The American Way of Death

The American Way of Death Before the turn of the century the American funeral was simple to the point of starkness says Jessica Mitford the acclaimed muckraking journalist who published this investigation of the country s f

  • Title: The American Way of Death
  • Author: Jessica Mitford
  • ISBN: 9780671247065
  • Page: 166
  • Format: Hardcover
  • The American Way of Death

    Before the turn of the century, the American funeral was simple to the point of starkness, says Jessica Mitford, the acclaimed muckraking journalist who published this investigation of the country s funeral business in 1963 That the country went on to develop a tendency for gross overspending on funerals Mitford puts down to the greed and ingenuity of undertakers, whomBefore the turn of the century, the American funeral was simple to the point of starkness, says Jessica Mitford, the acclaimed muckraking journalist who published this investigation of the country s funeral business in 1963 That the country went on to develop a tendency for gross overspending on funerals Mitford puts down to the greed and ingenuity of undertakers, whom she regards as salesmen guilty of pressuring families into agreeing to their excessive standards for burial Mitford, who died recently, delivers facts and criticism in a forthright and humorous manner She would certainly appreciate that her assessment of the American way of death endures after her own passing.

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      166 Jessica Mitford
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      Posted by:Jessica Mitford
      Published :2019-01-04T16:32:01+00:00

    One thought on “The American Way of Death

    1. Petra X

      Those, in the animal kingdom, who feast on death are called scavengers and the word 'noble' is not one associated with them! So it is with funeral directors, a bunch of ignoble turkey-necked vultures seeking to clean the bones of a lifetime of hard work and savings in one fell swoop. The American model is more successful than that of many countries, including the UK, because of the carefuly-nurtured acceptance, nay, great desire for, open-coffin funerals.In countries where a closed-coffin is the [...]

    2. Christina

      I can see why this book was a funeral industry shocker in its day, the 1960's. Despite being out of date in a way it's not. The information and description of the services available through the American funeral home of times was fun to read about. Whether it's because I work in the funeral industry myself (in Finland), or because my inner goth was wide awake and keen for the whole book, I found this expose on the underbelly of the funeral trade full of tips and warnings. I hadn't realized just h [...]

    3. Katie

      Of course, it's a business like any other, but the predatory practices of the funeral and cemetary business are sickening. I was seriously considering a career move to embalming and the restorative arts, and I picked up Mitford's book as some preparatory reading. After finishing the book I decided that ethically, I really don't think I could be involved in such a process, even if it is "necessary" for those left behind. Swindling, deceit, shortchanging, lawbreaking, you name it. What will be sai [...]

    4. Mary JL

      Jessica Mitford reports in excellent and interesting detail on the American funeral industry.You would think this topic would be boring, but she has a good writing style and keeps a good pace.She does point out the pressure that many unscrupulous funeral directors put on greiving families. At a time where the family is ill-prepared to make any weighty decisions, they are often pressured to buy more of a funeral than is really needed.Not exactly a fun read, but i learned a lot. if you are making [...]

    5. Melissa

      What an interesting book. Mitford takes the time to explain the funeral industry and some of the general problems with it. While it probably is highly controversial (especially if you're in the business) it does make some very good points. While there probably are honest people in the trade there are probably dishonest too (like any other profession) and sadly this can effect a lot of people. My own experiences with funerals have been largely reflective of the bad so I am a tad biased as well.In [...]

    6. Bethany

      It is true I most likely wouldn't have read this if it hadn't been written by Jessica Mitford. But I am glad it was written by her because I got the chance to find out how interesting a book about the funeral industry could be! (Also, though I was planning on reading it someday, I may have never gotten around to it had I not found a copy for 50 cents in the used books at the library! Rah!)My mother did get a little (unnecessarily) disconcerted about this book. She seemed to find my reading it "m [...]

    7. Christine

      While this is a snapshot of funeral practices and law in California in the early 60s, I shudder to think how much of it still remains true throughout the USA at present. The primary lesson here is to know what you want before you pass. In the 60s it was financially better to go ahead and buy a funeral but not a grave site before you died to keep them from gouging you on the expense of the funeral--I'd assume nothing has changed today. A will is not enough to assure that you will be buried in the [...]

    8. Sara

      Funny the books that pop up in your recommendations or in the descriptions of other books in your recommendations. Yes, I read this book in high school and it was very interesting. I had never read anything quite like it. People may have looked a little askance at me for reading this (I got a couple of comments) but it was very good information.

    9. Bob Newman

      Big bucks at the check outOK, Jessica Mitford had a few axes to grind. She wanted to reform American society and expose as many of its injustices and ills as she could. But when she turned to the multimillion dollar funeral industry, she hit a gold mine. You didn't have to exaggerate much to blow the public's mind and that's what she did back in 1963 when she published this book. She did such a thorough job that even Congress involved itself and wound up passing some regulatory legislation. It s [...]

    10. Lee Anne

      Jessica Mitford's classic expose of the funeral industry is most interesting now when you realize how little has changed--the "funeral industrial complex" is still overcharging, performing unnecessary procedures, and capitalizing on the vulnerable state of their customers. Mitford's tone is breezy and knowledgeable, with just a light bit of snark that makes this a quick read. I know the book was updated in the nineties, shortly before Mitford's death, and I would be curious to see if she went in [...]

