Picks and Pans Review: Tombstones

updated 06/02/1997 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/02/1997 01:00AM

by Gregg Felsen

In a book that could have been subtitled Deathstyles of the Rich and Famous, photographer and author Felsen proves that while you can't take it with you, you can sure blow a bundle on the way out. Some of the 75 featured tombstones are extravagant, final bursts of ego, from Al Jolson's $84,000 Los Angeles monument (complete with a 120-foot waterfall) to the ostentatious resting place of Elvis Presley, buried next to his beloved mother, Gladys, on the garish, tourist-trampled grounds of Graceland.

Others opted for more dignified memorials: Sigmund Freud's ashes are kept in a 2,200-year-old Greek vase propped up by a cemetery window (a tomb with a view?). And some celebrity stones are quirky but appropriate: a heart-shaped slab for Jayne Mansfield; a simple statue of James Joyce reading atop his Switzerland burial site. Felsen's macabre collection also serves up some illuminating death trivia: Did you know that millions of Americans simultaneously turned off their lights for one minute on the night Thomas Edison died? Tombstones turns out to be an uplifting tribute to the human spirit, de-.spite its undeniably grave subject matter. (Ten Speed, $19.95)

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