Wednesday, December 12, 2007

New Release Spotlight: The thing about life is that one day you'll be dead

The thing about life is that one day you'll be dead by David Shields

This book is a memoir of sorts. David Shields talks about his life and at the same time talks about life in general; conception, birth, all the way through to—you guessed it—death. Stories of his childhood and family are interspersed with very detailed facts about genetics and biology.

Shields, at age fifty, is obsessed with death; the eventuality consumes him. He dreams about it. He waxes poetic about the inevitable deterioration of the body. He ghoulishly wonders what his last words will be.

His foil (and most interesting character in the book) is his father. He’s ninety-six and as vibrant and full of life as ever. Of course this irks Shields to no end. How can someone so close to death not think about it?

The book has kind of a weird, disjointed format—random facts about teen suicide, Donald Trump’s wedding, and Shields’s cat seemingly pop-up out of nowhere. What at first seems to be a unique way to tell a story quickly becomes tiresome and at times puzzling.

It’s obvious Shields has done a lot of research (in addition to all the science, there are a countless amount of quotes from people ranging from Da Vinci to O. J. Simpson), but the lack of a straight-forward narrative is jarring.

The stories about his father—a Dodger fan who once in the middle of a losing streak asked himself why God hadn’t made him a Yankee fan—and Shields’s own early basketball prowess are interesting and entertaining, and I wished there were more of those and less of the cold, hard scientific facts.

The best lesson learned from this book is that life is too short to constantly dwell on death or, for that matter, to read a book about someone who does.

Review by Tim Josephs, Indigo Editing, LLC

ISBN: 0307268047
Publisher: Knopf
Pub. Date: February 2008
Hardcover $23.95

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