    11. Mark

      Before reading this book I was going with the flow of having a casket, wake, burial, and being buried in a cemetery. After reading this book I realized that I can choose a radically different course for how I want to be remembered. Since reading this book my family gave my grandmother a viking funeral. Cremation is now the route most of my family members have decided upon. My parents are looking to sell the grave plots they bought back in the seventies. In short, this book is an eye opener.

    12. Eli

      This book is a treasure. I picked it up thinking it would be like other "consumer alert" books of its time: important from a historical standpoint but not particularly relevant today. Instead I found a book almost frightening in its relevance.Multiply all of Mitford's dollar amounts by 10-15 to account for inflation and strike the most blatant racism and sexism (segregated cemeteries, undertakers and embalmers only referred to as "he" and "men"), and Mitford could've written this book in 2013, i [...]

    13. dejah_thoris

      I love Mitford's book on the funeral industry. Yes, I'm sure things have changed, so I'm going to read her updated version next, but some things always remain the same. I'm not surprised to read about all the issues with salesmen or their internal sales tricks because I used to work in sales too. (It can be a predatory industry regardless of the product.) I did enjoy how Mitford tackled all aspects of the related trades, like florists, because they do not come as readily to mind as funeral direc [...]

    14. Judi

      This book is most enlightening. Things appear not to have changed much since this book was published in 1963. By coincidence, I met last week with the undertaker at the graveyard where my husband and I have purchased our plots. I thought it was time to make and prepay for all of our funeral needs so our children would not have that burden. I went for minimalist. Modest. This book opened my eyes to the potential of vulnerablity with regard to potential expenses in arranging a funeral for a loved [...]

    15. Leilani

      I had been trying to find a cheap copy of this book in used stores for several years and finally hit gold, finding it for 2 bucks hidden away in a little store in Arcata! I think Mitford's writing is hilarious. There has been many new regulations on the funeral industry, so a lot of the information in this book is really outdated now, but I can see how it must have been controversial at the time it was written. I was totally disgusted to read about the flower industry challenging the newspapers [...]

    16. Greymalkin

      I am very glad I read this and it makes me even more convinced that Mary Roach is the reincarnation or literary descendent of Ms. Mitford. Ms. Mitford's sly humor and pragmatic but not unfeeling approach to the subject is delightful and certainly makes the dense material go down easier.However it is a massive amount of information and because of the publication date, it was hard to really be moved by the financial and legal issues brought up because so much time has passed and so much has change [...]

    17. Michaela

      As an aspiring funeral director and currently attending mortuary school, this book was a must-read for me since it is the main reason that funeral service is being regulated now. I also feel that in order to be a truly compassionate and educated funeral director, I need to educate myself on the bad press that funeral service has gotten in the past. I wasn't alive when this book was published but my father was and he read it numerous times. People who have read this book are people that I am goin [...]

    18. Rena Sherwood

      I gave up after about 35 pages. Undertakers are all rip-off merchants -- yeah, yeah, yeah. I get the point. Sadly, this book is WAAAAYYY out of date, which makes it practically useless. I suppose if you're writing a book about funerals in American during the later 1950s and early 1960s then this would be your golden ticket for research. Other than that, skip it.

    19. Jan

      This witty, although somewhat disturbing, investigation into the move from sobre farewell to full-blown commercial exploitation of funerals, is interesting both in terms of the way the change has been managed (language, the guilt trip, customer's tendency towards choosing the middle price) and in its increasing relevance to the UK. Beware, it's all coming our way!

    20. Kimberly

      Jessica Mitford is a great prose writer, and kept me interested both with her subject, and her witty comments. The most interesting part of this book is when Mitford goes "Behind the Formaldehyde Curtain" and into the process of embalming; it is what also originally got me to look into her book. It was super fascinating.

    21. Elizabeth Steffen

      If I hadn't read Curtains: Adventures of an Undertaker-in-Training by Tom Jokinen I might have found this more interesting. Jokinen covered much of the same material in a more personal manner. I found Mitford's material dry and just straight facts.

    22. B

      393 A fascinating book about how the funeral industry works in this country, (embalming,other rituals, etc.) and how it often takes advantage of people when they are at their most vulnerable. It's been updated but I haven't read that yet.

    23. Veronica

      Consider the source. Then go talk to a real licensed funeral director. Then talk to a family who has had a loss. THEN make your own educated decision as to whether the funeral industry is as superfluous as she makes it out to be.

    24. russell barnes

      Strangely lightweight after reading Decca: The Letters of Jessica Mitford, but still good to see what all the fuss was about.

    25. Fishface

      Very well-researched, cutting portrait of the way the funeral industry rips people off at their most vulnerable moments. Everyone should read this in order to avoid being manipulated out of thousands of dollars.

    26. James

      A most illuminating expose of American undertakers and what they have convinced the American public should be the "respectful" way of bidding goodbye to our loved ones. This should be required reading for everyone!

    27. Patty

      This was an interesting "inside" look at the mortuary/funeral business. Somewhat disturbing when you read about the tactics they use against people who are in a vulnerable frame of mind. It was kinda dry reading at parts but mostly interesting.

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