Sunday, May 18, 2008

Book Review: "Stiff"

In Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, Mary Roach takes an unconventional look at a very unconventional topic, examining the uses (current and historical) of human bodies after death. From anatomical examination or plastic surgery practice to decomposition studies, impact testing, and even stranger practices (real, or apocryphal?), Roach deftly explores the issues that make people queasy about utilizing human cadavers or their components (and if you think we do strange things to dead bodies now ...).

This book could have been just a creepy flop, but Roach's trademark wit saves the day. It's still morbid and gory, and a few chapters induced a cringe or two, but it's awfully hard to cringe while laughing. Each area is thoughtful and fascinating, and Roach somehow manages to maintain a sense of reverence for her subjects (at least the dead ones).

Enjoyable and recommended.