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Stiff Paperback – Apr 26 2004


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: WW Norton; New edition edition (April 26 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393324826
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393324822
  • Product Dimensions: 1.4 x 0.2 x 2.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 295 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (143 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,163 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

"Uproariously funny" doesn't seem a likely description for a book on cadavers. However, Roach, a Salon and Reader's Digest columnist, has done the nearly impossible and written a book as informative and respectful as it is irreverent and witty. From her opening lines ("The way I see it, being dead is not terribly far off from being on a cruise ship. Most of your time is spent lying on your back"), it is clear that she's taking a unique approach to issues surrounding death. Roach delves into the many productive uses to which cadavers have been put, from medical experimentation to applications in transportation safety research (in a chapter archly called "Dead Man Driving") to work by forensic scientists quantifying rates of decay under a wide array of bizarre circumstances. There are also chapters on cannibalism, including an aside on dumplings allegedly filled with human remains from a Chinese crematorium, methods of disposal (burial, cremation, composting) and "beating-heart" cadavers used in organ transplants. Roach has a fabulous eye and a wonderful voice as she describes such macabre situations as a plastic surgery seminar with doctors practicing face-lifts on decapitated human heads and her trip to China in search of the cannibalistic dumpling makers. Even Roach's digressions and footnotes are captivating, helping to make the book impossible to put down.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School-Those curious or brave enough to find out what really happens to a body that is donated to the scientific community can do so with this book. Dissection in medical anatomy classes is about the least bizarre of the purposes that science has devised. Mostly dealing with such contemporary uses such as stand-ins for crash-test dummies, Roach also pulls together considerable historical and background information. Bodies are divided into types, including "beating-heart" cadavers for organ transplants, and individual parts-leg and foot segments, for example, are used to test footwear for the effects of exploding land mines. Just as the nonemotional, fact-by-fact descriptions may be getting to be a bit too much, Roach swings into macabre humor. In some cases, it is needed to restore perspective or aid in understanding both what the procedures are accomplishing and what it is hoped will be learned. In all cases, the comic relief welcomes readers back to the world of the living. For those who are interested in the fields of medicine or forensics and are aware of some of the procedures, this book makes excellent reading.
Pam Johnson, Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A. M. Metner on Oct. 7 2008
Format: Paperback
This is on my top 10 list of great books.
If you've ever wondered what happens to the body after you die, this is very insightful. From explaining the decompositon to historical body snatchers (using bodies for anatomy research) to what actually happens if you dedicate your body to science, it's worth a read.
It's not morbid as much as it is factual and funny. Roach has her own "tell it like it is" no-nonesense apporach. If you don't want to spend years of your life doing research (history, biology, forensics), sit back and go for a ride with Mary!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By M. Catalano on June 15 2007
Format: Paperback
Picture sitting in an airport laughing until you cried while reading a book called "Stiff" with a picture of a cadaver on the front of it. I'm lucky I didn't get pulled aside at security. Every page of this unlikely book is a gem. I found myself reading out loud to anyone who would listen. Mary Roach has a curious mind and an entertaining way of writing and the two combined make for a top notch read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By mellyboo on May 4 2009
Format: Paperback
This book was not only extremely informative (from a scientific and historic aspect), but it was hilarious in a morbidly funny kind of way. Mary Roach maintains a light tone in her writing style throughout this book, which contributes to the greatness of it, as many people will automatically assume it is dark and heavy read. This book will entertain and educate readers and it is laugh out loud funny!
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Format: Paperback
Mary Roach has taken it upon herself to research the history of cadaver research, which can't have been a barrel of laughs. Nevertheless, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers is a concise, intensely readable, frequently hilarious survey of the strange uses to which human bodies are put.
