Being Dead
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Being Dead

3.69 of 5 stars 3.69  ·  rating details  ·  2,817 ratings  ·  342 reviews
Nostalgia has sent Celice and Joseph back to their singing stretch of coast, but in the seeming calm of the afternoon they meet a brutal and unexpected fate - one which will still their bodies but not their love, and certainly not their story.
Paperback, 209 pages
Published March 1st 2010 by Picador USA (first published January 1st 1999)
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Tyler
Nov 23, 2009 Tyler rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of Entropy
Recommended to Tyler by: National Book Critics Circle Award
Craft and good writing make this book a hit with many readers. Innovative form and thinking prose set the right words in the right places. The story brings readers an introspective reflection upon death, seen through the lens of a married couple whom it overtakes.

The form of the story weaves along three tracks: One moves the couple back in time from the occasion of their deaths; the next parallels that with a forward-moving tale of their early lives; and the final track contrasts with the first...more
Tony
Nov 05, 2013 Tony rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: the clinically depressed
Shelves: british
Amoebolites and monophyles enjoy eternity. We do not. We die. We will live longer than dusk bugs - for every bug must have its day - but not nearly as long as land tortoises. We're less than turtles. We have to die before they do. We must. It's programmed that we will. Our births are just the gateway to our deaths. That's why a baby screams when it is born. Don't write that in your notes. They who begin to live begin to die. It's downhill from the womb, from when the sperm locates the egg and la...more
Mon
This is a book about ordinary people.



This is painting by Van Gogh in 1888 titled Shoes The objects painted are the artist's own processions - they are well used, experienced and passive. Now, instead of a full analysis of Van Gogh's artistic merit (which can be found in any high school art essay), try to picture his thought when he was painting this pair of shoes. Were they chosen with particular intention? Not really, since he did another painting with a black pair of boots in the same manner....more
Kirstie
Dec 26, 2007 Kirstie rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people interested in the end of life
I want to say this novel is morbid but that's not entirely true. Instead, peculiar would be a more fitting word. First, it contains the longest description of decomposing bodies and the organisms that profit from it that I've ever read. It recalled the detailed and forever memorable rotting of Miss Havisham's neglected wedding feast only, you know, with human corpses.


Second, we start out with this married couple in midlife being dead and go backwards. We learn enough about these two zoologists-w...more
Dan Rivas
May 25, 2007 Dan Rivas added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who might die
What I learned from this book: do not die

I liked "Being Dead" very much, especially the form of the novel, the deft way Crace moves us between the moments after Celice and Joseph are murdered, the events that preceded their deaths, and the couple's meeting thirty years prior.

However, I often found myself annoyed with the book, the way it seems to try so hard a being pretty and grotesque at the same time. Many passages seemed overwrought, too heavy to convey their own weight, let alone the narrat...more
Kate
If only Jim Crace had narrowed his ambitions to a short story about decomposing bodies. It's really the tale of putrefaction that is well-told here, not at all that of the lives the decaying bodies have left behind, which smacks overpoweringly of contrivance.

Crace's characters, and I noticed this in Genesis as well, are unavoidably false. The author has an odd way of saying "he is the type" - which should be the signal for "person you can relate to" - and then inventing a type you have never hea...more
Meg Ingram
I absolutely LOVED this book. It was recommended to me by my good friend, Sarah, who warned me that it was a bit morbid. It is, but in a scientific and factual way. It's about what happens after you die...literally. As a society, we are so intent on covering death up, hiding from it, avoiding it, and ultimately ignoring the fact that it is inevitable. Granted, none of us want to meet our end in the manner that the couple in this book did (attacked, robbed, and left for dead during a romantic pic...more
minnie
Read this over a long weekend break, and was left haunted by it. Joseph the Husband dies a short while after Celice after they have been budgeoned on a secluded beach while having a picnic.He dies with his hand on his wifes leg,and it is only moved when 6 days later the police have to force the bodies into temporary coffins. That little detail has stayed in my mind since reading this beautiful book about nature and death but also about marriage and the little routines and conflicts in married li...more
Grady
A gleamingly honest and original vantage of life and death

