Love, Death and Art

Smoke gets in your eyesI love that libraries allow us to know more about topics that do not easily crop up in conversation. Topics that maybe make us feel a little uncomfortable, like these three books that were returned to a sunny suburban library near you.

The first book to plop into returns that day was: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes (& Other Lessons from the Crematory) by Caitlin Doughty. Just twenty something, Ms Doughty got a degree in Medieval History and took a job at a crematorium. She’s young, beautiful, clever and funny, and she becomes an intrepid explorer in the world of the dead.

Her book answers (amongst other things) all those questions about crematoria that you have ever wanted to ask, like: How many bodies can you fit in a Dodge van? According to the author we have cut ourselves off from death and this is a mistake. As Kafka famously said “The meaning of life is that it ends.”

the art of taxidermyI was fascinated and I did not want to relinquish Doughty’s book. But I did, because the second book to come through the returns slot was The Art of Taxidermy by Jane Bastoe. What are the odds? I gave it a quick flick through but I am not a big fan of taxidermy and some of these photos made me feel quite queasy.

The very next book to come back to us was a book on an extremely sensitive subject – beheadings. Entitled Severed: A History of Heads Lost and Heads Found the author is Frances Larson. The first sentence reads:

Josiah Wilkinson liked to take Oliver Cromwell’s head to breakfast parties.

This book provides research into mankind’s long relationship with beheading – which we are horrified to witness still happening to this very day. It is a well researched, serious book.

But readers are nothing if not variable – and I never thought I would say this, but I was relieved to see that the next five returned items were all Large Print Mills and Boons.

So far I haven’t mentioned the name of the library concerned because that really is totally irrelevant. But let’s just say that on a cold, dark, rainy winter’s night, when we  close up at 6pm, I will have parked my car as close as I can to Spreydon’s library building!

Magpie Hall – New Zealand e-book month

There were two rumours surrounding my great-great-grandfather Henry Summers: one, that his cabinet of curiosities drove him mad; and, two, that he murdered his first wife.

Rosemary Summers is an amateur taxidermist and a passionate collector of tattoos. To her, both activities honour the deceased and keep their memory alive. After the death of her beloved grandfather, and while struggling to finish her thesis on gothic Victorian novels, she returns alone to Magpie Hall to claim her inheritance: Grandpa’s own taxidermy collection, started more than 100 years ago by their ancestor Henry Summers.

As she sorts through Henry’s legacy, the ghosts of her family’s past begin to make their presence known.

You can read Magpie Hall as an e-book from our Overdrive collection.

Magpie Hall  is also available as a paper book.