicago. He also has written at least ten books, one of which is this collection of six essays on death. The book was prompted by a BBC documentary film that was centered on the work of Gonzalez-Crussi as a pathologist. Among the scenes were a visit to a funeral home in working-class Chicago, the observance of El Día de los Muertos in Mexico City (from where Gonzalez-Crussi hails), and the autopsy of a nine-year-old boy who had contracted AIDS across the placenta from his drug-addicted mother. Off and on Gonzalez-Crussi reports on aspects of the filmmaking, but for the most part the essays consist of rather scholarly meditations on the subject of death, drawing on a variety of perspectives: medical/pathological, historical, literary, cultural, and philosophical. Among the matters discussed at some length are the saga of the corpse of Eva Perón, calavera (the smirking skeletons of Mexican folk art), the Aztec practice of human sacrifice and the beliefs underlying it, the misnomer embedded in the last word of the phrase "cardio-pulmonary resuscitation", and the dance macabre. It is a wide-ranging and erudite book and, of course, a rather sobering one.

Initially, the writing came across as somewhat stilted, in part because Gonzalez-Crussi is fond of using fifty-cent words (for example, "the caudacity of life", "cadaveric lividities", and "kermis-like"). I soon became accustomed to the moderately florid style, however, and well before the end I no longer found it off-putting. I even welcomed the occasional trips to the dictionary, since the esoteric words were almost always so apt. Strange as it might seem, I enjoyed THE DAY OF THE DEAD.

And what is the purpose of the subtitle "and Other Mortal Reflections"? To acknowledge, I think, the paradox embodied in the book. "It is impossible for death to be the object of a thinking subject, since a thinking subject is always a living subject. * * * If the paradoxes of the Eleatics were like coiled snakes that bit their own tail in closing a circular loop, death is the loop of a scorpion's tail, which turns back to destroy the thinking subject that posits it."
Faegal
There are some interesting stories in "The Day of the Dead," but I almost didn't get to them. The writing is so affectedly literary and clunky that at page 15 I was debating whether to continue. I am moderately glad to have pressed on.

The framework concerns a BBC documentary about dead people in which Frank Gonzalez-Crussi, a Chicago pathologist born in Mexico, was a participant. Each essay was set off by an episode in the filming, but the book is not about the documentary.

A Mexican was a natural subject, since that country's attitude toward the dead is distinctive. The Day of the Dead (All Soul's Day) has a long European heritage, but nowhere today is it marked with such vigor as in Mexico.

Each essay is marked by Gonzalez-Crussi's ruminations about the mystery and permanence of death, and these are banal.

The stories, though, are baroque and fascinating. And true.

In the first, a president of Argentina is tortured to death to make him reveal the whereabouts of the embalmed corpse of Eva Peron.

The second explains how Aztecs ripped out hearts from living victims.

The third reviews the history of anatomical specimens.

The fourth, and most interesting, sends 9-year-old Gonzalez-Crussi on a school field trip to view the rotting body of a small child.

The fifth recounts the autopsy of a child who died of AIDS, and the nervousness of the participants. This one resonated deeply with me, since the week I read it our esteemed county medical examiner died of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (which in our obituary we delicately did not call mad cow disease), which he possibly got while doing an autopsy. Despite agitation to the contrary, AIDS is not the trivial infection some would have, and concerns about inadvertent transmission have not been misplaced. On the other hand, the courage of medical professionals should not be scouted, and Gonzalez-Crussi gives a good discussion of the moral, as well as mortal, reflections of encounters with implacable diseases.

Regrettably, he follows with a last essay about death and the visual arts that is not merely banal but misinformed.

He contends that "works of art never instantiate the aesthetics of death. Works of art are rather the exclusion of death. For art truly to represent death, it would have to include death's reality as part and parcel of the work."

I don't understand what that means, but death as reality in art was demonstrated at a Berlin gallery a few years ago.

A woman jumped off the building and landed at the entrance. Art aficionados stepped nonchalantly around her corpse, under the impression that it was part of the "installation," although one wonders if they were not surprised by the attention to detail, so unusual in modern art.
The Day of the Dead: And Other Mortal Reflections download epub
Essays & Correspondence
Author: Frank Gonzalez-Crussi
ISBN: 015181192X
Category: Literature & Fiction
Subcategory: Essays & Correspondence
Language: English
Publisher: Harcourt; 1st edition (November 1, 1993)
Pages: 179 pages