Smoke Gets in Your Eyes
And Other Lessons from the Crematory
A young mortician goes behind the scenes, unafraid of the gruesome (and fascinating) details of her curious profession.
Most people want to avoid thinking about death, but Caitlin Doughty—a twenty-something with a degree in medieval history and a flair for the macabre—took a job at a crematory, turning morbid curiosity into her life’s work. Thrown into a profession of gallows humor and vivid characters (both living and very dead), Caitlin learned to navigate the secretive culture of those who care for the deceased.
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes tells an unusual coming-of-age story full of bizarre encounters and unforgettable scenes. Caring for dead bodies of every color, shape, and affliction, Caitlin soon becomes an intrepid explorer in the world of the dead. She describes how she swept ashes from the machines (and sometimes onto her clothes) and reveals the strange history of cremation and undertaking, marveling at bizarre and wonderful funeral practices from different cultures.
Her eye-opening, candid, and often hilarious story is like going on a journey with your bravest friend to the cemetery at midnight. She demystifies death, leading us behind the black curtain of her unique profession. And she answers questions you didn’t know you had: Can you catch a disease from a corpse? How many dead bodies can you fit in a Dodge van? What exactly does a flaming skull look like?
Honest and heartfelt, self-deprecating and ironic, Caitlin's engaging style makes this otherwise taboo topic both approachable and engrossing. Now a licensed mortician with an alternative funeral practice, Caitlin argues that our fear of dying warps our culture and society, and she calls for better ways of dealing with death (and our dead).
Praise For Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory…
— Katharine Fronk - Booklist, Starred review
Caitlin Doughty is best known for her YouTube series Ask a Mortician, and she brings the same charisma and drollery to her essay collection Smoke Gets in Your Eyes. Think Sloane Crosley meets Six Feet Under.
— Kevin Nguyen - Grantland
Entertaining and thought-provoking.
— Julia Jenkins - Shelf Awareness
Demonically funny dispatches.
— O Magazine
Morbid and illuminating.
— Entertainment Weekly
A book as graphic and morbid as this one could easily suck its readers into a bout of sorrow, but Doughty—a trustworthy tour guide through the repulsive and wondrous world of death—keeps us laughing.
— Rachel Lubitz - Washington Post
Doughty reels you in with wonderful anecdotes about her work. Intermixed with the humor is a love of life that will make you reconsider how our culture treats the dead.
— San Francisco Chronicle
W. W. Norton & Company, 9780393240238, 272pp.
Publication Date: September 15, 2014