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About the Book
The summer before his senior year in college, Greg Melville worked at the cemetery in his hometown. Thanks to hour upon hour of pushing a mower over the grassy acres, he came to realize what a rich story the cemetery told of his town and its history. Thus was born Melville’s lifelong curiosity with how, where, and why we bury and commemorate our dead.
Melville’s Over My Dead Body: Unearthing the Hidden History of America’s Cemeteries (Abrams Press; October 4, 2022) is a lively (pun intended) and wide-ranging history of cemeteries, places that have mirrored the past eras of history but have also shaped them. The book explores how cemeteries have given birth to landscape architecture and famous parks, as well as influenced architectural styles; how they’ve inspired and motivated
some of our greatest poets and authors—Emerson, Whitman, Dickinson; and how they’ve been used as political tools to shift the country’s discourse and as important symbols of the United States’ ambition and reach.
But cemeteries are also changing and fading. Embalming and burial are incredibly toxic, and while cremations have just recently surpassed burials in popularity, they’re not great for the environment either. Over My Dead Body explores this and more—history, sustainability, land use, art, politics—and what it really means to memorialize. This fascinating tour of America, its history, and our sustaining fascination with the afterlife, is a perfect read for fans of Mary Roach, Caitlyn Doughty, and Lindsey Fitzharris.
About the Author
Greg Melville is an adventure writer and former editor at Men’s Journal and Hearst Magazines. His work has appeared in many national publications, including Outside, National Geographic Traveler, Men’s Health, and The Boston Globe Magazine and has been listed in The Best American Sports Writing 2017. He is a decorated navy veteran who served in Afghanistan and teaches writing and literature at the United States Naval Academy, where he was the recipient of the school’s award for excellence in teaching in 2019. He lives with his wife and two kids in Delaware.
In conversation with
Jeff Richman is the historian at Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery. Thirty years ago, he led his first tour at Green-Wood. He became its part-time historian in 2000 (while practicing law, representing indigent criminal defendants for 33 years, both at the trial level and the appellate level) and its fulltime historian in 2007. He is the author of Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery: New York’s Buried Treasure (1998), Final Camping Ground: Civil War Veterans at Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery, In Their Own Words (2007), "The Gallant Sims": A Civil War Hero Rediscovered (2016), and edited as well as contributed to Green-Wood at 175 (2013). Since 2002, he has been leading Green-Wood’s Civil War Project. He has also led World War I and World War II Projects at Green-Wood. He blogs about Green-Wood and his latest discoveries.
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Journalist Greg Melville’s Over My Dead Body is a lively tour through the history of US cemeteries that explores how, where, and why we bury our dead.
“Astonishing. . . fascinating . . . powerful. .
RSVP below for WORD Presents Greg Melville, October 20, 2022 at 7PM
at WORD Brooklyn (126 Franklin St, Brooklyn, NY, 11222).
Do not attend the event if you are feeling ill. Location and time subject to change.