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


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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.
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(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.
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(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.
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(23 of 47 readers found this comment helpful)
barriejeanborich, February 22, 2008 (view all comments by barriejeanborich)
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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(17 of 37 readers found this comment helpful)
Michael Faloon, February 11, 2008 (view all comments by Michael Faloon)
Few writers follow their fears, to borrow a phrase from the late Del Close, like David Shields. And none do so with such finely honed craft and self effacing humor. To say that he has written a probing, heartwarming book about facing the prospect of death merely scratches at the surface of this remarkable work.
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(25 of 52 readers found this comment helpful)
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Product Details

A Meditation on Play, Space, and Risk for Americans Who Are Nervous, Distracted, and Afraid to Die
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Shields, David
Fusselman, Amy
Personal Memoirs
Authors, American
Fathers and sons
Authors, American -- 20th century.
Fathers and sons -- United States.
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
Electronic book text in proprietary or open standard format
Grade Level:
27 b/w photographs throughout
8.25 x 5.5 in 1 lb

Related Subjects

Biography » General
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

The Thing about Life Is That One Day You'll Be Dead
0 stars - 0 reviews
$ 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


"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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