January 18th, 2007

Fenster (The Usual Suspects)

In the Wake of Unicorns

Dre's mother died on Sunday, and today myself and several of my co-workers went to the wake. I've been to wakes before and they are a cultural touchstone, figuring prominently in fiction, so I'm not unfamiliar with the process. However, you don't have wakes in Jewish tradition; it's a desert religion, so the emphasis is getting the body into the ground as quickly as possible because you just don't want it around in that climate. The function of the wake is filled later by the shivah period. Neither of my grandfathers had one, and so I've never really been in a position where I was viewing my own loved one's body.

I saw my grandfather's body at the funeral home as there is a need for a family member to identify the deceased before the casket is sealed, but he wasn't lying visibly when people started collecting, nor during the following week when people dropped by my grandmother's house. I wonder if it makes it harder for the bereaved. I'm not particularly bothered by the body being in the room, but again, I've never experienced that with somebody to whom I was very close. Dre kept having to go over and re-adjust his mother's veil, for example, an act which would clearly rattle him each time.

In Search of Unicorns is title of the children's book written by Susannah York which was incorporated by Robert Altman into the narrative of one of his finest films, Images. "In the Wake of Unicorns" was the title of the paper I wrote on it for one of Royal S. Brown's classes. Susannah York appeared in three films, Jane Eyre, Images and Superman, each of which features a score by John Williams that is one of the cornerstones of his career. This has nothing to do with anything other than the fact that "wake" made me think of it.

White Castle is evil.