Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers (Alex Awards (Awards)) (英語) ハードカバー – 2003/4
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"Stiff" is an oddly compelling, often hilarious exploration of the strange lives of our bodies postmortem. For two thousand years, cadavers some willingly, some unwittingly have been involved in science's boldest strides and weirdest undertakings. They've tested France's first guillotines, ridden the NASA Space Shuttle, been crucified in a Parisian laboratory to test the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin, and helped solve the mystery of TWA Flight 800. For every new surgical procedure, from heart transplants to gender reassignment surgery, cadavers have been there alongside surgeons, making history in their quiet way. In this fascinating, ennobling account, Mary Roach visits the good deeds of cadavers over the centuries from the anatomy labs and human-sourced pharmacies of medieval and nineteenth-century Europe to a human decay research facility in Tennessee, to a plastic surgery practice lab, to a Scandinavian funeral directors' conference on human composting. In her droll, inimitable voice, Roach tells the engrossing story of our bodies when we are no longer with them. "
Acutely entertaining, morbidly fascinating.
Expect the insightful with the hilarious.--Bridget Kinsella (05/05/2003)
An unflinching, often hilarious cultural history.--Erica C Barnett (10/30/2003)
Bizarrely entertaining.--Susan Ellis (08/14/2003)
Mary Roach is an extremely funny science writer--Laurence A Marschall
Every detail is fascinating.--Henry Kisor (04/13/2003)
Whimsical, hysterical and terribly interesting.--Katy Human (05/31/2003)
Every page fairly drips with dark humor.--Matt Palmquist (04/30/2003)
Well-written and deadly funny.--Bruce Willey (06/19/2003)
Fascinating and oddly fun.
A quick and compelling, if slightly uneasy, read.--Justin Bauer (06/26/2003)
Well written, with a reader-friendly format.--Howard S Pitkow
A very funny book....full of surprises.--Craig McLaughlin (07/27/2003)
A joy to read....this is wonderful stuff.--Tim Redmond (05/28/2003)
Acutely entertaining, morbidly fascinating. "
Expect the insightful with the hilarious. --Bridget Kinsella (05/05/2003)"
An unflinching, often hilarious cultural history. --Erica C Barnett (10/30/2003)"
[Roach's] knack for detailed research and loose Dave Barry-ish style makes "Stiff" a leisurely and enjoyable read. --Tom Westin (05/11/2003)"
Bizarrely entertaining. --Susan Ellis (08/14/2003)"
Mary Roach is an extremely funny science writer --Laurence A Marschall"
Every detail is fascinating. --Henry Kisor (04/13/2003)"
Whimsical, hysterical and terribly interesting. --Katy Human (05/31/2003)"
Well-written and deadly funny. --Bruce Willey (06/19/2003)"
Every page fairly drips with dark humor. --Matt Palmquist (04/30/2003)"
A quick and compelling, if slightly uneasy, read. --Justin Bauer (06/26/2003)"
Fascinating and oddly fun. "
Well written, with a reader-friendly format. --Howard S Pitkow"
A very funny book....full of surprises. --Craig McLaughlin (07/27/2003)"
A joy to read....this is wonderful stuff. --Tim Redmond (05/28/2003)"
As fascinating as it is funny.... The research is admirable, the anecdotes carefully chosen, and the prose lively; and they combine to produce a book that everyone in the health care field should "have" to read, and everyone else will want to. --Caleb Carr, author of The Alienist"
An informative, gently funny but never irreverent look at the various uses society makes of the dead.--Tom Pantera (06/01/2003)
[A] mordantly witty history of the scientific contributions made by the no-longer-living.
