Deciphering lyrics on old blues recordings with John Fahey, meeting Axl Rose's childhood friend and trying to untangle the man from the construct thatDeciphering lyrics on old blues recordings with John Fahey, meeting Axl Rose's childhood friend and trying to untangle the man from the construct that the Spanish press compared to a 'priapic rooster', offering nuanced and valuable perspective on the King of Pop MJ himself, ruminating on the possibility of an animal uprising that will topple civilization, living with a brilliant half mad literary figure in his dotage as the author tries to obtain wisdom while deflecting racist tirades, unwanted sexual advances, and general lunacy, antagonizing Bunny Wailer into a paranoid semi-frenzy, the tale of an electrocuted brother, living in a house more famous than you are, and picking apart the 'why' of people who ransack Native American graves for fun and profit. There's a little something for everyone in here, and it's all masterfully constructed, balancing between storytelling and poetic prose. Recommended for anyone with eyes. ...more
First and foremost- this is not a work of scientific objectivity. This is a book *about* science (be it fringe or mainstream), not OF science. If youFirst and foremost- this is not a work of scientific objectivity. This is a book *about* science (be it fringe or mainstream), not OF science. If you have read any of Mary Roach's other books this will be obvious, but to the uninitiated, be forewarned. Nevertheless, it is an absolute delight. In Spook, the author tracks down just about everyone she can think of in every field one can imagine having to do with the possibility of the spiritual realm. Most fascinating to me were the short (too short!) chapters on how to achieve the sensations of being "haunted" by a presence, or have a near death experience through the use of repeatable, scientific methodology. The only thing I found lacking was the absence of an exploration of near death experiences and hallucinations in astronaut training centrifuges. I also learned more that I ever wanted or needed to know about Victorian spirit mediums and their ability to produce ectoplasm, levitate tables, and give birth to rabbits. The antecdotes she gives are always a delight, the history and research thorough, her conclusions as unbiased as is possible for a clearly vocally opinionated non-scientist, and her involvement in experiments just enviable. Possibly most underrated of all are Mary Roach's unique use of footnotes as places to not only provide references and detailed information- but to go on tangents of unrelated and unnecesarry but *unbelievably* funny commentary. I read EVERY footnote in this book, and can't imagine that being terribly uncommon for her literary audience. I have never before made that claim, and unless I'm reading another Mary Roach book, am unlikely to ever make it again. This was without a doubt a laugh-out-loud funny read, with information presented in a not-too-opinionated, digestible but non-condecending way that I found utterly engaging.
I have learned a great deal, laughed so hard I scared my pets and woke my spouse, reread passages to anyone who will listen and some who wont, and unsurprisingly give it two big ghostly thumbs up. ...more