Friday, November 27, 2009
Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife
I want Mary Roach's job. She investigates odd topics like how we handle dead bodies or investigate the afterlife and writes witty essays which walk the line between irreverent and disrespectful. She freely admits in Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife that she's a skeptic, but still treats her interview subjects, which range from a little Indian boy believed to have the reincarnated soul of a man from a neighboring village, to a scientist investigating near death experiences, to the woman whose career serves as the basis for the show Medium, with sincerity and asks serious questions. Roach saves her more sarcastic comments for the chapters on past paranormal experiments and fads (the chapter on ectoplasm is more disgusting than almost anything in Stiff), and for herself. Like Roach, I'm a skeptic, but I think I could conduct a professional, respectful conversation with a paranormal investigator. What I don't think I could do is enroll in psychic school or help with an experiment which involves listening for the ghosts of the Donner Party. Roach did both of these, and managed to both keep a straight face and make herself the butt of the joke ("I can't believe I'm doing this!") in her essays.