I read thru the Kindle version of this book courtesy of the local library.
I kind of knew what to expect going in (thanks to Jaime's review), but I thI read thru the Kindle version of this book courtesy of the local library.
I kind of knew what to expect going in (thanks to Jaime's review), but I think I enjoyed the book a bit more than she did. For me, the florid, somewhat pompous writing style contrasted nicely with the triviality of their actual quest - finding and fixing typos, misspellings and other crimes against language across the country. It seemed as much an excuse for a road trip as fulfilling a Greater Purpose... the combination of which seems part and parcel of being a certain type of twentysomething, I suppose. And I must admit to feeling the urge to correct typos on signage on many occasions myself - apostrophe errors make my teeth itch!
Continuing with my "death & corpses" nonfiction kick - I picked this up from the local library thanks to [B]Dung Beetle's [/B]recco.
As you can teContinuing with my "death & corpses" nonfiction kick - I picked this up from the local library thanks to [B]Dung Beetle's [/B]recco.
As you can tell from the subtitle - the book is all about the human head, primarily as separated from the body. Larson covers the material from a sociological perspective, and the scope of the book spans the globe -- discussing South Seas headhunters (and how European fascination with these sacred objects spawned an cottage industry and dissipated their true meaning) as well as the modern day equivalent - how troops in WWII and the Korean/Vietnam conflicts often took heads of their enemies as trophies. I was less aware of this practice and found it rather disconcerting to think of men my father's and grandfather's age sending bits and pieces of their enemies back home. FYI - this section gets a bit gruesome; but Larson presents solid research and sociological/ psychological reasoning - she's not just being sensational.
On the medical side, head transplants and cryopreservation are covered , and on a historical note, the book also discusses the phrenology craze of the first half 1800's and how that (along with medical colleges and the need for dissection) drove a grave-robbing epidemic. Of course a book titled "Severed" has to cover decapitation as execution, and the guillotine (as well as alternate beheading techniques) are covered, with Madame Tussaud getting a nod (so to speak).
The memoir of a forensic pathologist, Dr. Melinek shares her experiences over her two-years training period, as well as her first year as a New York City medical examiner. While there are moments of humor - Melinek's story is more somber overall; nevertheless, there are moments of satisfaction when her work proves cause of death for an individual and therefore helps bring about justice.
Be warned - the later part of the book delves into her experiences at Ground Zero. Yes, she was one of the many, many medical examiners at the World Trade Center after the September 11, 2001 attack. She describes how they literally used a "rule of thumb" when dealing with the human remains - anything larger than your thumb was to be given an individual tracking number - in hopes that they could be matched and identified. Smaller items with potential identifiable traits - fingerprints or teeth - were also to be given tracking numbers. She also references the refrigerated trailers (donated by UPS and FedEx) used to store the remains while they were being processed. We recognize the firefighters, police officers and other public safety officials for their heroism that day - but Dr. Melinek and her cohorts deserve our respect and thanks as well. Now I may have to find Who They Were: Inside the World Trade Center DNA Story: The Unprecedented Effort to Identify the Missing...more