Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Friday 4 September 2009

Resting in peace in a theme park

For those who prefer rapiers to clubs, at least as far as satire is concerned, a great literary work of the 20th century was brought to mind by today's news headlines.

In Evelyn Waugh's 'The Loved One', a cynical young Englishman discovers the florid and artificial world of the American cemetery when he visits Whispering Glades, the apotheosis of the mortician's art and a monument to pompous euphemism. The cemetery's extensive acreage abounds with meaningful statues and pseudo-cultural artefacts such as the Wee Kirk o' Auld Lang Syne (complete with authentic inscription in Scots) and the pre-recorded beehive sound-effects on the Lake Isle of Innisfree.

The real-life counterpart of Whispering Glades is, of course, Forest Lawn, final resting place of Michael Jackson. Nowadays a chain of Forest Lawns exists across America to help you 'memorialize your Loved One', but purists will be pleased to know that the original location in Glendale Ca. still boasts the artistic attractions immortalized in Waugh's satire including the Wee Kirk o' the Heather®, 'a faithful rendition of the village church at Glencairn, Scotland, where Annie Laurie of Scottish lore worshipped'.

It is somehow fitting that Michael Jackson should end up in this Never-Never Land of the departed; a theme park in the literal sense of the term where you can choose to rest in one of a multitude of carefully structured environments completely isolated from the outside world.
Anyone who wants to join him there to await the last judgement will be pleased to know that Forest Lawn offers a handy online planner to coordinate your Before Need Reservation.

(For anyone who enjoyed Waugh's book, I thoroughly recommend 'The American Way of Death' by Jessica Mitford - a sort of 1950's 'Fast Food Nation' for the dismal trade.)

Update: While working on this post, I was presented with this tasteful prospect by Google Ads -

Ashes into Glass
Cremated ashes to beautiful glass "Keep the memory".


  1. I wonder how many people get mugged by local junkies when visiting the graves of their loved ones at Forest Lawn? They have much to learn from us.

  2. I read that article too - although I've refrained from posting on such a depressing subject.

    I'm sure the sanitised surroundings of Forest Lawn are under constant surveillance and patrolled by security guards, although I wonder whether extra shifts will be posted to deal with an influx of Michael Jackson fans.

    The cost could doubtless be offset by the extra sales in the handily situated Museum Shop - I'm sure a range of appropriate memorabilia is in production as I write.


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