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“On some days I’m lured mesmerically to the rabbit hole of loss, and am forced to thrash around down there like trapped prey,” Cooley writes. “On other days all the losses seem to recede like any object in a rearview mirror once the accelerator’s been pressed, and I’ve no trouble keeping my foot on the pedal of the present.”It’s a lurching way to live; simultaneously brokenhearted and in love, crushingly bereaved one moment and surprisingly O. ”In “Guesswork,” the body is both canvas and carapace, both superficial construct and, for better or worse, the whole damn point.Vacationing on the island of Giglio in the Tyrrhenian Sea, Cooley and her husband find themselves in the literal and figurative shadow of the Costa Concordia, the giant cruise ship that struck a rock and capsized earlier that year, leaving 32 dead and two still missing.Viloria’s most notable anatomical variant, a larger-than-average clitoris, proved to be a greater source of pleasure than of shame, and so there was little incentive to investigate the root cause, much less fix what wasn’t broken.As a memoir, “Born Both” can be as difficult to pin down as its author’s identity.Valentine, who now curates a collection at Barts Pathology Museum in London, worked for eight years in Britain as a certified A. As a child, Valentine recounts, she tried to perform autopsies on her toys and was “enthralled by any dead animal I found on the street.” After university she pursued an advanced degree in forensic and biomolecular sciences and gets an entry-level gig at the mortuary, cleaning up after organ dissections (the job requires steel-toed Wellington boots). And it actually works spectacularly well, at least if you’re into that kind of thing.

For what it’s worth, Valentine’s bio says she runs a dating and networking site for death professionals, a detail that may or may not have any relevance to her observation in the book that “watching someone carry out an autopsy is, in many ways, like watching someone have sex.” Let’s maybe not stop and think about that for a moment.

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Viloria has sex with both women and men both a woman and as a man (stop and think about that for a moment). “Or alternatively, ‘I’m neither.’”The bodies in Carla Valentine’s THE CHICK AND THE DEAD: Life and Death Behind Mortuary Doors (St. “And thus,” Valentine writes, “began a new chapter of my life in death.”“The Chick and the Dead,” which spins its title from the well-worn idiom “the quick and the dead,” is filled with such turns of phrase, and Valentine’s tone, which is meant to come across as playfully irreverent, sometimes gives way to glibness if not a surfeit of cheesy puns.

In daily interactions with the world, Viloria has seen down both sides of the mountain and tunneled through for good measure. Martin’s, .99) belong to other people — or at least did at one time. The book covers this period, one in which Valentine spends her days assisting in autopsies and other forensic investigations by removing organs from corpses, replacing those organs post-examination (at least when possible) and then sewing, washing and grooming the bodies into presentability. Scarce space in mortuary refrigerators is described as “popular real estate; people are dying to get in there after all.” Nor can she resist reminding us that “working in a mortuary is not a dead-end job.”But even though Valentine might have the sense of humor of an aging uncle, her zest for gross-out depictions of bodily functions rivals that of any 10-year-old boy.

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