David Shields - The Thing About Life is that One Day You’ll Be Dead (3 stars)

Essayist's ‘sort of love letter’ to dad mish-mash of references

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David Shields - The Thing About Life is that One Day You’ll Be Dead

(Penguin)

Shocked by the increasing vitality of his 97-year-old father, essayist David Shields penned this ‘sort of love letter’ to his dad. Shields Snr reportedly wrote back by pointing out the errors in the book. The Thing About Life is that One Day You’ll Be Dead is more than just a chronological biography of a beloved parent, as the author throws in science, philosophy, anatomical research, dreams pop culture titbits and a whole bunch of statistics. And I mean a lot of statistics. Did you know that fingernail growth is fastest in November and female sperm whales live 30 years longer than their male counterparts?

The end result is a mish-mash of influences and references which appear to loom towards something profound but ultimately fizzles out. Like life, perhaps. A New York Times bestseller when it arrived in 2008, Shields got his eulogy out just in time. Papa Shields died later that year, aged 98.

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