Roach displays her metier in tangents about bizarre incendents in pathological history.--Gilbert Taylor (03/15/2003)
Roach's deliberate carefulness diminishes the topic's gore and sets a comfortable, comic tone that finds solace in its own oddity.--Tom Lynch (05/22/2003)
Outrageously funny, irreverent" but respectful....so delightfully written, this book is difficult to put down.--Brian Richard Boylan (05/11/2003)"
Droll, dark, and quite wise, Stiff makes being dead funny and fascinating and weirdly appealing.--Susan Orlean
Delightful....authoritative, endlessly curious and drolly funny.--Adam Wong (05/11/2003)
Bring[s] alive a subject that has the potential to be deadly dull.--Steve Fiffer (06/29/2003)
Despite the irreverent, macabre title, this is a respectful and serious examination of what happens to cadavers, past and present.--Michael D Cramer (03/01/2003)
Roach's conversational tone and her gallows humor bring her subjects to life....Morbidly entertaining.--Alex Abramovich (06/02/2003)
Our own instinctive discomfort with death provides fodder for Roach's dry sense of humor throughout the book--Ana Marie Cox (06/04/2003)
Roach...goes into gruesome detail, but she also succeeds in not making the subject at hand too morbid.--Kim Colton (05/21/2003)
Her morbid subject perverse, unsettling and voyeuristic makes her book hard to put down.--Dean Narcisco (05/27/2003)"
As weird as the book gets, Roach manages to convey a sense of respect and appreciation for her subjects.
Roach traces the use of the cadaver...and describes odd, behind-the-scenes moments perfect to halt all discussion at dinner.--T.D. Mobley-Martinez (06/12/2003)
Roach's dry, irreverent wit makes for a delightful though never disrespectful read.--Les Simpson (04/17/2003)"
Roach exhibits both a keen sense of humor and a sincere respect for the dearly departed.
What saves the subject matter from intolerable gruesomeness is Roach. Her interest is genuine, despite her droll tone.--B.T. Shaw (05/25/2003)
Though the cover...will draw many readers to this book, its deft prose will keep them returning.--Fred Bortz (07/27/2003)
This bizarre tome will shock, disgust, intrigue and entertain you all at the same time.--Mary Morrison (09/25/2003)
[Roach] manages to make material that normally comes with a warning for the faint-hearted somehow light-hearted.--Jill Wolfson (04/27/2003)
[Roach] has written a curiously funny, touching and respectful study.--Nancy Summers (08/17/2003)
A laugh-out-loud funny book....one of those wonderful books that offers enlightenment in the guise of entertainment.
[Roach] artfully and humorously unwraps the mystery of the dead body....an interesting and informative read.--Deborah Love (09/21/2003)
A fascinating book and, once you pick it up, you won't likely put it down.--William R Wineke (09/14/2003)
Lively and quirky....the writer's style is genuinely warm...she has a keen eye for observation of unique and ironic details.--Michael Jaffee (06/01/2003)
Genuinely funny and destined to be a classic read.--Donald A Collins (06/01/2003)
Roach is a masterful writer....Irreverent? Maybe a little. Disrespectful? Emphatically no.--Lisa Parsons (06/19/2003)
Surprisingly entertaining. Similar in tone to Bill Bryson's travel books, Roach manages to be humorous yet respectful.--Rick Mathis (08/03/2003)
Fascinating, unexpectedly fresh and funny look at the multiplicity of ways in which cadavers benefit the living.... entertaining, absolutely.
It's a rare talent that can make people want to throw up and laugh at the same time.--Roy Rivenberg (07/03/2003)
As informative and respectful as it is irreverent and witty....Impossible to put down.
The numerous tidbits of information derived from the author's travels and interviews make [this book] uniquely appealing.--Joseph H Davis, MD (07/16/2003)
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The anonymous cadavers that are the subjects of STIFF could hardly have asked for a livelier or more sympathetic chronicler than Mary Roach, who has managed to write a book that balances sensitivity and respect with a wonderfully sharp wit. In fact, STIFF is unexpectedly and quite blessedly hilarious, although the humor never comes at the expense at the dead bodies that populate its pages. Instead, Roach uses humor as a kind of psychic safety valve, a vital and much-appreciated tension release from what is, at times, some very intense subject matter.
The real highlights of this book are the sections that delve into some of the more disreputable uses of cadavers. There is a droll and utterly hilarious history of body snatching and a short overview of medicinal cannibalism (human mummy confection, anyone?). ThereÕs a fascinating catalog of the methods historically used to make sure that a dead body was in fact dead. This chapter culminates in what is surely the most spectacularly strange section of the book, in which Roach relates the story of Dr. Robert White, a neurosurgeon who in the mid-1960s performed a series of surgeries constituting what could be considered the first head transplant (or full body transplant, depending on your point of view). A wonderfully engrossing book on a subject most of us are reluctant to talk about.
