The Speaking Stone

By Michael Griffith

The Speaking Stone book cover
Added December 7, 2021

The Speaking Stone: Stories Cemeteries Tell is a literary love letter to the joys of wandering graveyards and the discoveries such wanderings can yield. Here, Michael Griffith roams Spring Grove (founded 1844), the nation's third-largest cemetery, following curiosity and accident wherever they lead. The result is this fascinating collection, which narrates the lives of those he encountered on the way. Griffith lingers amidst the traces left behind--these are stories of race, feminism, art, and death, uncovered through obituaries, archival documents, and family legacies. Some essays focus on well-known figures like the feminist icon and freethinker Fanny Wright, but most chronicle the lives of lesser-known figures (a spiritual medium, a temperance advocate, the designers of caskets and hearses, the inventor of the glass-door oven) or of nearly unknown ones (a young heiress who died under mysterious circumstances, the daring sign-painters known as walldogs). The Speaking Stone examines what endures and what doesn't, reflecting on the vanity and poignancy of our attempts to leave monuments that last. Archival photos grace the pages of these thirteen essays that explore a larger, deeply tangled complex of ideas about place, history, self, and art.

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