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

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The Thing about Life Is That One Day You'll Be Dead Cover

ISBN13: 9780307268044
ISBN10: 0307268047
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Staff Pick

"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.
Recommended by Dave, Powells.com

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

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.

Review:

"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.)

Review:

"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

Review:

"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

Review:

"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

Review:

"Mr. Shields is a sharp-eyed, self-deprecating, at times hilarious writer." Wall Street Journal

Review:

"Enthralling, perplexing, illuminating and discombobulated....[A] fascinating, demanding read." San Francisco Chronicle

Review:

"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

Review:

"[W]hen Shields sat down to write, he made a wise and generous decision: to convey what he learned in a confident but self-deprecating manner, the way a smart friend might share facts over the dinner table." Seattle Times

Synopsis:

Part memoir, part manifesto, this exploration of the underside of America's obsession with safety is prompted by the author's visit to a thrillingly alarming adventure playground in Tokyo

and#160;

Synopsis:

Part memoir, part manifesto, this exploration of the underside of Americaand#8217;s obsession with safety is prompted by the authorand#8217;s visit to a thrillingly alarming adventure playground in Tokyo

"How fully can the world be explored," asks Amy Fusselman " . . . if you are also trying not to die?"

On a visit to Tokyo with her family, Fusselman stumbles on Hanegi playpark, where children are sawing wood, hammering nails, stringing hammocks to trees, building open fires. When she returns to New York, her conceptions of space, risk, and fear are completely changed. Fusselman invites us along on her tightrope-walking expeditions with Philippe Petit and late night adventures with the Tokyo park-workers, showing that when we deprive ourselves, and our children, of the experience of taking risks in space, we make them less safe, not more so.

Savage Park is a fresh, poetic reconsideration of behaviors in our culture that and#8212; in the guise of protecting us and#8212; make us numb and encourage us to sleepwalk through our lives. We babyproof our homes; plug our ears to our devices while walking through the city. What would happen if we exposed ourselves, if and#8212; like the children at Hanegi park and#8212; we put ourselves in situations that require true vigilance? Readers of Rebecca Solnit and Cheryl Strayed will delight in the revelations in Savage Park.

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.

Table of Contents

Part I

and#160;1.and#8194;NSEWand#8195;3

and#160;2.and#8194;Above and Belowand#8195;25

and#160;3.and#8194;What There Is to Seeand#8195;44

and#160;4.and#8194;Savage Parkand#8195;63

and#160;5.and#8194;Moreand#8195;89

Part II

and#160;6.and#8194;SSOFand#8195;99

and#160;7.and#8194;Red Butterfliesand#8195;111

and#160;8.and#8194;American Windand#8195;119

and#160;9.and#8194;The Structures Trembleand#8195;127

Resourcesand#8195;131

Acknowledgmentsand#8195;135

What Our Readers Are Saying

Add a comment for a chance to win!
Average customer rating based on 40 comments:

Madam Pince, September 21, 2008 (view all comments by Madam Pince)
I don't know how David Shields puts up with his dad, but I do know this: his dad is related to my boyfriend. They're both exasperating. Thank you, David, for the field guide -- it helps tremendously.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(12 of 21 readers found this comment helpful)
Edward, March 13, 2008 (view all comments by Edward)
This isn't really a book about life as much as it is a lament about his father.
There are all sorts of 'feel good' quotes and anecdotes.
The title says it all-- and quite frankly for all the publicity it is absolutely over rated!
I like Bill Murray too but I couldn't get though this entire book without throwing up.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(34 of 48 readers found this comment helpful)
mollymalcolm, February 24, 2008 (view all comments by mollymalcolm)
I turned 35 this year, and I am suddenly very aware of my aging. It's not the physical changes in themselves that bother me so much, it’s realizing that they are the warning signs of my “imminent” death. The Thing About Life has been quite a cathartic confrontation for me. The statistics of how our bodies atrophy were penetrating and persistent. I was seeing my body turning into ashes as I read the chapters and I didn’t want that! The rawness of Shields’ writing, his laugh out-loud anecdotes, and the hope Shields’ father was giving me, as the exception to all the statistics, made all the cold hard facts disappear. As he kept forcing me to stare death in the face, suddenly what had been terrifying and uncomfortable wasn’t so much anymore. He turned death into a well known friend (well, one that you’d like to keep at a distance). I couldn’t put the book down. Shields has such an ability to laugh at himself. His boldness and freedom in the way he exposes himself takes you on a journey as if you where under his skin. And you love the ride. I came out the other end feeling like the weight of death had been lifted off my back, with an acceptance of the bitter-sweet reality of being alive, and the feeling of not wanting to waste another second.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(23 of 47 readers found this comment helpful)
View all 40 comments

Product Details

ISBN:
9780307268044
Subtitle:
A Meditation on Play, Space, and Risk for Americans Who Are Nervous, Distracted, and Afraid to Die
Author:
Shields, David
Author:
Fusselman, Amy
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Subject:
Personal Memoirs
Subject:
Authors, American
Subject:
Fathers and sons
Subject:
Authors, American -- 20th century.
Subject:
Fathers and sons -- United States.
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
20150113
Binding:
Electronic book text in proprietary or open standard format
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
27 b/w photographs throughout
Pages:
144
Dimensions:
8.25 x 5.5 in 1 lb

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The Thing about Life Is That One Day You'll Be Dead Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$3.95 In Stock
Product details 144 pages Random House - English 9780307268044 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

"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.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "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.)
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "Mr. Shields is a sharp-eyed, self-deprecating, at times hilarious writer."
"Review" by , "Enthralling, perplexing, illuminating and discombobulated....[A] fascinating, demanding read."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "[W]hen Shields sat down to write, he made a wise and generous decision: to convey what he learned in a confident but self-deprecating manner, the way a smart friend might share facts over the dinner table."
"Synopsis" by , Part memoir, part manifesto, this exploration of the underside of America's obsession with safety is prompted by the author's visit to a thrillingly alarming adventure playground in Tokyo

and#160;

"Synopsis" by ,

Part memoir, part manifesto, this exploration of the underside of Americaand#8217;s obsession with safety is prompted by the authorand#8217;s visit to a thrillingly alarming adventure playground in Tokyo

"How fully can the world be explored," asks Amy Fusselman " . . . if you are also trying not to die?"

On a visit to Tokyo with her family, Fusselman stumbles on Hanegi playpark, where children are sawing wood, hammering nails, stringing hammocks to trees, building open fires. When she returns to New York, her conceptions of space, risk, and fear are completely changed. Fusselman invites us along on her tightrope-walking expeditions with Philippe Petit and late night adventures with the Tokyo park-workers, showing that when we deprive ourselves, and our children, of the experience of taking risks in space, we make them less safe, not more so.

Savage Park is a fresh, poetic reconsideration of behaviors in our culture that and#8212; in the guise of protecting us and#8212; make us numb and encourage us to sleepwalk through our lives. We babyproof our homes; plug our ears to our devices while walking through the city. What would happen if we exposed ourselves, if and#8212; like the children at Hanegi park and#8212; we put ourselves in situations that require true vigilance? Readers of Rebecca Solnit and Cheryl Strayed will delight in the revelations in Savage Park.

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