Death, especially unexpected death, is the lure of much of the click bait we are offered in online news headlines. Likewise, sudden and/or violent death is central to the plot of many television shows, films and video games. Sometimes the resulting corpses are even autopsied for our viewing pleasure. A Martian watching us watch our screens would surely consider us a death-obsessed species. But it’s a revealing obsession: the kind of half-horrified half-titillated fascination that comes from flirting with the forbidden. Ours is, in truth, a death-denying culture.
But things are changing. Perhaps it’s because the baby boomers are getting old, and waking up to the fact that there’s no special dispensation for anyone: the petals of even the most beautiful former flower children eventually wither and die. Whatever the reason, people are beginning to talk, seriously talk, about death.
Two of many recent publications that tackle the subject are We’re all going to die: a Joyful book about Death by Dr Leah Kaminsky, and Death’s Summer Coat: What the History of Death and Dying Teaches us about Life and Living by historian Brandy Schillace.