"A Head is a Terrible Thing to Waste" follows the author as she observes a group of surgeons giving face-lifts to decapitated heads. Sounds like a frivolous use for a body donated "to science," but plastic surgeons need to practice somewhere, and a corpse can't sue over a botched nose job. Roach points out that "heads aren't cut off out of ghoulishness. They are cut off so that someone else can make use of the other pieces: arms, legs, organs." And indeed, the unembalmed heads are treated respectfully, covered with cloths before and after the seminar; nobody's making impromptu hand puppets or throwing eyeballs around. They're here to learn, and the heads, though discomfiting, are an invaluable aid.
"Crimes of Anatomy" explores the history of body-snatching. Historically, the religious believed that the physical body was necessary for resurrection, so people weren't too eager to hand over their ticket to heaven; for this reason, dissection was sometimes tacked on to a death sentence for particularly heinous crimes. Enterprising anatomists worked around the lack of donors by nabbing corpses out of graves, or hiring someone (who couldn't possibly have been paid enough) to do it for them. French anatomists had it easier, as the unclaimed bodies of those who died in city hospitals were up for grabs. Now that human anatomy is understood and exhaustively documented, whole-body dissection is being phased out; some schools are switching over to computer simulations.
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Format: Paperback
Mary Roach has taken it upon herself to research the history of cadaver research, which can't have been a barrel of laughs. Nevertheless, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers is a concise, intensely readable, frequently hilarious survey of the strange uses to which human bodies are put.
"A Head is a Terrible Thing to Waste" follows the author as she observes a group of surgeons giving face-lifts to decapitated heads. Sounds like a frivolous use for a body donated "to science," but plastic surgeons need to practice somewhere, and a corpse can't sue over a botched nose job. Roach points out that "heads aren't cut off out of ghoulishness. They are cut off so that someone else can make use of the other pieces: arms, legs, organs." And indeed, the unembalmed heads are treated respectfully, covered with cloths before and after the seminar; nobody's making impromptu hand puppets or throwing eyeballs around. They're here to learn, and the heads, though discomfiting, are an invaluable aid.
"Crimes of Anatomy" explores the history of body-snatching. Historically, the religious believed that the physical body was necessary for resurrection, so people weren't too eager to hand over their ticket to heaven; for this reason, dissection was sometimes tacked on to a death sentence for particularly heinous crimes. Enterprising anatomists worked around the lack of donors by nabbing corpses out of graves, or hiring someone (who couldn't possibly have been paid enough) to do it for them. French anatomists had it easier, as the unclaimed bodies of those who died in city hospitals were up for grabs. Now that human anatomy is understood and exhaustively documented, whole-body dissection is being phased out; some schools are switching over to computer simulations.
Read more ›
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again.
Format: Paperback
Mary Roach has taken it upon herself to research the history of cadaver research, which can't have been a barrel of laughs. Nevertheless, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers is a concise, intensely readable, frequently hilarious survey of the strange uses to which human bodies are put.
"A Head is a Terrible Thing to Waste" follows the author as she observes a group of surgeons giving face-lifts to decapitated heads. Sounds like a frivolous use for a body donated "to science," but plastic surgeons need to practice somewhere, and a corpse can't sue over a botched nose job. Roach points out that "heads aren't cut off out of ghoulishness. They are cut off so that someone else can make use of the other pieces: arms, legs, organs." And indeed, the unembalmed heads are treated respectfully, covered with cloths before and after the seminar; nobody's making impromptu hand puppets or throwing eyeballs around. They're here to learn, and the heads, though discomfiting, are an invaluable aid.
"Crimes of Anatomy" explores the history of body-snatching. Historically, the religious believed that the physical body was necessary for resurrection, so people weren't too eager to hand over their ticket to heaven; for this reason, dissection was sometimes tacked on to a death sentence for particularly heinous crimes. Enterprising anatomists worked around the lack of donors by nabbing corpses out of graves, or hiring someone (who couldn't possibly have been paid enough) to do it for them. French anatomists had it easier, as the unclaimed bodies of those who died in city hospitals were up for grabs. Now that human anatomy is understood and exhaustively documented, whole-body dissection is being phased out; some schools are switching over to computer simulations.
Read more ›
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