Tag Archives: death

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To Die and Live in Studio City

By Alex Harvey

Back in 1939, Aldous Huxley’s first Californian novel, After Many a Summer Dies The Swan, satirized the local obsession with and search for eternal life. Huxley created a protagonist, Jo Stoyte, a classic Hollywood magnate, who spends his fortune on a quest for personal immortality. Stoyte wants to arrest time; he hires a scientist, Dr. Obispo, to find a breakthrough in medicine that could ensure eternal life. Separate from his personal quest, Stoyte is also the owner of a mortuary. He is happy to profit from the deaths of others. His cemetery is successful, moreover, precisely because it presents itself as a kind of abolition of death. Pordage, the historian, reflects that death has been vanquished in the mortuary not by freeing the spirit from the moribund body, but by “preserving that body, injecting it with embalming fluids, painting over its pallor, twisting its grimaces into the likeness of a smile.” Stoyte’s dead bodies appear to be living even after death. In the ever physically optimistic California, Huxley prophesizes, “the crones of the future will be golden, curly and cherry lipped, neat-ankled and slender.” Continue reading

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I See Dead People

This piece was originally published today, July 8, by LARB Channel Avidly

By Alizah Salario

At The Morbid Anatomy Museum in Brooklyn, the dead fill every nook and cranny. “Art of Mourning,” the current exhibit, features celluloid medallions and Victorian-era memorial photographs depicting the waxy, masklike faces of the dead. In “Sleeping Beauty” photos, deceased little girls and boys are cradled in open caskets or propped up in rocking chairs, as still and flawless as porcelain dolls. There are intricate wreaths woven from the hair of the dead in commemoration. What if modern mourners were to knot friendship bracelets from dear dead Bubbe’s blue-grey locks, or use a selfie with her on her deathbed as their Smartphone wallpaper? Just imagine. At best they’d be stigmatized as morbid; more likely perverse or pathological. Death, as we know it today, often happens behind closed doors, hooked to machines, in solitude and silence. Even if there was time to grab a lock of hair or snap a photo, the public display of keepsakes of the dead are today usually considered distasteful or maudlin. Continue reading