Grave Goods

"Overheard in a coffee shop the other day, one young woman severely admonishing another about the dangers of amateur séances: 'Just one wrong move, and Poof! Suddenly every dead rock star and TV evangelist is knocking at your door and forcing you to bake ten thousand apple pies. You can’t trust these ghosts. They have a mind of their own.'"
—from the book

Just because this is a collection of essays about psychics, murderers, strange disappearances, and occult phenomena doesn’t mean it isn’t funny. With wit, wry curiosity, and redemptive irony John P. O’Grady peels back the surface of the seemingly normal to reveal the dubious, the inexplicable, the outlandish.

Consider Leo LaHappe, a.k.a. "The Bugman." During a 1970s-era dormitory bull session Leo reveals a strange obsession with Virginia Dare, the first child born of English parents in the New World. His obsession becomes the catalyst for a campus-wide witch hunt at the University of Maine.

Or, what about the beekeeper who knocks on O’Grady’s door. Dressed in his professional gear—boots, coveralls, and dark veil—the man seeks permission to search the author’s woods for his hive. Turns out he hadn’t told the bees about his mother’s death and, sensitive creatures that they are, the bees had run away. "I have to tell them I’m sorry," the beekeeper explains. "I just hope they forgive me and come home."

Grave Goods includes ghost stories, macabre modern legends, and metaphysical investigations, all informed by the natural sciences, history, philosophy, literature, and mythology. From laugh-out-loud funny to eerily thoughtful, these essays reveal the natural world as a place of unnatural surprises and strange beauty. A place where Rip Van Winkle, O’Grady’s college buddies, and ragtag psychics rub shoulders with Buddha, Socrates, and Stephen King—and it all makes perfect sense.

John P. O’Grady is associate professor of English at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania, where he teaches environmental writing and American literature. He is the author of Pilgrims to the Wild (University of Utah Press, 1993).

Praise and Reviews:

"Grave Goods is highly serious light reading. It is ‘light’ because it illuminates and because it never takes itself as seriously as its serious subjects. John O’Grady, like any fine scientist, is a first-rate observer. Like any fine writer he makes invisible links between disparate objects and perceptions visible. Reading this book is like walking through the world with a highly knowledgeable naturalist-poet-philosopher. I don’t know your taste in journeys, but this book is mine."—Peter Coyote, poet and actor

"John O'Grady is the cream of the next generation of American nature writers. While he is new and experimental and all of that, the pleasure of reading O'Grady's work resides where it always has in any fine writer: engaging the intelligence and imagination of another person through the medium of language. In O'Grady's case, the intelligence is both rigorous and wide-ranging, the imagination downright wild, and all expressed with a wit that arcs between sweetly goofy and canine sharp. Grave Goods is the real goods, natural as a six and five."—Jim Dodge, author of Fup and Not Fade Away

"Grave Goods is a first-rate collection, revealing not only the surprising connections between ordinary things, but their metaphysical and philosophical implications as well. His stories, though rooted in everyday reality, stretch our imaginations toward the fantastic and the supernatural."—John Algeo, editor of The Quest

"This book is good company, primed with curiosity, energized with irony. You walk and talk with it."—Edward Hoagland, author of Tigers and Ice: Reflections on Nature and Life