Can elephants really tell us anything about the macabre or morbid? What about our toddlers: will they ever stop wanting to blow things up? Why are we so drawn to things like the Holocaust Museum, Auschwitz, Ground Zero and Gettysburg? Why is there such fascination with autopsy photos of famous people? These are the questions that Wake Forrest Prof. Eric Wilson attempts to answer in this book, his newest. To answer these questions, Wilson not only draws upon his own experience but he uses philosophers like Kant, Aristotle and Freud as well as Shakespeare, among others (although there weren't any females that he relied upon interestingly enough but more on that later on). He also draws upon the cases of serial killers and the people that collect items that relate to them (because yes, apparently there are people that collect memorabilia that relate to Ted Bundy, Charles Manson and Aileen Wournos among others). We learn about his interviews with some of these collectors and about his attendance at a live re-enactment of the Passion of Christ.
Essentially, Wilson states that we're curious about death because we want the truth about that and we want beauty, as opposed to the view that death is the destruction and failure of the body that the medical establishment perpetuates it as. He claims that hospitals sterilize and hide the macabre aspects of death, creating an imbalance that can only be corrected by TV and our fascination by the morbid that we see and hear about on the television.
I was ambivalent and apathetic about this book. I really appreciated the short chapters but found them to be disjointed and hard to follow at times. I didn't feel that he even grazed the psychological and cultural machinations that lead to our oftentimes morbid fascination with the macabre. What was also disappointing is that he didn't use any female examples or philosophers to explain the experiences of fascination with the macabre. Wouldn't women experience this fascination for the same reason or would they experience it in a different way and why?
All in all, this book had a lot of potential but fell short.