Monday, December 14, 2015

Staying alive, as it turns out, is mostly common sense

It's the Christmas season, so let's talk about dead bodies via a forensic pathologist, shall we?
Of course there's a gif that combines these things
Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner had been on my radar ever since Nahree's post about it. So I picked it up when it and a bunch of other books when in sale.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. It's interesting if you're into reading about dead bodiesand the things that happen after you die if you end up on the forensic pathologist's slab. And given I very much enjoyed Stiff yes, this is a book that is up my alley.

It's somewhat of a memoir, with Dr. Judy Melinek discussing how she ended up working as a pathologist in NYC in the early 2000s. She originally wanted to be a surgeon but being made to work insane hours and while sick (cos you know, you want your surgeon to have a crazy-high fever and be sleep deprived when slicing you up!) but a pathologist is more of a nine-to-five job.

The book is graphic at times, but not overly so. It doesn't feel like she's describing things with the sole purpose of being shocking. But that doesn't mean she shies away from explaining exactly how she has to split apart the rib cage to get to the organs within or any other medical details.
Learning to handle human beings who have begun to return to the soil cycle has, more than any other aspect of the job, made me more comfortable with death - though it's also made me much, much less comfortable with houseflies, and leery of cats.
While it is like a memoir, the structure threw me at times. The book is split into different sections, themes based on how the people died. Which meant that things weren't chronological, though at times it felt like it should be or that she was hinting at something big she learned from a later case that would apply to her current one, only for that to never once happen. It almost felt like it should have been more clear, with each case being its own stand alone chapter. But a minor complaint.

She was a pathologist in NYC during 9/11 and her chapter on September 11th was a lot harder to read than I anticipated. She talks about the trucks bringing bodies to the pathologist's site. Well, "bodies" isn't really accurate because, as she makes clear, they were very rarely dealing with whole bodies. More often it was pieces about the size of your thumb.

The book can be funny, can be sad, can be horrifying, can be gross, but it's also entertaining.

Gif rating:
Title quote from page 5, location 67

Melinek, Dr Judy. Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner. Scribner, 2014. Kindle edition