Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Gone Home: a brief review

Gone Home: Southern Folk Gravestone Art is a good book, but a deceptively titled one. The word "southern" suggests it's going to provide examples from across the southern United States; in reality it focuses exclusively on cemeteries in the state of Alabama.

Similarly, the phrase "gravestone art" implies the authors are going to focus on the decorative elements of funerary art: statuary, carvings, headstone shapes and styles, and so on. Instead, the authors' passion lies in epitaphs. The authors do discuss carving, but the focus seems to be more on the development of the lettering used in epitaphs rather than on the decorative elements of a marker such as floral motifs and Christian symbolism. There is also an interesting discussion of folklore and memorialization, and the evolution of markers and inscriptions over time.

Nonetheless, while the book is a useful one for anyone interested in gravestones and the history of memorialization, a reader looking for a book that focuses on gravestone art overall rather than the content of the inscriptions would be doomed to disappointment. Similarly, anyone hoping for a book that provides a regional context should look elsewhere. This is a good book on a specific subject area, and as such as fairly limited in its content.