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Stiff Paperback – Apr 27 2004


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: WW Norton; New edition edition (April 27 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393324826
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393324822
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.5 x 21.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 295 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (147 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #12,950 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 fluffyducker on Aug. 8 2003
Format: Hardcover
I have to agree with the reviewer who mentioned the incredible amount of "filler" in this book. People, there is more filler in here than in a school lunch program's meat loaf. This book is a magazine article stretched out way, way too long-- something you'd read while waiting for your flight. The book is not without some well executed humor, but not enough to justify the thickness. If you are curious (gosh this makes me sound like some sort of morbid Ed Gien type..) check out Autopsy on HBO etc, etc. Just as informative without the waste of paper.
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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 Acute Observer on Oct. 28 2003
Format: Hardcover
But were Afraid to Ask. Mary Roach is a journalist who writes about subjects that fascinate her. Is she "quirky" for writing about a subject that is more obscene than sex? Roach writes a regular column for 'Readers Digest', and these twelve chapters read like magazine articles. You won't have to run to the dictionary with this book. Chapter 1 tells you to avoid surgery by residents if you are in a teaching hospital. Chapter 2 tells of the historic problem of providing medical specimens. Sometimes these "resurrectionists" only took the teeth (don't ask!). Chapter 3 explains the experiments at the UT Anthropological Research Facility. Don't read this after eating! The Civil War need for shipping bodies promoted embalming. Chapter 4 tells how corpses are used to measure damage from driving accidents in order to build safer cars; dummies are then used for measuring forces. This resulted in safer windshields, and collapsible steering wheels and front halves to save lives. So do lap-shoulder belts, air bags, dashboard padding and recessed knobs. Even if air bags sometimes injure or kill when deployed! Increased survivability has led to study of ankles, knees, feet, and shoulders. Chapter 5 discusses the damage done by airplane crashes. The cockpit flight recorder and black box are the first source of information; afterwards it is the pattern of injuries on "the human wreckage". "Sit near an emergency exit", next to a window, in First Class. Chapter 6 is a history on the use of cadavers to test firearms. Mary doesn't know the meaning of the word "bolo" (p.133). Nor does she understand the effects of stimulant in combat (p.136). Gelatin products include marshmallows, nougat candy fillings, liquorice, caramels, vitamin gel caps (p.139).Read more ›
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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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By Nicola Mansfield HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on Feb. 6 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is one of those books that I've wanted to read for a long time and had high expectations. I am well-read on the subject matter, it's one of my special interests, however I come to this topic with a Catholic worldview and that is where my review will differ from the average one. First off, when one has such high expectations for a book so highly lauded it's not surprising I was a bit let down. Mostly on the humour side. I have a dry sense of humour, not easily offended but I didn't find this "uproariously funny" like Publisher's Weekly did. Some of the humour made me chuckle but a lot of it fell flat, was full of puns (uck) and just not my type. I wouldn't read any of her other books unless the subject matter fascinated me and so far none of the others do. Anyway, humour aside, I found the book entirely captivating. Starting out historically I was in familiar territory and then topics became more modern describing their history up to expected new future advances. I enjoyed most the history; that is where my own special interests lie especially during the Victorian period. Next, I'm interested in forensics and really enjoyed the chapters on the body farm, airplane crashes and crash test specimens. At chapter 8 I became uncomfortable with the topic of brain death and organ donation because the author allowed her own moral opinion to flavour the discussion, something she hadn't done up to this point. The Catholic Church excepts brain death, as do I, however my convictions do not hold with taking organs from a breathing body that needs to be anaesthetised. But Roach uses this chapter to express her firm opinion otherwise and in her punny way calls the 54% of us (her statistic) who would not donate organs from a supposedly "brain dead" loved one, "heartless".Read more ›
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