Dan Schwent 's Reviews > Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

Stiff by Mary Roach
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Jan 23, 12

bookshelves: homework-from-the-ladies, nf, 2012, great-titles
Read from January 19 to 22, 2012

Mary Roach writes about what happens when you donate your body to science. Hilarity ensues. Well, maybe not hilarity but it is a good dose of edutainment.

Way back around the time the earth's crust cooled and life spread across the planet, late 1994 or early 1995, I should think, I visited a chiropractic college with the rest of my Advanced Biology class. This trip was memorable to me for three reasons:
1) It was the first time I experienced an excruciating caffeine withdrawal headache
2) It was the first time I saw a human cadaver
3) I smoked five of my classmates playing pool in the student lounge at lunch.

Obviously, #2 is the one pertinent to this review, although I am still quite proud of #3. The cadaver I saw had its face covered and its skin looked shriveled, somewhat like beef jerky. My 17 year old mind briefly wondered where the man had come from before my hormone-fueled brain returned my attention to the nubile young ladies in the room. Anyway, let's get down to review business.

Mary Roach manages to take a subject that give many people the heebie-jeebies, donating one's remains to science, and makes it humorous at times. She covers such topics as learning surgical techniques via practicing on cadavers, human decomposition, ingesting human remains for medicinal purpose, using corpses in car crash tests, using cadavers for ballistics tests, crucifixion experiments, and even head transplants.

While it's not ideal meal-time reading, I didn't find it as stomach churning as some reviewers did. The talk of decomposition and quack remedies of the Middle ages were fascinating and I was really interested in the head and brain transplant experiments. Frankenstein's monster doesn't seem as unrealistic as it did yesterday.

Apparently, necrophilia is only illegal in 16 states. Imagine if that was one of your criteria when choosing a place to live. "Honey, I'd love to live in Florida but then we couldn't have our sexy parties..."

Actually, the funeral bits were also pretty enlightening. Did you know they have to suture the anus shut to keep nastiness from leaking out during a funeral? Or that dead people can fart from gas trapped in their intestines? Or that they insert special caps underneath the eyelids to keep them from suddenly opening? Fascinating stuff.

Stiff is a very interesting read for those interested in what happens when you donate your body to science, softened somewhat by Roach's sense of humor. Three easy stars.
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Reading Progress

01/21/2012 page 21
7.0%
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Comments (showing 1-20 of 20) (20 new)

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message 1: by Traci (new)

Traci Read this a few years ago, and I really liked it. What surprised me (and if I remember right, Roach) was how everyone involved with the cadavers respected the bodies, no matter what was happening to them. Nice to know that there are still good people out there, dead AND alive.


message 2: by Dan (new) - rated it 3 stars

Dan Schwent Traci wrote: "Read this a few years ago, and I really liked it. What surprised me (and if I remember right, Roach) was how everyone involved with the cadavers respected the bodies, no matter what was happening t..."

That surprised me too. When I saw a cadaver back in the day, the face was covered and they still didn't let anyone take pictures of it.


message 3: by Traci (new)

Traci If you liked this one, pick up "Boink", her book about sex. That's got some really interesting stuff!


message 4: by Dan (new) - rated it 3 stars

Dan Schwent I'll be picking up more Mary Roach in the future. I like her writing style.


message 5: by Traci (new)

Traci Cool. I still need to read her one about space exploration - on my TBR list (which is constantly expanding, much like our universe!)


Stephanie I liked this one....I have her space one to read. I'm not squeamish, I ate lunch while reading this.


message 7: by Mike (new)

Mike Nice review. I just finished her Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void and it was a hoot.


message 8: by Dan (new) - rated it 3 stars

Dan Schwent Mike wrote: "Nice review. I just finished her Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void and it was a hoot."

That will probably be the next Mary Roach book I read.


message 9: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim I've read all of her books, liked Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife the least & this one the best. The head of my old HR Department loaned me this one. Both Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex & Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void were excellent. Her sense of humor really clicks with me. I'm surprised you only gave it 3 stars, though.


message 10: by Dan (new) - rated it 3 stars

Dan Schwent It was almost a 4.


Tracey, librarian on strike Audible.com keeps tempting me with a list of discounted books, and this is always on it - and every time my finger hovers over "add to cart", and every time I chicken out. Hm.

Apparently, necrophilia is only illegal in 16 states. - !?! Oh, I watch far too much "Criminal Minds" for that not to give me chills. Yeurgh.

I heard an NPR story on Packing for Mars, and what made an impression was, typically for her, something no one else would likely talk about: how hard it is to poop in space. Without gravity and all.


message 12: by Dan (new) - rated it 3 stars

Dan Schwent Tracey wrote: "I heard an NPR story on Packing for Mars, and what made an impression was, typically for her, something no one else would likely talk about: how hard it is to poop in space. Without gravity and all. "

That and sex in zero gravity are the only parts people ever mention to me when they talk about Packing for Mars.


message 13: by Katy (new) - added it

Katy I tried to like it, but GR has a problem with likes right now *sigh* anyway - LIKE!


Jason "Apparently, necrophilia is only illegal in 16 states. Imagine if that was one of your criteria when choosing a place to live. "Honey, I'd love to live in Florida but then we couldn't have our sexy parties...""... im totally stealing that.. ill quote you though.... its just.. so.. brilliant.


message 15: by Katy (new) - added it

Katy Jas wrote: ""Apparently, necrophilia is only illegal in 16 states. Imagine if that was one of your criteria when choosing a place to live. "Honey, I'd love to live in Florida but then we couldn't have our sexy..."

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!! You, my friend, have a sick and twisted mind. I like that in a person... nice to meet you!


message 16: by Katy (new) - added it

Katy I'd like to follow you, but you don't seem to be allowing followers. *sigh* Oh, well... maybe next time.


Jason I don't allow followers! Since when. I'll fix that right away.


message 18: by Katy (new) - added it

Katy Jas wrote: "I don't allow followers! Since when. I'll fix that right away."

Yeah, dunno; I could request friendship, but it seems you prefer to keep your friends to people who actually know you, so I thought I'd just follow until we became acquainted, right?


Jason Katy wrote: "Jas wrote: "I don't allow followers! Since when. I'll fix that right away."

Yeah, dunno; I could request friendship, but it seems you prefer to keep your friends to people who actually know you, s..."

fixed, and yes... the challenge question to become friends is a bit... well difficult for non friends to know.


message 20: by Katy (new) - added it

Katy LOL. I tried to answer commando just to be silly, but it wouldn't accept it... LOL Anyway, thanks, following! Again, nice to meet you!


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