Wednesday 18 December 2019

Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs

Who can possibly resist such a title? Certainly not me. I'd been meaning to read Caitlin Doughty for some time. I have her first book Smoke Gets in Your Eyes lurking in the TBR somewhere, but it was this one, her most recent title that really hooked me in.

Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs is a collection of short essays, most a couple of pages, all answers to questions that Caitlin has been asked by children. Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs kicks off the collection, and the answer is not all that reassuring.

No, your cat won't eat your eyeballs. Not right away, at least. 
But the news is even worse for we dog owners.
Your dog will totally eat you. 
Hmmm, my dog doesn't like going hungry. It's true. She will eat me. 

Naturally, in a book like this there are many fascinating random factoids.

Cannibalism is not illegal.
Humans are red meat.
Blowflies can smell death from up to 10 miles away. (Small wonder they know when I've just opened the screen door- not that my kitchen smells like death, well I hope it doesn't, maybe it does to a fly?)
There are chapter exploring so many topics. What would happen if you die in space? Transporting bodies killed in war, both in the past and of course sadly the modern world still has a significant need for this. Entrepreneurial embalmers would follow battles around during the American Civil War, and used so much arsenic to preserve the bodies that arsenic can still be found flowing from certain Civil War cemeteries. 

As the book is written for children, it is entertaining, often funny, and the tone is generally kept light even when discussing these rather distressing subjects. I found myself actually laughing out loud at times, helped along by such phrases as a "freaky Violet Beauregard situation". Caitlin Doughty treads a fine path through some tricky topics.

Every chapter is intriguing in its own right. And often eye opening. I've worked in health care for 20 years and learnt a great many things from this book, and I've reconsidered my wishes regarding my own death. I'm not all that sure I want to be cremated any more. I've long assumed I would be, but had never thought about the process. Yes, I will be dead, but I'm not sure I want to put myself through it.

While cadaveric kidney transplants are common place and not at all disturbing, I was very disconcerted by the notion of a cadaveric blood transfusion! Not sure why, but I find it profoundly disturbing. 

We're very lucky to live in the modern era where while dying and death is still recognised as a process, it is easy enough to pronounce someone dead and  there are strict protocols for determining brain death. 

In Germany, in the late 1700s, there were physicians who believed that the only way to tell if someone was truly dead was to wait for the person to start rotting - bloating, smelling, the whole works. 
The whole concept of a Leichenhaus is extraordinary, and I'm so relieved that we no longer need these "waiting mortuaries".

I read Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? all the way back in Nonfiction November. As I was thinking recently about what book to take for the Secret Santa for my book group ladies, it seemed an obvious, if not particularly festive choice.