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Showing 1-3 of 3 reviews(4 star). Show all reviews
on December 12, 2003
The writer brings a journalistic approach to the topic of mummies and the sub-title of the book clearly defines the multiple angles she chose to follow. She covers a great deal of territory, both geographically (all the continents except Antarctica) historically, psychologically and morally.
In a sense this is almost an "Encyclopedia of the Mummy" because it covers so many aspects of mummy hunting, dissecting and preserving. Most mummy hunters seem obsessed by their quest. They may be after mummies for scientific, historic, theatric or religious reasons, but hunt them they must. This raises moral issues; after all these were once human beings that we are putting on display, slicing for DNA or just carting off to some museums storage room. Can we justify it if we, say, understand some disease better after the research? Or is it just voyeurism for us all to know what the Iceman ate for his last meal?
The writer introduces us to individual mummy hunters, strong characters all, and the unusual places they work. Her writing is clear and vivid, if a trifle long. She is at her best describing the moral and psychological issues surrounding our fascination with mummies and the way they relate to our own mortality anf hopes for immmortality.
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on February 2, 2002
Pringle displays ample skill as a non-fiction writer: careful word choice, an eye for metaphor and a keen facility for description. She straddles the gap between what she calls " the everlasting dead" and the living (if marginally so, in some cases) who love them, and gives shape to our obsession with styxian realms. The reader experiences vivid cross-sections of what must be an enormous world, the world of mummies: from Lenin's waxy vestiges in his mausoleum to ancient Danes exhumed by nature from their boggy preservation to the brittle clay remains of Peruvian children. Pringle provides wonderful texture to a fascinating and bizarre (nether)world. One wonders why a comprehensive treatment of the subject for lay people has heretofore not been attempted.
Yet, for all the excellent writing and compelling subject matter, Pringle's work lacks falls just short of the last yard: a unifying spiritual theme, a thread of allegory to tie it all together and leave a more permanent impression. One gets the sense that she is curious about mummies and their students, but not consumed by them, not possessed by them. She does not love them, and so cannot make them and her work a transcendent experience, as it so rightly should be. And she comes so close.
Still, this book is a very welcome addition to my scientific non-fiction shelf, and one I will return to again and again.
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on June 1, 2001
Two weeks ago, lady Margaret Thatcher was addressing the congress of the English Conservative Party. She was not listed in the programme, "but when I got here", she said, "I found that you were expecting me after all. Because just outside this hall, I saw this large sign: The Mummy Returns."
This week, I picked up a book called "The Mummy Congress" and thought what a great title that would be for a book on the bunch of living dead known as the Conservative Party. As it turned out, the book was not about politicians, but about a scientific congress in Chile concerning real mummies. I was not disappointed, however. Heather Pringle brought to life an old subject that never really died, researched the physics, the techniques and the history of mummification. She delves into the lives of the eccentric scholars that study the "everlasting dead", but also tells of a Japanese sect that practices auto-mummification and Victorian showmen organising public "unwrappings" - uncanny stripteases of Egyptian mummies. There is no real storyline to this book, the anecdotes and jokes are delivered in a school child's, tell-all-you-know-about-mummies kind of way, but the material is great and every page is alive with fascinating facts.
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