ifestyles of the deadEditor's note: Each month we see lots of books. Some of the curious arrivals are featured in this space.It must be admitted that occasionally this column stoops to mocking a book. No doubt we will again yield to this righteous urge in the future, but not this month. Although Heaven and Hell and Other Worlds of the Dead, edited by Alison Sheridan, doesn't deserve mocking, it is very much a curiosity. This 168-page oversize paperback is both informative and entertaining. "What happens after we die?" is Sheridan's first sentence in the book. She proceeds to document the many, um, inventive ways that human beings have tried to answer this curious question.
Heaven and Hell is handsomely illustrated with color photographs and reproductions of artworks. There are wooden Nigerian staffs associated with reincarnation and Kwakiutl thunderbird masks still being made in the ancestral style. From 15th century Afghani Muslim manuscripts to Tibetan Buddhist temple paintings that reveal less than cheerful forecasts of the afterlife, this book hints that our final rest may not be very restful. Although the remarkable illustrations alone will draw you into the book, essays by Sheridan and other contributors will keep you reading. As far as we know, none of the writers has actually visited either Heaven or Hell, which reminds us of one enduring trait of Homo sapiens: a lack of information never prevents us from having an opinion.