Friday, July 11, 2003

Virtual Book Tour VII

Mary Roach, author of Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers -- and the Virtual Book Tour -- have moved on to their fifth stop.

In Min Jung Kim's blog Brain Dump, Kim likens reading the book to watching television programs such as CSI and Dead Like Me, citing the shows' witty dialogue and humor as reasons why their subject matter is so palatable. Kim also mixes in a bit of scatological humor.

Both are present in Roach's book -- humor and scatology. Roach approaches the subject matter with a keen mind and a sharp wit, perhaps using humor to distance herself somewhat from the people and places she encountered while researching and reporting the book. We laugh at what makes us uncomfortable. Similarly, Stiff shows a deep interest in the solids and fluids our bodies produce while living and dead: bile, blood, feces, saliva, sweat, tears, urine, and vomit.

In fact, I've felt queasy twice so far while reading the book. On p. 48, Roach details the "dead houses" of Scottish churches, structures in which bodies were locked until they had decomposed past the point of usefulness to anatomists, who would rob graves for research subjects. And on p. 68, Roach expands on the process of bloat and putrefaction, which I mentioned Tuesday.

Roach's fascination with fluids isn't as strong as, say, that exhibited by Paul Spinrad's book Bodily Fluids. But there are enough crying decapitated dogs (p. 207-208) and excretion-based medical remedies (chapter 10) mentioned in the book that if it's gore you want, it's gore you'll get.


Special thanks to Mary for being such a Media Diet sport yesterday. Wanting to up the ante in the Virtual Book Tour a little, I kind of put her through the paces. She rose to the occasion in fine style.

I'll continue to follow the tour as it progresses.

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