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Some of the Dead Are Still Breathing: Living in the Future Hardcover – April 9, 2009


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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Bowden is a blood-and-guts journalist with a poet’s sensibility, a noirish naturalist, a ferociously inquisitive witness to life’s glory and horror torn between the desire to embrace the world and the need to hole up in a drapes-drawn motel room. Bowden covers the borderland drug culture in such high-voltage dispatches as Down by the River (2002), while also writing darkly rhapsodic works of memory and reflection. This ravishing chronicle follows Blood Orchid (1995) and Blues for Cannibals (2002) to complete an “accidental trilogy” of books that flow from a single question and a single hunger: how can a person live a moral life in a culture of death—the deaths of people and animals, forests and oceans, clean air and water. Writing with molten urgency, confessional magnetism, and piercing detail, Bowden chronicles his unlikely friendships with a rattlesnake and a desert tortoise, enigmatic encounters with women, the psychic repercussions of his murder investigations, and his part in a terrifying Greenpeace mission. Red wine, Moby-Dick, human brutality, the suffering of other species, the obdurateness of paradox, the ambush of love, beauty beyond comprehension, the immensity of loss implicit in our planetary crimes—Bowden, singing in chains, says yes to all of life. --Donna Seaman

Review

"Bowden is a blood-and-guts journalist with a poet’s sensibility, a noirish naturalist, a ferociously inquisitive witness to life’s glory and horror torn between the desire to embrace the world and the need to hole up in a drapes-drawn motel room . . . Writing with molten urgency, confessional magnetism, and piercing detail, Bowden chronicles his unlikely friendships with a rattlesnake and a desert tortoise, enigmatic encounters with women, the psychic repercussions of his murder investigations, and his part in a terrifying Greenpeace mission. Red wine, Moby Dick, human brutality, the suffering of other species, the obdurateness of paradox, the ambush of love, beauty beyond comprehension, the immensity of loss implicit in our planetary crimes––Bowden, singing in chains, says yes to all of life." -- Booklist



"Bowden is a blood-and-guts journalist with a poet’s sensibility, a noirish naturalist, a ferociously inquisitive witness to life’s glory and horror torn between the desire to embrace the world and the need to hole up in a drapes-drawn motel room...Writing with molten urgency, confessional magnetism, and piercing detail, Bowden chronicles his unlikely friendships with a rattlesnake and a desert tortoise, enigmatic encounters with women, the psychic repercussions of his murder investigations, and his part in a terrifying Greenpeace mission. Red wine, Moby Dick, human brutality, the suffering of other species, the obdurateness of paradox, the ambush of love, beauty beyond comprehension, the immensity of loss implicit in our planetary crimes––Bowden, singing in chains, says yes to all of life."
(Donna Seaman Booklist 2009-03-15)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition (April 9, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0151013950
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151013951
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #680,656 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Lance M. Foster VINE VOICE on May 15, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Certainly this is a sort of desperate elegy by Bowden, a vastly talented writer.

"We can't wrap our minds around the vast dying now taking place, the exit of plants and animals without even a goodbye note as they leave us behind...it is the silence of life fleeing this place of life. ...People, we can't talk about people, people everywhere, crowding the beaches, jamming their lives into the canyons, smearing the plains with their houses and ribbons and bows, terracing hillsides with shacks that barely get them through the lonely nights. We cannot say this thing about people, that there are too many of us and not enough of everything else." (p. 7)

"We are many in number and the ground under our feet neither grows nor shrinks. We are in a land of dread and we know this and ignore this. We use words that are dead-- global economy, resources, the environment, progress, freedom, capitalism, socialism, revolution. What we truly have are more mouths and dwindling food, more hungers and declining reserves of everything. And none of this can forestall the future. Something is ending, something is beginning, and this present cannot continue.
This is at least a beginning.
I've read that Beethoven ground precisely sixty beans of coffee each morning for one cup.
That is what I mean by yes.
I will walk in the valley of death and feel no fear.
Yes, I will.
Because of that one word.
Yes." (p. 194)

He goes forward and back in time, weaving like a bird forming its nest, like snake entrancing the bird, both at once snake and bird. In his writing, despair and hope wrestle like the Oak King and the Holly King.

