Book #9, read September/October 2018
The thing about life is one day you’ll be dead (David Shields)
I read this book because my husband came across a used copy at our neighborhood indie bookstore and bought it for me (the title made it a somewhat obvious choice for my project here).
The thing about life is that one day you’ll be dead is hard to describe. It’s partly just sketches about death, the aging of the human body, evolutionary biology, etc. Not to be one of those “I could have written that!” assholes, but those parts mostly contained things I already knew, stated in ways that I might have stated them myself. Still pretty interesting to breeze through.
On the other hand, though, The thing about life is also largely about Shields’s nonagenarian father who himself defies basically all of the lessons about mortality we’re supposed to be learning in here. This father has remained athletic and sexual into his 90s and still more or less refuses to internalize the belief that he will die. He stars in a number of charming anecdotes that I never could have been convinced to read if it had been billed as a book about some rando’s father, instead of a book about Death.
So, despite being a book about Death, The thing about life turned out to be a pretty breezy read compared to some of my other choices. (Lol at reviewers who chose a book with this title then complained about it being “too depressing”).
Again, though, my current situation has heavily affected my experience of this book. Some of these books are perfectly aligned with what I’m going through, others are kind of anti-aligned. As Shields semi-incredulously describes his vital, ancient father, I can’t help but thinking of my only-sort-of-old, terminally ill father. For me, there is no satisfying juxtaposition to be had like that Shields enjoys between his more abstract musings on life and what he observes in his father.
However, since this book is 10 years old now, I read it with the recurring thought that Shields’s father must have died by now. I must admit that that tempered my jealousy significantly.
Although it was still a good read despite my crisis, I think this book would be better enjoyed by someone who thinks maybe it’s time s/he gave death a bit of thought, but not too much, like not to the point of tears in public.