02. Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

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02. Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

Post  twunny on Thu Jan 14, 2010 9:22 pm

When I saw Mary Roach's newer book "Bonk," in the library, it had been quite a while since I'd heard about "Stiff" or given it any thought. so I grabbed "Bonk" thinking I would see if it was any good, and then consider tracking down "Stiff". A few days later, Ren reviewed "Stiff" for 29 in '09. One or two days after that, I saw "Stiff" in different library. So I grabbed it, too. And then (forgive the intended pun) morbid curiosity got the better of me. I'm writing a play with a dead body in it, I started watching "Six Feet Under" recently...something compelled me to just jump in.

And wheeeeeew. This is a hell of a book. It goes into grisly detail. I felt ill on more than one occasion. But thankfully, the author was there with her unusual sense of humor. That, and the idea that she was the one who actually had to go through everything in my stead, was comforting. Just when things got too much, she'd drop an actual joke or just articulate a unique way of looking at whatever it was (usually something dead). And that acts like a pressure release valve. She's very good. Insightful, intelligent, sympathetic, and willing to ask the tough (sometimes ridiculous) questions.

This book covers everything from cannibalism to anatomy class to cremation to decomposition to body snatching to airplane disaster investigations to crucifixion. And she handles it well, without ever being too removed or insensitive. That would have demeaned us both. She had the itch of curiosity and she scratched the hell out of it. And I thank her for that. Even if I couldn't eat or sleep immediately after any given session of reading this book.

Highly recommended, but definitely not for the squeamish.

twunny
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