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Original Essays | August 21, 2014

Richard Bausch: IMG Why Literature Can Save Us



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    Before, During, After

    Richard Bausch 9780307266262

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1 Hawthorne Literature- A to Z

Being Dead

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Being Dead Cover

 

 

Excerpt

For old times sake, the doctors of zoology had driven out of town that Tuesday afternoon to make a final visit to the singing salt dunes at Baritone Bay. And to lay a ghost. They never made it back alive. They almost never made it back at all.

Theyd only meant to take a short nostalgic walk along the coast where they had met as students almost thirty years before. They had made love for the first time in these same dunes. And they might have made love there again if, as the newspapers were to say, ‘Death, armed with a piece of granite, had not stumbled on their kisses.

They were the oddest pair, these dead, spreadeagled lovers on the coast: Joseph and Celice. Both had been teachers. He was director at the Tidal Institute, where he was noted for his coldness as much as for his brains. She was a part-time tutor at the university. Hardly any of their colleagues had ever seen them together, or visited them at home, let alone witnessed them touch. How unexpected, then, that these two, of all couples, should be found like this, without their underclothes, their heads caved in, unlikely victims of unlikely passions. Who would have thought that unattractive people of that age and learning would encounter sex and murder in the open air?

They paid a heavy price for their nostalgia.

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tracey lyman, January 31, 2010 (view all comments by tracey lyman)
I first read Jim Crace based on a recommendation on NPR for his book "Quarantine." Enthralled with this tale of Jesus' 40 days in the desert, I knew I had to read more. "Being Dead" is not the most uplifting title, and certainly one would not expect to enjoy a book that starts with a murder of a middle-aged couple. But Crace's kinetic, nonlinear style creates a reading experience that at once makes us appreciate our lives and the speed with which they can be over, without our even anticipating the proximity of death. From the thoughts of the killer during the murders to the couple's activities hours prior to their murders to the manner in which they'd met decades before, each page builds a complex and infinitely readable story that comes to a satisfying conclusion, rather than resolution. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys books written in a nontraditional style.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780312275426
Author:
Crace, Jim
Publisher:
St. Martins Press-3pl
Location:
New York
Subject:
General
Subject:
Murder
Subject:
Fiction
Subject:
Married people
Subject:
Domestic fiction
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
Series Volume:
11372
Publication Date:
20010331
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
208
Dimensions:
8.31 x 5.47 x 0.48 in

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Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

Being Dead Used Trade Paper
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$5.95 In Stock
Product details 208 pages MACMILLAN PUBLISHING SERVICES - English 9780312275426 Reviews:
"Review" by , "Being Dead... is a triumph. What Crace, with dazzling originality, has done is to log the death of two natural scientists from an appropriately physical point of view. No detail is spared, yet the effect is strangely poetic and even reassuring... In that spare story a universe of poetry and observation is contained. This is a work of near-genius."
"Review" by , "What a stylist Crace is, and what a vision... Crace has the rare gift of seeing the splendor under the grass. In his 'everending' vision, death and romance are inextricably entwined... [A] tour de force from one of Britain's best novelists."
"Synopsis" by , On Baritone Bay, mid-afternoon, Joseph and Celice, married for almost 30 years, lie murdered in the dunes. The shocking particulars of their passing make up the arc of this courageous and haunting novel of life, mortality and love.
"Synopsis" by ,
Lying in the sand dunes of Baritone Bay are the bodies of a middle-aged couple. Celice and Joseph, in their mid-50s and married for more than 30 years, are returning to the seacoast where they met as students. Instead, they are battered to death by a thief with a chunk of granite. Their corpses lie undiscovered and rotting for a week, prey to sand crabs, flies, and gulls. Yet there remains something touching about the scene, with Joseph's hand curving lightly around his wife's leg, "quietly resting; flesh on flesh; dead, but not departed yet."

"Their bodies had expired, but anyone could tell—just look at them—that Joseph and Celice were still devoted. For while his hand was touching her, curved round her shin, the couple seemed to have achieved that peace the world denies, a period of grace, defying even murder. Anyone who found them there, so wickedly disfigured, would nevertheless be bound to see that something of their love had survived the death of cells. The corpses were surrendered to the weather and the earth, but they were still a man and wife, quietly resting; flesh on flesh; dead, but not departed yet."

From that moment forward, Being Dead becomes less about murder and more about death. Alternating chapters move back in time from the murder in hourly and two-hourly increments. As the narrative moves backward, we see Celice and Joseph make the small decisions about their day that will lead them inexorably towards their own deaths. In other chapters the narrative moves forward. Celice and Joseph are on vacation and nobody misses them until they do not return. Thus, it is six days before their bodies are found. Crace describes in minute detail their gradual return to the land with the help of crabs, birds, and the numerous insects that attack the body and gently and not so gently prepare it for the dust-to-dust phase of death.

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