Just back from New Mexico, where we found the cemeteries there to be strikingly similar to those in indigenous northern Argentina — colorful and lively. They draw reverent yet celebratory crowds on certain days, especially the Day of the Dead. (In Taos, we hunted for and found the grave of Dennis Hopper.)
Those visits got me in the mood to read Sarah Murray’s new book, “Making An Exit: From the Magnificent to the Macabre — How we Dignify the Dead.” I’m ready to sign up for a worldwide death tour. (I’ve already done the Chapel of Bones swing through southern Europe.)
I first learned of Sarah’s work through her book “Moveable Feasts: The Incredible Journeys of the Things We Eat.” Sarah, a Brit and a longtime Financial Times writer now based in New York City, is a quintessential journalist — curious about everything and a terrific researcher and story teller.
In her introduction, she writes of her father’s death and wonders how she would like her own handled. “Writers often tell us about places we must see before we die. I want to explore some of the ones we end up in when we’re dead.” Her research took her to Hong Kong, Mexico , Ghana, the Philippines, the Czech Republic, Iran, Sicily, and Bali. So this is as much of a travel book as a survey of funerary practices, all the way down to its souvenirs — Sarah ordered a coffin from Ghana, famed for its wild vessels of death. Hers is in the shape of the Empire State Building and rests in her living room.