June 11, 2013

Rest In Pieces

Some lucky souls may escape taxes, the very poor and the very rich, but no one ever escapes death. After we've shuffled off, the poor carcass can be mistreated and abused in a number of ways. Poor St. Mark had his remains shipped off to Venice, while St. Thomas Becket was venerated and esteemed up until Henry VIII decided that his greed outweighed his piety, and destroyed the saint's resting place. Oliver Cromwell had his body dug up and subjected to a number of indignities when Charles II came back.

Bess Lovejoy in Rest in Pieces gives about 30-40 very brief biographical sketches of a number of famous people, and discusses what happened to their remains. Some are fairly well known to have had bizarre ends: Hitler's suicide, cremation, and transport into Russia; Lenin's mummification; Mussolini's murder, post-mortem castration, and public display, while others are equally bizarre, though the people, such as Ned Kelly, may be less well known.*

*Okay, Ned Kelly is well known to Australians, and he may be known to people who have seen Mick Jagger in a film about him, as a non-fan of Mick and the Rolling Stones I'm not among that number, but most Americans know more about Jesse James, Wyatt Earp, and the Younger gang than they do about Australian outlaws.

Each piece is about 3-6 pages long, so you can pick it up for casual reading, and put it down again without becoming particularly wrapped up in it. It's moderately entertaining, and offers a fair amount of fun, though of a somewhat morbid sort.

Next up, Rochester's poetry. That's John Wilmot, the Earl of Rochester, not Jack Benny's Rochester.