Sunday, January 2, 2011

CBR III Book 1: Stiff: the Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

Death is an inevitability that most of us prefer not to dwell upon. Even less pleasant to consider is what to do with the remains of the deceased. It is this subject that Mary Roach decided to research and write about with her usual wit in her novel "Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers." Roach, never one to shy away from the weird or unpleasant, brings her dark sense of humor to a topic that covers everything from the typical ways of dealing with corpses - burying or cremating - to donating your remains to science, medicine, or the military, to other more interesting and lesser known options - such as composting or dissolving the remains in lye.

I had no idea there were so many choices for what to do with your body after you've passed on. I knew the obvious choices - be buried/cremated or donate your remains - but beyond that, I knew very little. Roach not only discusses all the different ways corpses can be handled, she delves into the history of how we've handled our dead, and looks to how it may change in the future. One current option that is gaining traction in Sweden is composting cadavers. People who choose this path would be used to help a ceremonial tree or bush planted in their honor to grow. Frankly, I think that's a lovely idea, and in this day of growing environmental concerns, who wouldn't want to go on helping the earth after they're gone? Of course, ideas like that are only beginning to bud (sorry) - as a species we're still fairly uneasy about death and handling corpses. We still have far to go before such an option becomes widely accepted. Roach encourages her readers to think about what to do with their own bodies, and I like the idea of donating myself to science, in the hopes that someone might be able to use me to help others.

1 comment:

  1. I read this book a few years ago, when I was an undergrad in college working in the writing center. A bunch of kids read it as their non-fiction selection for their first-year writing course. Anyhow, I thought it was a fascinating read. I wanted to follow up on some of the things, and I've heard mixed reviews from others, but I was hooked the entire time. Even if some things are less than truthful (some things I couldn't find information about anywhere else!), it really is an eye-opener about our lives after we die. Thanks for the review!

    -- Krista