Is laughter the best medicine? No: Medicine is the best medicine. (I think I stole that from someone.)
But if I have a choice between funny and not-funny, the funny is always going to be more pleasurable to me (and probably to most people). Yesterday, I saw Mary Roach, author of Spook and Stiff, speak a Virginia Festival of the Book event. I approach these events, where I absolutely love love love the writer's work, with equal parts excitement and dread. Excitement because the lady's work delights me. Dread because there is always the possibility that the writer is an asshole.
Long ago, I covered a big book event where I had to interview a star roster of writers. I can tell you that Rita Mae Brown ain't nothing but a pleasure to be around. John Gardner, who now writes the James Bond books, has both a strong English accent and a speech impediment, which is a challenge for a reporter.
And then there was this other writer, the very famous one, the reason I wanted to cover this event in the first place. Like a lot of young writers, I adored her work, bought her books, and was prepared to fawn.
I approached her and introduced myself. She brushed me off; she was dismissive. She was rude. Long story short, I can't read her work any longer. Since then, her star has dimmed, and you know what? Good.
I am a petty, petty woman.
So, anyway, I went to this event yesterday, and I'm happy to report that Mary Roach seems very nice. Her schedule had her rushing off to another event across grounds immediately after the one I attended at the med school, so I didn't get to meet her and have her sign a book. (I have both of them anyway.)
Since it was a medical school event, she mostly talked about Stiff, her book about all the different ways cadavers serve the living (mostly through organ donation and in research, in fields from forensics to automotive safety.) There was a lot of talk about the ethics of working with cadavers--what respect, in terms of a corpse, means. If you've read the book, you know that it clearly doesn't mean gentle handling.
Someone asked what she plans for her own remains. And she said that she has two applications at home for donating her body to science at universities in the Bay area, where she lives. She's at a stand-still. "I feel like a high school senior," she said, tempted to call the schools and see what kind of deal she could broker for her own cadaver. This is what I love about her work, that it's dark and funny and comforting on some level. Yes, we will die, but we can also think of it as graduation. I can't wait for her next book, whatever it may be.
Speaking of the funny, do yourself a favor and read this. And if you know something awful about the author, keep a lid on it.