Meanwhile, expect some odd looks when you are sitting there reading a book obviously about the dearly departed, and you started sputtering, and can't help but laugh out loud! Quirky humour, but that's my favorite kind. Thank you, Mary Roach.
I recommend this book to anyone in healthcare, or the clergy, or anyone even dealing with people who experience loss. It gives you a new perspective.
On the other hand, I will have a hard time ever eating gelatin again...
Roach opens her book with the comparison of death to a pleasure cruise: The way I see it, being dead is not terribly far off from being on a cruise ship. Most of your time is spent lying on your back. The brain has shut down. The flesh begins to soften. Nothing much new happens, and nothing is expected of you....
Stiff is, without a doubt, a bizarre yet remarkably engaging read: not surprising since Roach is such a terrific writer. The author possesses the ingenious ability of being able to make digestible the most repulsive of subjects. Curious, yet not callus, Roach manages to ask-and yes, answer-questions often best left unspoken (keeping in mind public decorum). Furthermore, Roach is hilarious. Quite honestly I was surprised at how many times the author prompted (albeit sometimes guilty) laughter. A neat trick that, keeping in mind the grisly subject matter.
Roach gleefully covers merry topics such as: practicing surgery on the dead, embalmment, body snatching, the process of decay, human crash test dummies, crucifixion experiments, live burials, human head transplants, ecological (read: green) releasments, and everyone's all-time favourite- cannibalism. All the while Roach manages to honour the dead, yet simultaneously takes deliberate pains not to over-glorify the cadaver-science is science after all. One of the most remarkable aspects about Roach's book is her take on cultural definitions of `acceptable behaviour' in relation to the human carcass.
Tonight, inspired by Roach's second to last chapter: Out of the Fire, into the tissue digester: and other new ways to end up... I asked an agnostic friend if, following her death, she'd be willing to have her body ground into dog food. "No," replied my friend, despite her love for all things canine, "...I don't think so- it seems somewhat undignified." I then asked my friend if she'd be willing to have her remains tossed into the lion pen at her local zoo. My friend replied in the positive, "Most certainly, yes that'd be very cool. Maybe even a shark tank..." Vanity to be certain. Meat either way.
A warning to the queasy: Not for you.
This is well written, well researched, and thorough. My one, very minor complaint is with the organization of the book. I feel as though it starts much more strongly than it finishes. So, for example, she might have considered organizing the chapters differently.
I don't think you need a particularly strong stomach to read this book. Only one item actually turned my stomach. But when it did, it *really* did.
The book succeeded in making me think about my own death. It also made me think about my mother's death and made it easier to accept certain events. ...
I hope this book will make you laugh and then think too.
So an initial warning to the squeamish: If you're the type to throw down the newspaper and run out of the room in terror after seeing an ad for Orkin Pest Control services, then you might want to stay away from this book. Heck. You might want to stay away from this review.
Now, to those of you who find facts about death rather interesting, (and I'm guessing it's a pretty significant number, given the popularity of all of those forensics shows on A&E), you'll find "Stiff" pretty interesting.
Roach approaches what is very delicate subject matter with enough decorum to not seem as if she's making light of things, but she also has a very wry sense of humor, and I found myself laughing out loud on more than one occasion:
When referring to the ancient Egyptian practice of placing pearl onions into the empty eye sockets of the deceased, she states: "Speaking for myself, if I had to have a small round martini garnish inserted under my eyelids, I would go with olives."
Or, "Sharing a room with a cadaver is only mildly different from being in a room alone. They are the same sort of company as people across from you on subways or in airport lounges, there but not there. Your eyes keep going back to them, for lack of anything more interesting to look at, and then you feel bad for staring."
An interesting observation, to be sure.
The book is divided into chapters that discuss such death-related topics as body snatching (grave robbing, in the early days of anatomical investigation); the utilization of decapitated heads with which plastic surgeons hone their craft; how the victims of airline disasters help investigators figure out how planes crash; and there's even a chapter on crucifixion experiments that utilized cadavers to prove (or disprove) the crucifixion of Jesus.
I found the content of some chapters more interesting than others, and the final couple of chapters... for me, anyway... didn't live up to the first 4/5ths of the book. So by the end, I was a little disappointed, but only because my level of expectation was set so high earlier on.
One last thing. You'd better hope that Roach hasn't sold the movie rights for this book!
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