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Convince Us: Stiff

By Jess D'Amico in Arts & Entertainment on Aug 3, 2007 7:44PM

2007_07_stiff.jpgThis month we asked you ladies and gents to judge a book by its cover. We chose Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers.


Actually, although reading in the heat about the "gamy" and "slightly sweet" smell of rotting human flesh did make us feel faint at times, we found Stiff to be thoroughly engrossing (no pun intended). Mary Roach's forays into cadaver research and the body farm were all precise and detailed without being disrespectful. We found ourselves reading parts aloud to unwitting friends and family, who looked at us with sour faces, as though they never wanted to know how to calculate why a plane crashed from "the human wreckage."

Our favorite parts were the footnotes, things Roach had come across in her research and maybe had little to do with bodies donated to science, like the one about how much a human stomach could hold. The cadaver research said one thing, and the footnotes, taken from Guinness Book of World Records explains how living people have since surpassed that number and exactly what they ate. It also lightens the sometimes wordy expositions on crash test cadavers or medicinal cannibalism.

In the end, as with the best books, we felt everything the back cover said we would. We laughed a lot, were grossed out, fascinated, and just might consider donating our corpse to posthumous rhinoplasties or any other host of lives in Stiff.