by Michael Lesy ‧ RELEASE DATE: July 1, 1987
Death is the forbidden zone that Lesy (Wisconsin Death Trip, Visible Light) brilliantly illuminates in this intimate and gripping book that chronicles his odyssey among men (only men) who deal with death daily. In his preface, Lesy posits a ""moral hierarchy"" of those who work with death. At the base of this hierarchy he places those who slaughter animals; moving up the scale, there are ""those who serve justice as the professional killers of men"": executioners, police sharpshooters, and mercenaries; above them are homicide cops, then pathologists; and at the apex are hospice workers comforting the dying. Acutely aware of his own fascination with and fear of death, Lesy crisscrosses America, visiting one or more denizens of each level in his hierarchy, seeking knowledge of the forbidden zone--and, in time, relief from the nightmares that plague his wanderings. His first step into the ""modern American Hades"" occurs in a Philadelphia pathologist's lab, where he observes an autopsy--and a truth that proves too common to most of his later experiences: that those who deal with death evade the full terror of their calling, cloaking it in ritual, righteousness, or rationalization. Lesy next visits a Tampa homicide dick who tells him that we all have a killer within--a second truth he denies until, at an Omaha stockyard, he easily kills a steer. Then it's back to Tampa and the cops, to follow a murder investigation; then a visit to a N.J. kosher slaughterhouse, where the killing of cattle is wrapped in sanctity. Next, a look-see at a Georgia death row, where he's strapped into an electric chair; then a visit with a mercenary whose body and soul are scarred by killing, followed by trips to two embalming homes. And finally, a healing pilgimage to San Francisco, where Lesy resolves his search by at last meeting a man--an AIDS M.D.--who can look death in the face with compassion and without flinching. Not only a riveting exploration of the business of death, but a sometimes disturbing, frequently moving chronicle of one man's quest for understanding as well: an extraordinary work, highly recommended.
Pub Date: July 1, 1987
Page Count: -
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1987
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