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.
©2003 Mary Roach; (P)2003 Tantor Media, Inc.
"Uproariously funny....informative and respectful...irreverent and witty....impossible to put down." (Publishers Weekly)
"Not grisly but inspiring, this work considers the many valuable scientific uses of the body after death." (Library Journal)
"One of the funniest and most unusual books of the year." (Entertainment Weekly)
This is one of those books that could be a POSTER CHILD for audio books in general - simply one of the most inspired works I've ever experienced. The marriage of a charming, wry and astute author (think David Sedaris as a forensic journalist) with a narrator who's own talents - not to mention sense of irony - is definitely up to the task. In an engrossing span of chapters ranging from airline crash investigators to funeral directors brushing up their cosmetic skills on anonymous decapitions, Roach never forces a cheap laugh, but unearths many as she explores the history and state of our mortal ends with a scientists eye and a wisecracking mouth. There are certain chapters I enjoyed more than others (and found lesser and more compelling) but overall I have rarely seen such deft journalistic skills more hilariously demonstrated. Defintely a 5-star listen!
Here is a toast to Mrs Roach and her book STIFF. Her writing is very talented in the descriptions which she gives of a subject matter that not many find pleasant to contemplate or discuss. She describes that her interest in this topic began as personal and then developed into the book. With her skills as an author she effectively captured me and had me enjoying her serious but light hearted approach.
More than the book itself is the excellent narration. Done by Ms. Frasier it is in perfect harmony with the mind, writing and spirit of the material. She effectively adds to the pleasure of the book by pacing her the reading and delivering the appropriate pauses to properly deliver the humor of the book. Cheers for Ms. Frasier!
In my younger days I drove ambulance and had also been a police officer. I guess that I bought this book to revive some of the humor used when dealing with the deceased(maybe you had to be there) but the author even touches on bad taste in my books. We used the jokes to relieve tensions of the moment but to write a whole book with this dry humour of the trade didn't sit well with me. The uses of cadavers was enlightning and yet I'll likely opt for creamation after this read. I'd have liked it much more though back in the day... maybe!
This book was only 'ok'. I like all types of books, so I think I am a pretty open minded listener. I am not easily offended, and this book didn't really offend me, but I could see where some people could be VERY turned off. The author tries to add humor - sometimes I believe in an attempt at comic relief, but often falls short by being too flippant or just plain not funny.
It was interesting to hear all of the different ways a cadaver can be used in the name of science, and also to hear the different uses and superstitions that have transpired through the years.
This wasn't a bad book - I think many people will find it mildly entertaining while some will hate it.
This comically informative book creates a macabre fascination that is delightful to... embody. But what really brings the audio edition home is the fantastic narration of Shelly Frasier. Her scratchy, quirky voice and perfect comedic timing had me laughing out loud at some point during every chapter!
A word to the wise, though: Do not attempt to listen to this partcular tome too close to mealtimes... even if you're vegetarian!
While the subject and some of the content of the book is macabre, it is fascinating. There were times that I thought I ought to give up I couldn't do it. Had to keep going and I'm glad I did. Worth the time.
WARNING: This book IS NOT for the squeamish!
My objection to this book was not the subject matter. As a matter of fact, I thought the topic the author selected to write about was intriguiging and different, in an odd but good way. What ruins the story is the author's non-stop sarcasm -- no paragraph goes un-punned. The first time I thought, tongue-in-cheek, "Ha, cute;" but it is incessant, and by the third chapter I was ready to scream, "ENOUGH!" The author managed to shoot herself in the foot with her writing style. Her style is self-conscious, mocking and condescending. She is off my reading list.
This was a pretty good book. Its definitely not for anyone who is sensitive talking about dead bodies. Apparently Im one of those people because I really had to force myself to finish this book. It does a good job overall however.
I loved it. I find the author's approach to a macabre subject refreshingly light. Yes, she used a bit of bathroom humor, but if your like me-someone who had to step up to get your mind out of the gutter- you'll love it.
Mary Roach never gets beneath the surface of her reporting. She follows her outline like a dutiful student, but she can't evoke what it means to be dead or what happens to bodies in any memorable way. I remember an article I read years ago on cremation. The first sentence is, "After death, you will weigh about 10 pounds." (In bone chunks and ash.) Nothing close to that good anywhere in this tale. Mary Roach is the Reader's Digest version of her topics.
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