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The Melancholy of Anatomy

3.97 of 5 stars 3.97  ·  rating details  ·  364 ratings  ·  33 reviews
Amusing, touching, and unsettling, The Melancholy of Anatomy is that most wonderful of fictions, one that makes us see the world in an entirely new light.

Here is the body turned inside out, its members set free, its humors released upon the world. Hearts bigger than planets devour light and warp the space around them; the city of London has a menstrual flow that gushes thr
Paperback, 192 pages
Published April 2nd 2002 by Anchor (first published January 1st 2002)
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To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper LeePride and Prejudice by Jane AustenJane Eyre by Charlotte BrontëWuthering Heights by Emily BrontëFrankenstein by Mary Shelley
Great Women Authors
158th out of 714 books — 158 voters
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt VonnegutThe Sound and the Fury by William FaulknerUlysses by James JoyceHouse of Leaves by Mark Z. DanielewskiIf on a winter's night a traveler by Italo Calvino
Style as Text
138th out of 223 books — 88 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 855)
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Lynne King
This is my penultimate disastrous book choice at the end of 2013. I had recently heard of Shelley Jackson through reading “The Long Meanwhile: Stories of Arrival and Departure, edited by Molly McQuade”. This comprised “an anthology of poignant short stories about change” and because it included Rikki Ducornet, one of my favourite authors, I decided to read it. Well one thing lead to another and I read this absolutely remarkable short story called the “Egg” by Ms Jackson and I saw that it was inc ...more
Loved these stories. Loved them all, except for the one titled Phlegm that I could not read all the way through because it made me want to cry and die. The stories are arranged in sections by Humor, and each one is about something that is inside the body, or part of the body (like hair), being outside. Like a giant fetus floating around creeping everyone out, London having a monthly menstrual flow through the whole city, fat taking over a house. There was also an awesome dildo story, which I gue ...more
Jim Tierney
Calvino meets Murakami meets a ball of gunk you pulled out of the shower drain.
This book was one like many other books that I really really like. It is abstract, brilliantly written, and thoroughly disgusting. However, it seemed a little weird to me that many of the stories were so entirely similar. Each of the stories takes a part of the body (though some of the parts are dubious as parts of the body) and describes it as some outside, usually part-hostile, part-obsessive force. The problem here is that many of the parts behave in the same way, and it seems that there coul ...more
this is the most interesting & original book I've read in a while. short stories set in a world where the old view of bodily 'humors' has survived into the modern day. it looks at or own world with a critical eye.

it's story seems somewhat supernatural, very surreal, but also intimate and vaguely sexual. the stories tell of Jack Sprat and his wife; of a herd of sperm running wild across the countryside; of workers who mop up blood from the sewers monthly; a mans obsession with a nerve....

April 2009

Shelley Jackson dismembers the body and scatters its parts across the land, so that sperm and fetuses (feti?) float freely and willfully; vast fields of nerve clusters cover the Great Plains, the oceans teem with milk, and the earth itself bleeds once a month.

Overall, the ideas presented here are weird and fascinating--as ideas, that is. The stories themselves don't quite hold up, and start to sound repetitive after a while. Cancer or fat or an egg appear in the house, grow, start to t
Mike Polizzi
This is an often brilliant exploration of language and surreal account of the body turned inside out. Grotesque and lyrical, I wanted to give this a higher rating, but found the work hampered in parts by the duty to the story. The potential was there for a unified work on the body abstracted and it approaches that at its best parts. It falls through when similar conceits carry over from story to story, like the use of inverted scale to make the images of the story or the syntactic gathering of m ...more
This collection is the inversion of Robert Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy.
If you have a morbid bone in your body or if you posses even a dram of humour, do yourself a favor and read this book. It's wild.
One of the stories (a false history of the dildo) is available via the author's site. check it out!
This is a truly fascinating and enjoyable and challenging read. It is creative, and takes the body to places I'd not read it in before. When I tried to describe the book to my wife, I failed miserably. And I won't try here either. However, my failed effort got her curiosity and so she asked me to read it out loud to her. Now that took the book to a completely different and visceral level. If you haven't read this book out loud, or had it read to you, then please do so. The imagery in the book, w ...more
Mike Tager
Some of the stories were essentially repeated throughout (i.e. "Oh, suddenly eggs and foetuses have randomly appeared in my room and I don't know how to deal with it except to get obsessed and enveloped). It's not that that's bad, it's that it gets old. The weird surprise of it is diluted because of repetition.

However, when she changes it up a little (like "Fat" or "Phlegm") and incorporates anatomy into the world in a more - pardon the pun - organic way, the stories become entrancing and beauti
Jack Beltane
Easily one of the most original, creative, witty, and well written books I've read. I honestly think it would be a spoiler to summarize or describe it: half the fun is figuring out this weird new world Shelley Jackson has created.
I read this book at 18, when I was deciding whether to participate in Shelley Jackson's Skin project. At the time, it was like nothing I'd ever read.

