Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Stiff: A book review

I listened to the audiobook version of "Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers" by Mary Roach. What a treat. Am I a sicko, or what?

In her explorations into how human cadavers are used, Mary tells us - in gruesome detail - about many of her site visits. These include a cosmetic surgery workshop (for anatomical education), a human-remains research "farm" (used to infer time of death), and a tissue digestion company (an alternative to cremation). She also outlines a lot of the history around early anatomists, and how they used to hire body-snatchers to supply corpses by digging fresh graves, or otherwise.

One of my favourite parts of the book is her chapter on head transplants. Umm, make that "body transplants". Not done on humans, but on dogs and monkeys. I even took the time to look up the 1971 Surgery paper she described, entitled "Cephalic exchange transplantation in the monkey" by Robert J. White et al, which is where this rather disturbing figure comes from.

Mary has a humourous candor that comes out effortlessly from Shelly Frasier's reading. I highly recommend this book, if you have a strong stomach and a fascination with the macabre.

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