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The Thing about Life Is That One Day You'll Be Deadby David Shields
"I've been weirdly giddy ever since finishing the book," David Shields admits. "Somehow I find the mortality data strangely liberating." Somehow this isn't surprising. In The Thing about Life Is That One Day You'll Be Dead, Shields takes readers from womb to casket, addictively blending family narrative, biological science, and wisdom from the likes of Schopenhauer and Ice-T. It all adds up to an audacious and, yes, lively collage.
Synopses & Reviews
Mesmerized — at times unnerved— by his ninety-seven-year-old father's nearly superhuman vitality and optimism, David Shields undertakes an investigation of the human physical condition. The result is this exhilarating book: both a personal meditation on mortality and an exploration of flesh-and-blood existence from crib to oblivion — an exploration that paradoxically prompts a renewed and profound appreciation of life.
Shields begins with the facts of birth and childhood, expertly weaving in anecdotal information about himself and his father. As the book proceeds through adolescence, middle age, old age, he juxtaposes biological details with bits of philosophical speculation, cultural history and criticism, and quotations from a wide range of writers and thinkers — from Lucretius to Woody Allen — yielding a magical whole: the universal story of our bodily being, a tender and often hilarious portrait of one family.
A book of extraordinary depth and resonance, The Thing About Life Is That One Day You'll Be Dead will move readers to contemplate the brevity and radiance of their own sojourn on earth and challenge them to rearrange their thinking in unexpected and crucial ways.
"Inspired by the immense vitality of his 90-something father, author Shields (Body Politic: The Great American Sports Machine) looks at the arc of a human life in order to come to terms with mortality. Organized into four stages of life-infancy and childhood, adolescence, adulthood and middle age, old age and death-Shields's short, snappy chapters are crafted from personal anecdotes (many featuring his wife and teenage daughter), literary-philosophical musing and enlightening scientific data, examining a wide range of human concerns relating to 'the beauty and pathos in my body and his body and everybody else's body as well.' Shields also visits historical and contemporary figures, from Sigmund Freud to John Ruskin and Woody Allen, for their thoughts on mortality; says Picasso, 'One starts to get young at the age of sixty, and then it's too late.' Shield's eclectic approach and personal voice makes this extended meditation on living and dying a pleasing and occasionally profound read." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"David Shields has accomplished something here so pure and wide in its implications that I almost think of it as a secular, unsentimental Kahlil Gibran: a textbook for the acceptance of our fate on earth." Jonathan Lethem
"It's a bold writer who dares to tackle head-on the subject of what it means to be human — something that David Shields does with an extraordinary mixture of tenderness, humor, and inexhaustible curiosity." Jonathan Raban
"The Thing About Life grabbed me from the start. It's extremely compelling, gorgeous in many places. I loved it. And I wish I had written it." Lauren Slater
"Mr. Shields is a sharp-eyed, self-deprecating, at times hilarious writer." Wall Street Journal
"Enthralling, perplexing, illuminating and discombobulated....[A] fascinating, demanding read." San Francisco Chronicle
"There are paragraphs so finely wrought, so precisely tuned to the narrow-band channels between reader and writer, that the caught breath of inspiration and the sighs of expiration leave us grinning and breathless....This diamond of a book." Boston Globe
About the Author
David Shields is the author of eight previous books of fiction and nonfiction, including Black Planet (a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award), Remote (winner of the PEN/Revson Award), and Dead Languages (winner of the PEN Syndicated Fiction Award). A senior editor at Conjunctions, Shields has published essays and stories in the New York Times Magazine, Harper's Magazine, The Yale Review, the Village Voice, Salon, Slate, McSweeney's, and The Believer. He lives with his wife and daughter in Seattle, where he is a professor in the English department at the University of Washington.
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