Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Mary Roach: Stiff

Mary Roach's "Stiff" was recommended to me by a vet that I work with and frequently trade books with, especially books like my recent spate of books about what we eat and the random chicken book I read awhile ago. I see why she recommended it- the subject was fascinating. But Mary Roach's writing truly annoyed me, almost from page one. She writes as I imagine she talks, or maybe as she imagines we'd like to read a book about a slightly taboo subject, with "humorous" asides. It's kind of like reading this blog- if you don't like how I talk, which is almost exactly how I talk- you won't be able to stand it. On the other hand, I write blogs that, at their longest, are approximately 5 paragraphs. Roach's book was almost 300 pages of torture. Which sucks, because her discussion of what happens to dead bodies was actually fascinating, and totally new to me. But reading it was like pulling teeth from a cadaver. Or something.

Mostly, "Stiff" is a long line of anecdotes strung together about the various things that happen to dead bodies (mostly in the United States). They are used in research about the safety of various things like cars and land mine shoes, parts are used to help the living, they are buried, they are used as teaching tools, occasionally they are eaten or used as folk medicine, etc. Roach documents some gross historical experiments with cadavers and some historical problems with identifying when the dead were really dead. She seems to brag about how un-squeamish she is, and the walls she runs into trying to get into places like crematoriums, anatomy labs, that really shouldn't be big problems because hey, she's not going to vomit on anything! I can't recommend this book, and I can't say much about it- it's not thought provoking, it's more of a bathroom reader. It's not even good for the creep-out factor at a party. The best I can say is that "Stiff" is a great argument for organ donation, and for letting your loved ones decide what to do with your corpse after your death, since you really can't take it with you.


Marji said...

I enjoyed it, but I found Bonk a bit more interesting. But if you don't like how she writes, you won't like her other books.

thb said...

I loved stiff, and you should definitely find a way to turn me into compost! THB