"Being Dead" somehow illuminates Being Alive. Jim Crace has given us a thoroughly engrossing, touching, spirit-expanding eulogy on the presence of death as a part of life. Early in this extraordinary little book he states "It's only those who glimpse the awful, endless corridor of death, too gross to contemplate, that need to lose themselves in love or art." He then proceeds to light that corridor for our examination, cell by decomposing...more
Julie
One of the curiosities of contemporary Western literature is why Jim Crace isn't more well known on this side of the Pond. On the other hand, during the two years I spent underneath the Equator in Aotearoa I was introduced to a great catalogue of writers who have made no more than a faint "ping" on the U.S. cultural radar. Even with the supposed borderless Nation of Internet, we Stateside-bound lot live in our own world. A big huge one, granted, so we can't catch everything. But we miss a lot. D...more
Madeleine
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Cecily
This opens with a grisly murder in a beautiful spot and such counterpoints are the nature of the story and its telling. One thread of chapters starts near the “end” of the story and goes back (initially, but then forwards too), while the other thread starts many years earlier and only goes forward, building the expectation of the two threads meeting at the end of the book. It describes death and decay in detached detail in a way that is simultaneously disgusting and beautiful; passages are seari...more
Eleanor
This is an extraordinary book, and not for the squeamish.

Jim Crace starts the book with the murder of the two central characters and then describes what happens to their bodies as they lie in sand dunes for several days before being found. Every second chapter takes us away from this situation and examines their first meeting, aspects of their marriage and work, their difficult relationship with their daughter, and so on.

It is beautifully written and the literally forensic detail is always hand...more
Steven Warren
A really creepy look at the murder of an old couple that juxtaposes their decay with the search for their bodies. Sounds a lot grosser than it is, but a must read.
Paul Fulcher
Very original take on death and nature. Crace's books (at least those that I've read) are always different, thought provoking, and, a feature I particularly love, offer a wonderful anecdote to the over-researched Wikipedia-regurgitation that bedevils many novels. Crace's epigraph to the novel is a poem from Sherwen Steven, and within a few pages he has introduced us to the mourning practice of "quivering", to Mondazy's Fish, a traditional analogy for death, and to the sprayhopper, a distant beac...more
Allie Whiteley
Fascinating and very poetically written exploration of the nature of death through the story of the murders of Celice and Joseph.
Linda Lipko
I tremendously enjoyed this book, though, it does seem incongruently odd to say that I liked a book about "being dead".

The writing is magical, lyrical, complex and compelling. Two Middle aged Zoologists, Joseph and Celice have long struggled with a marriage that simply doesn't mesh. Successful in their field, yet by societal standands, they have failed in many areas, including raising a daughter who is self sufficicent and other directed.

It an attempt to find one last chance at romance, Joseph...more
Stephen
The fact that Jim Crace's "Harvest" is on the short-list for this year's Booker Prize reminded me that I had not yet read his earlier, highly praised "Being Dead," even though my daughter had recommended it to me a few years back (a daughter who reads much more widely than her father). I have now read it and am eager to move on to "Harvest." Crace writes in a style that is unabashedly crafted, poetic and astoundingly rich--the type of style one encounters more frequently in a British than an Ame...more
Michael
This book is pure dreck. A litany of emotional and psychological generalizations. Its poetic interludes on life, death, love, science and God (or lack there of) are sophomoric and saccharine. It's what I would call a dumbshow of literary pap and sophistry. On top of that, it's bad writing:

"They are the dark co-ordinates of one straight line. Grief is death eroticized. And sex is only shuffling off this mortal coil before its time to plummet to the post-coital afterlife. Celice's haste to rush ou...more
Virginia
Crace will be in Austin this fall, teaching the fiction workshop. This is the first book of his I've read, and it was perfect for my current study of perspective.

