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Original Essays | June 20, 2014

Lauren Owen: IMG The Other Vampire

It's a wild and thundery night. Inside a ramshackle old manor house, a beautiful young girl lies asleep in bed. At the window, a figure watches... Continue »
  1. $18.90 Sale Hardcover add to wish list

    The Quick

    Lauren Owen 9780812993271


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barriejeanborich has commented on (1) product.

The Thing about Life Is That One Day You'll Be Dead by David Shields
The Thing about Life Is That One Day You'll Be Dead

barriejeanborich, February 22, 2008

Such an interesting book in terms of both form and voice. The clean, athletic and direct prose is at once evocatively descriptive and baldly factual--in keeping with all of Shields' work. And the mosaic form allows for a complex twining of reoccurring and advancing narrative and ruminative threads that will engross and challenge a reader who enjoys a thinking approach to the body and an embodied approach to thinking the body through. And yet the structure of this book is not a random collage, but is rather deeply bound to the oldest of human plots--birth to coming of age to middle adulthood to death. The fragments of this book's trajectory are made up of vignettes about the narrator's own body and those of his immediate family, interlaced with statistics that do not shy away from blood and pain and sex and the dumb actualities of our ever-changing corporeality, tumbling the reader splendidly forward, toward the most common of human inevitabilities.

My considerable engagement with this project does not come of always recognizing myself its content, nor should it, as simple agreement would be a disappointment. As a reader entering this text from outside a few of its paradigms--heterosexual coupling and reproduction far from the center of my existence, and that of most of my intimates-- I do resist some of the biological imperatives suggested on these pages. How significant, really, are the animal shadows to non-reproductive sexuality and family life, and is the apparently reproductive-bound plumbing of the female body always the source of mother-daughter rivalry, or are the tensions of female domestic identity formation more complex than one psychoanalytic source might suggest? I'm not always sure when the author is commenting and when he is simply reporting. I'm much more engaged here in the illuminations of how heterosexual men live in the narrative arc of their bodies than I am convinced by the narrator's suppositions into the bodies of women (although the quotations of Kim Chernin's insights into female anorexia are well-used.)

But such readerly argument and internal debate is precisely the point of reading personal/lryic essays written from the full embrace of personal and particular human point of view, and the self-portrait that comes through on these pages is the achievement and importance of the book. I love a cranky, quirky, questioning voice such as this one precisely because it is not my voice. Such is the point of literature, to read across our borders in search of those animal shadows that may or may not unite us, but will push us into a conversation that helps us comprehend our shared journey, from cradle to grave.

Barrie Jean Borich
author of My Lesbian Husband
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