It's usually not OK to laugh at the pain and misfortune of others, but I found a collection of books and videos that were accidentally designed to do exactly that. That's what this article is about, so I'm sorry, unfortunate people -- things still aren't going your way.
Do-It-Yourself Coffins For Pets and People
Dale Power, 1997
Pets and people are ticking time bombs of storage space issues. One day they are beloved family members, the next they are cluttering up your garage. How am I supposed to get rid of all these grandparents and birds? I can't put them outside and hope the raccoons have forgotten how to push over a trash can! I don't have time to defrost the freezer, and it's not always practical to wait until the next hunter's moon when I again must feast on innocent flesh. Agh, with all this frustration I'm starting to get why people scream when they see dead bodies.
At least that's how I thought until I got Dale Power's illustrated guide to coffin building. It shows, in amazing full-color detail, how to build a resting place for any size of dead thing. "But nothing I love ever dies!" you might be saying. That's okay, because these coffins have hundreds of ordinary household uses. Just look:
Coffin Tip #1: When a coffin book author starts talking about "surprising" uses for a sarcophagus, don't drink anything they give you.
Why shouldn't I store my extra blankets in a coffin? I can think of two good reasons ... it's fucking crazy and ghost pox. I guess it's still the only way to kill bed bugs, but after they cross over, they become more powerful than you could possibly imagine.
I get that there are a couple advantages to replacing all my furniture with coffins. Maybe I'm a vampire who likes to fall asleep in front of the TV. Maybe I have a bag of cat parts I want to hide in plain sight. But don't expect me to believe that there's a third advantage. No wait, I forgot corpse sex-- a home full of coffins would be perfect for that!
Coffin Tip #2: If you are in a friend's home and notice their coffee table and bookcase are coffins, stab them with a sacred dagger and carefully leap to the side. Their blood will be mostly made of angry crows.
From the intro, I was expecting most of the construction plans to sound like "Did you know a child's fingernails still grow when it's dead. Try holding races while you wait for your coffin glue to dry!" But it turns out making a coffin is really complicated. Once he gets started, there is no time for banter. Each of the hundreds, maybe thousands of steps is pictured ... sawing, sanding, gluing, clamping, staining-- if you buried me alive right now, I could not get any more sick of looking at coffins. But something about Do-It-Yourself Coffins for Pets and People kept me riveted, and I think it was the will-they-or-won't-they relationship between the fingers and the sawblades.
I grew up with a healthy fear of saws. My shop teacher had lost so many fingers that when he waved goodbye it looked like he was shaking a leaky water balloon. The author must have had the same shop teacher, because some of his very first advice is to always use a pushing device when you're feeding wood through a saw. And then this advice is ignored. Flagrantly and often. Every page has closeups of delicate human fingers inching towards spinning blades ... it's like when a nipple slides dangerously close to the edge of a bra -- it's so much more intense than if she just yanked her whole boob out. This book is the softcore version of a table saw accident. It's what murderers masturbate to before their parents let them watch Hostel.
Coffin Tip #3: If someone, at any time, describes a coffin as "ready for action," never die next to them without a partner. In the industry, we call this a "coffin buddy."
Grieving for Dummies
Greg Harvey, PhD, 2007
We all grieve in our own ways, except for dummies. They use this special book. Grieving for Dummies has pages and pages of cold psychological data to sooth any type of loss. Did your boyfriend die? Maybe your roommate? Your mail carrier? Your landlord? That's really suspicious, lady!
No matter what the deceased was to you, there is a chapter for dealing with the loss of him, her, or it. The book gets oddly specific and the fact that there are sometimes terrible cartoons and jokes makes it all really fucking weird. The author must be a little league coach when he's not sucking at grief counseling because he doesn't seem to care if anyone wins; he only want to make sure every possible type of grief gets some playing time.
It might seem overwhelming, but there is an exhaustive table of contents for the griever on the go. If you've lost an ex-wife to a sudden strangulation, you'll want to skip right to the chapter about whether or not you can blame God. You know, if I can keep it real for a second, the problem I've always had with books for dummies is that once your reader has agreed that it's okay for you to call them a dummy, there's no point in the author having respect for them. And the author of Grieving for Dummies doesn't-- this might actually be more condescending than Xbox 360 for Dummies.
Since the reader is an idiot, Chapter 9: The Loss of Pets lets him or her know that most domesticated animals have shorter life spans than humans, and one day you will watch that thing die. So now I get why they were laughing at me at the cake store when I paid for my fish's next 50 birthday cakes in advance, but why the fuck should that make me feel better that it's dead? If people took comfort from the stupidly obvious, they would read coffee cup warning labels at funerals.
Okay, so after hundreds of pages of comfortless facts about the miseries of misery, the grief-stricken reader has theoretically dealt with his or her loss. Then on page 267, the fucking book hits you with this:
What!? Is this to make the misery of my dead family pale by comparison? Was this included as an example of why people shouldn't draw fucking comics while they're watching cancer spread? This cartoon is so tragic that if you look at it while thinking about your dead loved one, your memory of them will look you in the eye and shit on the floor of your brain forever. Maybe this book works on idiots, but Grieving for Dummies will turn a non-dummy's grief directly into hate. And you won't believe how the book ends. Spoiler alert:
I'm not sure how appropriate this is for the occasion. "Do you miss your dead husband!? Then you'll love Sudoku!" And it's not only inappropriate, it's potentially damaging-- if your departed loved one was a fucking idiot, a Grilling for Dummies apron that says "Tickle my ribs!" is only going to remind you of your loss. You'd have to start the whole book over!