March 3, 2006

"People Who Don't Know They're Dead: How They Attach Themselves to Unsuspecting Bystanders and What to Do About It."

Oddest book title of the year. Odder than "Rhino Horn Stockpile Management: Minimum Standards and Best Practices from East and Southern Africa."

That rhino horn title describes something real people are actually doing. "People Who Don't Know They're Dead," however, appears to be an insanely hostile self-help book -- that is to say, a book intended to help that will only make matters worse. Oh, no, wait. Here it is on Amazon:
In People Who Don't Know They're Dead, Gary Leon Hill tells a family story of how his Uncle Wally and Aunt Ruth, Wally's sister, came to counsel dead spirits who took up residence in bodies that didn't belong to them. And in the telling, Hill elucidates much of what we know, or think we know, about life, death, consciousness, and the meaning of the universe.

When people die by accident, in violence, or maybe they're drunk, stoned, or angry, they get freeze-framed. Even if they die naturally but have no clue what to expect, they might not notice they're dead. It's frustrating to see and not be seen. It's frustrating to not know what you're supposed to do next. It's especially frustrating to be in someone else's body and think it's your own. That's if you're dead. If you're alive and that spirit has attached itself to you, well that's a whole other set of frustrations.

Hill has woven this fascinating story with the history and theory of what happens at death, with particular emphasis on the last 40 years and the work of various groundbreaking thinkers whose work helps inform our idea of what it is to live and to die.
Well, that's just nutty, but not in the way I imagined. I was thinking of a writer who viewed his fellow human beings as the equivalent of zombies, with no real mental life worth respecting.

7 comments:

boringmadedull said...

Yes, but an insanely malevolent (spl?) "self help" book would probably been more interesting.

johnstodderinexile said...

>>I was thinking of a writer who viewed his fellow human beings as the equivalent of zombies, with no real mental life worth respecting.<<

This reminds me of the insanity of the "fabulously well-to-do" car dealer in Kurt Vonnegut's novel, Breakfast of Champions, who goes on a shooting rampage after he becomes convinced that everyone around him is a malevolent robot. He gets this idea from a novel by the character Kilgore Trout, which sounds like a cousin to this book.

HaloJonesFan said...

I bet that the sequel tells us how these spirits are actually the ghosts of an alien race that was exiled to Earth a million years ago, and they all died when their spaceship crashed into a volcano, and if you learn too much about them you die of pneumonia.

I do like Ann's self-help book interpretation, though. Sounds like something that Ayn Rand might write. Hey--maybe Ann Althouse is Ayn Rand in disguise!

SippicanCottage said...
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Ann Althouse said...

Sippican: My first draft of this post had that lyric in it. I was going to accuse John Lennon of taking the attitude expressed in what is now my last sentence, but really he's mocking the person who's saying she feels dead, so I decided it wasn't apt. But it's funny that you thought of it too.

Anyway, I always heard that the "she" in that song was Peter Fonda.

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hong Gay said...

This is interesting. It coincides with whatever esoteric teachings I leanrt from my Guru who was a highly enlightened monk.