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Being Dead

3.7  ·  Rating Details ·  3,669 Ratings  ·  413 Reviews
Lying in the sand dunes of Baritone Bay are the bodies of a middle-aged couple. Celice and Joseph, in their mid-50s and married for more than 30 years, are returning to the seacoast where they met as students. Instead, they are battered to death by a thief with a chunk of granite. Their corpses lie undiscovered and rotting for a week, prey to sand crabs, flies, and gulls. ...more
Paperback, 196 pages
Published 1999 by Picador USA
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Maciek
Mar 19, 2015 Maciek rated it it was ok
I was really looking forward to reading Being Dead - I read a review mentioning it somewhere, and was intrigued ever since. I have read several novels by Jim Crace by now, and found him to be a good stylist versatile author, with each subsequent book being a very different experience from the one before. That being said, I sadly found Being Dead to be a great disappointment.

Being Dead is concerned with Joseph and Celice, a pair of middle-aged zoologists who return to visit the coast where they
...more
Tyler
Nov 23, 2009 Tyler rated it did not like it
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 it was ok  ·  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
Aug 25, 2010 Mon rated it really liked it
Shelves: po-mo
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.
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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
Roger Brunyate
Life Cycle

This is one of the most extraordinary books I have ever read, vying with D. M. Thomas' The White Hotel for poetic originality, though quite different in manner. And one of the most extraordinary things about it is that it makes no claim to concern itself with world events at all, but something utterly ordinary: the death of a middle-aged couple near a small seaside town. Which brings me to the first of the four points I offer as demonstration.…

1. The Story. Joseph and Celice are zool
...more
Kirstie
Dec 26, 2007 Kirstie rated it really liked it
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
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
Jan 03, 2008 Kate rated it it was ok
Recommended to Kate by: Conrad
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
Aug 14, 2007 Meg Ingram rated it it was amazing
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
Cecily
Aug 31, 2008 Cecily rated it really liked it
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
minnie
Nov 13, 2007 minnie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
Allie Riley
Feb 20, 2013 Allie Riley rated it it was amazing
Fascinating and very poetically written exploration of the nature of death through the story of the murders of Celice and Joseph.
Stephen Durrant
Sep 18, 2013 Stephen Durrant rated it it was amazing
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
Grady
Mar 03, 2010 Grady rated it it was amazing
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
Michael
Jun 12, 2012 Michael rated it did not like it
Shelves: shit-books
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
Madeleine
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Giskin
Aug 03, 2016 Giskin rated it it was amazing
This book has divided readers, but I think it is extraordinary. It mixes descriptions of the decaying bodies with the story of a relationship. Working scientists are underrepresented in literary fiction and this aspect is also well covered. I'm not sure I would recommend it wholeheartedly to students, but people with an interest in pathology will probably relish it.
Paul Fulcher
May 08, 2014 Paul Fulcher rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
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
Konstantin
Aug 02, 2016 Konstantin rated it it was amazing
Shelves: serious, j-adore
[rating = A]
A very intense novel about the prosaic facts of death. A new stance on how death is just death and nothing frilly about it. The couple is on the shore where they first met; dead and decaying like the nature about them. The novel explores the relationship between two people, between the bonds that link them and the differences that also connect them. It is a stirring work that takes no fluff of the idea of heaven; one should live in the now because there may be a day when you're bumpe
...more
Eleanor
Jul 17, 2014 Eleanor rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Ayelet Waldman
I really didn't want to like this book, as the author beat my husband out for the National Book Critic's Circle Award, but it's impossible not to. He's a remarkable writer, and this is a haunting book. It's about a couple of corpses decomposing on a beach, but don't let that dissuade you.
Steven Warren
Oct 22, 2008 Steven Warren rated it it was amazing
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.
Linda Lipko
May 21, 2011 Linda Lipko rated it really liked it
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
Kris McCracken
Jun 07, 2012 Kris McCracken rated it really liked it
Being Dead by Jim Crace really is unlike any book I have read before. It begins with a straightforward, albeit shocking, image; the bodies of a middle-aged couple lying in the dunes of the seacoast where they met as students. A frenzied stranger has battered them to death them with a chunk of granite for no reason other than the few valuables they have with them. Yet this is no murder mystery. Less about murder and more about death, to be more precise.

The reader is than taken on a [very] graphic
...more
Virginia
Jun 11, 2009 Virginia rated it really liked it
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
Jan 22, 2008 Robert Beveridge rated it liked it
Shelves: finished, cle-pub-lib
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
Mar 02, 2009 Dustin rated it it was ok
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
Jun 13, 2009 Juliet Wilson rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels
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
Mar 06, 2013 David rated it it was ok
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
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James "Jim" Crace is an award-winning English writer. His novel Quarantine, won the Whitbread Novel award and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Harvest won the International Impac Dublin Literary Award, James Tait Black Memorial Prize and was also shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

Crace grew up in Forty Hill, an area at the far northern point of Greater London, close to Enfield where Cr
...more
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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.” 26 likes
“Passion is the work of seconds. You only have to make a god of what you most desire.” 0 likes
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