"I have never wanted to be someone else, I have always wanted to be something else. My life has been spent in the cage of my DNA.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By J. W. Kennedy VINE VOICE on April 10, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I would call Charles Bowden a Gonzo journalist based on what I read in this book. He's more of a prose-poet than Hunter Thompson but I was often reminded of HST while reading "Some of the Dead are Still Breathing." There's the faintest hint of epic drug use, a smattering of very well-written sex, and of course the Gonzo ethic of total immersion in the story. The journalist's primary subject is himself.

What is the book about? That's hard to say, since it flows in an almost stream-of-consciousness manner through cascades of visual images. Everything is present tense, everything is happening now with the immediacy of memory and experience. The overall theme, as explained by the author in his afterword, is the question of how one can live a moral life in a culture of death. The phrase "culture of death" is not a metaphor. Western culture literally thrives on the death of other species, of other cultures, of the earth itself. We are wreaking our own destruction, and hey, maybe that's what is supposed to happen. The chapters spin pictures of Charles Bowden's own thoughts and experiences, and each chapter's imagery swarms around particular themes like bees around a hive:

1: a memory of childhood in a farmhouse. a timeless place. between World Wars.
2: wandering a dead city. Bali, New Orleans, Rio de Janiero all blend together. birds and their habits
3: snakes. the desire to be something other than human, and the human inability to do so.
4: a room in a seedy motel. crime. murder. repetition. sex. elephants, particularly elephants that snap and go on rampages. obsession. futility. madness.
5: sailing in the Pacific with Greenpeace, attacking a Japanese drag-net fishing fleet. Herman Melville's life. Moby Dick.
6: a continuation of 5.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By G. Dawson on March 22, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Some of the Dead are Still Breathing is a collection of journalistic musings about the troubled state of the world and humanity's (mainly negative) impact on it. Bowden is a study in contraries. He lives in the world of drugs, whores, crime, and seedy motel rooms, but at the same time, he carefully observes the habits of a pair of cardinals living in his yard and worries about elephants in captivity. Bowden is an ecologically sensitive Hunter S. Thompson with a poetic bent:

I am part of a species where many find it forbidden to cross religious lines. Or race lines. I want to cross blood lines. I was to risk my life for another organism, I want to shed my culture and join another culture, to meld with the beasts, to destroy the notion of parks and zoos and reserves and flow in a river of blood off some Niagara and be pounded into another life in the red pool below, the pool that churns and roars with spray and licks one's being with an overwhelming undertow.

Readers who like structured essays or stories will be frustrated by Bowden's free-flowing, and sometimes self-indulgent, style. Those who embrace free association and haphazard thought experiments are likely to find Bowden to be a charming, if eclectic, tour guide to today's complex world.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
There's a lot here that's provocative and interesting; a lot more that I don't know what to make of. It's a patchwork of half-remembered half-invented episodes and engaging reflections on what it all amounts to. I'll remember and be affected by elements of this book long after the more polished but drab and uninteresting prose of so much out there has faded into oblivion.

Bowden's montage of memories, visions, stupor, encounters, thoughts, works around the theme of our paradoxical fascination with both meaning and violence, fidelity and lust, truth and self-deception. Then there's the elephant. Its refusal to die, and capacity for murder. Moby Dick's whale. Beulah the serpent, who would curl up beneath his chair on the porch as he sat and drank whisky. The jealous turtle and the hummingbirds. An ambivalence about dogs. Something there in all of this, but I'm not sure what.

At its most lucid there are rich reflections here, as in "Serpent" on the question where the line lies between "us" and the animals. More often, perhaps, Bowden seems to have lost an internal censor. How many times must he remind us of how many times and how many women and in how many ways and of how little it all amounted to? Matter of fact as if nothing more than a good cup of coffee, he has this one or that one unzip his trousers or lift up her skirt. It's not prudishness in me that asks for greater consideration of content. Why so explicit about what transpires and evasive as to significance?

We live in a culture of death, of callous violence and disregard for others and for the other than human. What is to be done? Bowden tried his hand at protest and found it ineffective; he has opted for the role of wandering witness. But of what and to what end? Without judge, without jury. Just to say: I have seen this, I have been there, I have done that, here gives me pause. There may be something to that. My own jury is still out.
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