The Book: Judi Culbertson & Tom Randall, PERMANENT LONDONERS: An Illustrated, Biographical Guide to the Cemeteries of London. Walker and Co. trade paperback, 1991. Near fine condition.
First read: 1996
Owned since: 1996
Oh, come on, this book was a gift -- along with its companion, PERMANENT PARISIANS. I think I got these books from my friend SueLin, but they might have come from Anna -- Anna, do you remember giving them to me?
Anyway, they were gifts before a two-week trip I took in November 1996. I'd planned to spend a week in London with (again!) the Schulzes, then take the Chunnel train to Paris. But a fire in the Chunnel shut down the train, and anyway I was having such a great time in London, I wound up just spending two weeks there. I still haven't been to Paris.
We took this book on an outing to Highgate Cemetery, whose most famous resident may be Karl Marx. What was more interesting, though, were the ethnic groupings in that cemetery, and the headstones of people we'd never heard of, inscribed in alphabets we couldn't read.
Cemeteries are for the living, not the dead, and I've always thought that any ghosts in cemeteries belong to the people who grieved there, not the people laid to rest. A cemetery on a sunny day can be almost a joyful place, commemorating not the people buried but all the people who loved them enough to want to remember them.
What I Read This Week
Lauren Groff, THE MONSTERS OF TEMPLETON. In the words of William Faulkner, "The past is never dead. It's not even past." THE MONSTERS OF TEMPLETON is a dazzling first novel about Willie Upton, not quite 30, who returns to her hometown in upstate New York to figure out her life. That requires figuring out who she is, literally, when her mother tells her that her never-identified father is actually a man living in the town -- who is also descended from Willie's illustrious ancestor, the founder of Templeton. Willie's research takes her (and us) back through the town's history, with a mixture of found documents and stories told by the long-dead. It would be a tour de force for any author, and the fact that this is a first novel is just mind-boggling.