Rereading a whole decade (!) later, it still is like nothing I've ever read, but reading this as a teen probably dictated my literary tastes more than I knew at the time (thinking mostly about Jeannette Winterson here, of course). I spent a lot of the book just in awe that anyone has the kind of mind that could think this stuff up. My favourite stor
Finally got this sent over from Lithuania, where I'd forgotten it. Not a perfect book by any means, maybe not deserving of such a high rating given that some of the stories (Blood, especially) felt like duds, but then I've also never read anything quite like it, I've never encountered such a great vocabulary of viscera, and some of the stories, especially the ones written in a more encyclopedic style (Sleep, Foetus, Sperm), were really special.
This is totally TBD. I read this book in college and loved it, so finding it at Book Buyers excited me. Woot woot Mountain View. Anyways, I re-read the egg story, which was my favorite, but after that my interest just kind of fizzled and I realized I wanted to be reading a novel instead. Hence How to be Good, which had been sitting on the kitchen table for a month untouched. I'm glad I did, but I plan on coming back to this one.
Shelley Jackson's writing is really interesting and often disturbing. She plays with ideas about bodies and anatomy in both this short story collection and her novel "Half-life". I recommend starting out with the stories, and if you like those you'll like the novel. The novel is less dense but also less playful and inventive in a lot of ways, and it doesn't keep you on your toes the way this book does. It's really exceptional!
Aby Pacheco
Fluid and gorgeous, "The Melancholy of Anatomy" is a fast favorite. Jackson is unique in a way I've yet to see in an author. She's fearless and crazy and it shows in her work. Her stories are outlandish and brave and I can't say enough about them. Nerve and Cancer are definitely my favorites. And Egg as well. Ugh. I just love her a lot. Definitely reading her other stuff soon!!

I keep trying to recommend this book to people, but finding it hard to describe. Might also be why I liked it.

Jackson takes bodily things and externalizes them. Some are haunting and beautiful, like the nerve-strung guitars and the sleep that falls like snow, others are creepy or gross, yet fascinating, like the phlegm handshake or the fetus scooping ice cream.

Read it.
Shawna Mattison
Simultaneously repellant and magnetic, nauseating and beautiful. Some of the stories are a little formulaic (compared only to the other stories, of course, since they are pretty unique) and her pacing also gets a bit repetitive at times, but the peek into her imagination is worth it.

Blood and heart would have to be my favorites. A must read if you enjoy the surreal.
Surreal. Disgusting. Laughable. Brave. Ingenious. ...Shelley's dissection and magnification of ordinarily minuscule specimens--likely familiar to everyone. Eggs, anyone?

(It was through "Half Life" when I first felt "conjoined" with Shelley's work. Her children's books and illustrations are just as imaginative.)
To put it mildly: the quality of the stories in this collection is uneven. "Egg" is fantastic, as is "Blood." Other stories, though less moving, managed to hold my attention: among them, "Heart," "Nerve," and "Sleep." As a whole, however, the book read like a bad graduate school creative writing project.
Shelley Jackson does an incredible job of crafting lives for the stuff we're made of: hair, fat, nerves, and the like. Some of the stories get a bit gross, I couldn't finish the one about phlegm, but the rest were oddly enjoyable.
Sara when I tell you duncan gave me this book, you should know that its pretty good. This made me feel really alive on a structural level. If that doesn't make sense I guess you'd better read it for yourself.
Shelley Jackson is the shit. My favorite story here is Blood, what a hilarious voice. There's plenty of oddity and body-writing here for you freaks...
Great writing and had much potential, but kept to a cycle that varied too little from segment to segment. In the end, it became too repetitive.
A visceral (ha) companion to Ben Marcus' Notable American Women with a inventively medieval/modern charm.
enjoying this book much more than I had expected. bizarre imagery that brings to mind Burroughs.
Dec 20, 2007 Tamara rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: the unfastidious, those unable to make the commitment to burton's "anatomy of melancholy"
Unnerving and delightful, odd and lovely and unsettling. The inside turned out.
Jun 14, 2009 Nia is currently reading it
Wow, what an interesting, out of the ordinary book so far! Love it!!!
like body fluids?
funny, great take on how the body IS our pysche.
Jun 29, 2011 Alex rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: prose
first 3 stories are okay, remaining 9 are simply brilliant
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“Nobody can remember when the sperm became large enough to see, but we agree on this: once that point was reached, every generation topped the last. They went from guppy to goldfish, and before long they could frighten a schnauzer, and not much later even Great Danes made way for them....
Sperm are ancient creatures, single-minded as coelacanths. They are drawn to the sun, the moon, and dots and disks of all descriptions, including periods, stop signs, and stars. They worship at nail heads, doorknobs and tennis balls. More than one life has been saved by a penny tossed in the air.”
“Cut nerves left lying on the threshing floors drift and roll and wind up all aligned with the earth's magnetic field, like iron filings swayed by a magnet in a classroom experiment.” 0 likes
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