The novel focuses on the deaths of two zoologists--Celice and Joseph--tracing backwards from their murders. The narration steps completely out of the story at times, following the furtive paths of "what if" or "had things been different". I usually dislike endeavors of the sort, more distracting than supporting, but Crace executes the...more
Robert Beveridge
Jim Crace, Being Dead (Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, 1999)

Jim Crace's novel Being Dead is, for lack of a better term, an anti-murder mystery. Specifically, it is the antithesis of Heinrich Boll's novel The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum. Instead of getting a book where the murderer is known from the first sentence and working out the "why"s of the murder, we get a book where the murder is nothing more than a mechanism to reflect both on the past lives of the murdered couple and the mechanisms of de...more
Dustin
This probably should have been a short story. The characters were too flat to be interesting for 200 pages. Crace paints their lives in absolutes. They always sleep in separate beds, Joseph always says "I'm too short to do (whatever)". They're characters with catchphrases and static manners of being: passionless, dull, dissatisfied. Which maybe is appropriate given that the novel is about the moment they fell in love and the moment they die, but that doesn't make it interesting. Why couldn't the...more
Juliet Wilson
This isn't a novel for the squeamish! It starts with a murder and then describes in great detail the decomposition of the murdered bodies as they lie in sand dunes. We are introduced to the insects and other creatures that start to feed on and colonise the bodies. This is a bit icky, but is also a wonderful illustration of the place death has in the processes of life and the place that humans have in the wider ecosystem.

The bodies are those of Joseph and Celice, who when they had been alive wer...more
David
I can understand without hesitation why this book was a critical darling. The haunting prose, the stark subject, and the callback narrative structure, it makes complete sense. Critics eat that poetic nonsense up, hence the praise heaped on Atonement, The English Patient, etc. All very well and good, but that genre just isn't my cup of tea.

So, it can't be terribly surprising that I found this book a chore to read. If it were longer than 200 pages, I probably would have quit. The characters are ho...more
Daryl Nash
Tries so hard to be unsentimental that it wraps back around the sentimentality scale again to maudlin. We are meant to think that the characters are ordinary with human flaws, but instead they are simply unlikable--I felt sad not for their deaths but that they had lived such hollow lives. And the omniscient narrator's voice--ye gods! At one point he describes the young couple French-kissing with the metaphor of a mother bird feeding its young a mouthful of worms. More interesting was the daughte...more
sonny
wow, just wow. a beautiful look on death, loss and regret.
Louise
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jenne
A strange and interesting little book. I don't think I'll get the image of the two dead people out of my head for a while, but not in a creepy way.
Reading in detail about the decomposition of someone's body is a weirdly intimate thing, kind of like getting stuck in an elevator with a stranger.
Marion
It's not often that a novelist comes up with a formal conceit as bold as Crace's in Being Dead, which alternates the narrative of a couple's courtship and ultimate murder with chapters detailing their bodies' progressive decay in exquisite detail. (I don't believe that there are any spoilers here, as the fact of their violent death is revealed very early in the book.) The parallel and equally developed plot line in which there is no human consciousness at play, just the biochemical and environme...more
Juan
Written with the attention to detail and rythm normally reserved for poetry. With and unusual, beautiful structure and dignified take on the sordid facts of death. Beautiful book.
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James "Jim" Crace is a contemporary English writer. The winner of numerous awards, Crace also has a large popular following. He currently lives in the Moseley area of Birmingham with his wife. They have two children, Thomas Charles Crace (born 1981) and the actress Lauren Rose Crace, who played Danielle Jones in EastEnders.

Crace grew up with his siblings Richard, Cyril, and Graham in Forty Hill, a...more
More about Jim Crace...
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“There is no remedy for death--or birth--except to hug the spaces in between. Live loud. Live wide. Live tall.” 23 likes
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