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You Feel So Mortal: Essays on the Body Hardcover – March 19, 2014

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Editorial Reviews


“Peggy Shinner writes with self-critical candor and an often rueful wit to combine the intimate with the historical, the deeply private with the Google-able in an engaging, endearing, and wholly unexpected way. This is not a memoir, but we get to know her very well; we emerge feeling we’ve watched a woman grow up and learn some important things about the reach and the limits of her needs and her daring. And, as in the best writing, we thereby discover a great deal that pertains to us.”
(Rosellen Brown, author of Half a Heart)

“Shinner is a witty and insightful storyteller and brilliant thinker, attentive to the ways the body shapes up in your mind and the world. You Feel So Mortal makes you feel so alive.”
(Aleksandar Hemon, author of The Lazarus Project)

“Like the transparent pages of fine anatomy books that peel apart the strata of the body, the nested essays in Shinner’s You Feel So Mortal get under our skins. She excavates, in spades, the indicative and intricate nature of our layered and larded corporeal selves. Lyrically adept, she effortlessly reanimates Schwartz’s heavy bear, making the big beast of the body dance the horah, turning the ‘withness’ of our heft into a helium meringue, a gauzy heartache, a lost lost.”
(Michael Martone, author of Four for a Quarter)

You Feel So Mortal is a book I found nearly impossible to put down, and when I was forced to do so, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Shinner’s warm and funny voice, along with her immense, inquiring, humane intelligence, makes the essays in this book—which concern identity, mortality, romantic and filial love, gender—a surpassing intellectual gem that entertains and engages readers with every single word. I adored this book.”
(Christine Sneed, author of Little Known Facts)

“In her examinations of the body, Shinner frequently makes the mundane poetic, and in her exploration of grief, she finds beauty.”
(New City)

“The kind of chick lit we can get behind.”

“Throughout the book Peggy Shinner tells you all sorts of things about herself, some factual, some embarrassing, but in just a few words, she shows you the most important thing of all: what a tremendous writer she is.”
(Chicago Reader)

“A daring collection of 12 thoughtfully crafted and executed essays pertaining to body image and introspective interpretations of one's multifaceted beauty in relation to its original form. The compilation of personal triumphs and hardships in You Feel So Mortal is dynamically inclined—from reveling in one’s own inner beauty, to bra sizes, shapes, colors, hair configurations, and more. The witty and provocative anthology is poised to turn this passionate project into one unforgettable journey spanning oceans, continents, and heritages.”
(Windy City Media)

“In You Feel So Mortal: Essays on the Body, Shinner’s smart, witty, bittersweet book of writings about her own body and those of others, the author examines the journey of life inside that most imperfect of vessels. Beginning with acute, often rueful observations and stories about her own body (feet, nose, hair, back, breasts, etc.), Shinner then casts an ever-wider intellectual net that dredges up a host of cultural associations with the body throughout history, from antiquity to the present. In the process, she lays bare the ways in which truth and distortion about our physical selves have intertwined to shape our collective thinking about large groups of people, in particular women and Jews, for good or ill.”
(Chicago Tribune)

“These essays, even when the topics are ugly, shimmer with Shinner’s intelligence, honesty, and humor. She’s an observer of her body and the world it moves through, but more than that, she’s an affectionate fan: ‘I feel loyal to my body. It is, for better and for worse, for all its betrayals and my abuses, mine.’”
(Boston Globe)

“Her interests are wide-ranging, fueled by a deep curiosity and a talent for research. The connections she draws between them are frequently surprising and delightful, and sometimes devastating. The intertextuality at times seems randomized, but Shinner’s gracefulness and dexterity with language ties the narrative together in a bundle that reads as wholly intentional, experiential, and warming. And, despite discussing at great length the familiar tropes of the body and self-criticism, her work reconstructs the history of the body as it applies to modernity in a way that retells and reclaims not only the narrative of her own body, but how we might approach ours and the bodies of others, as well.”
(Lambda Literary)

“You Feel So Mortal is deeply personal, detailed, and thoughtful. Shinner does not apparently set out to take on large, sweeping themes, yet by showing clearly and tenderly how one person navigates this existence her book provides a window into being human—not in an abstract, conceptual way, but concretely and personally, being a specific human being. It is a delight not to be missed.”
(Washington Independent Review of Books)

"Shinner’s twelve remarkable essays are anything but the usual fare, instead taking as her subject the complicated relationship between our bodies and our souls."
(Colorado Review)

“A piercingly intimate and personal self-portrait, one that aches with questions, confidences, admissions, and resentments.”

“From discovering her mother’s correspondence with the notorious but aging and imprisoned murderer, Nathan Leopold—of the infamous Leopold and Loeb—to scouting out a site for the eventual interment of her own body, to authorizing—and then facing the unsettling particulars of—her father’s autopsy, she engages us with story-telling that is starkly funny and tender but never sentimental. And because she is a deft essayist—capable of pushing that engine to full throttle—she presses intuitively and ambitiously beyond her own experience to explore the larger, often darker implications emanating from it.”
(River Teeth)

“I derived as much sheer pleasure from these exquisitely crafted and often mordantly funny essays as from anything else I read this year. This is a book you curl up with in a comfortable chair with a mug of steaming tea, as the world reshapes itself around you.”
(Kevin Nance Printer's Row)

About the Author

A lifelong Chicagoan, Peggy Shinner teaches in the MFA in creative writing program at Northwestern University.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; First Edition edition (March 19, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 022610527X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226105277
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #397,737 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Amelia Gremelspacher TOP 500 REVIEWER on March 24, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Seldom does a collection of essays weave as successful a thread of meaning and affect. Shiner has the sweetly sad feel for her body, "hauling sadnesses" that we all share at sixty. Her stories are gazing back at the decades of struggling with breasts and noses and hairs that are imperfect to our dreams. It is not a new thing to laugh at ourselves startled in a store window, but it is lovingly told in a way that any woman can understand and embrace. This author has a witty, wry, but kind eye for the body we see in the mirror. It does make you feel so mortal.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Nethery on March 28, 2014
Format: Hardcover
First of all, I normally disdain books about "the body," but this is something different. Among other things, it's hilarious. And...Jewish feet? Who knew? Plus, you'll want to see what such disparate subjects as Leopold Loeb, Benjamin Spock, and bra fitters all have in common. Terrific book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Reader on April 30, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I found this essay collection to be one of the most enjoyable books I have read in a long time. The thread that runs through all the essays is the body, and there is hardly a body part that the author doesn't explore. Feet, noses, hair, brains, spines - they're all fair game. She considers many of them through the lens of her Jewishness, and her ambivalent feelings toward this, and the results are invariably poignant and comical. Also fascinating, as in making her points, the author draws on an extraordinary knowledge of history, religion and philosophy. I learned and laughed as I read these essays, which I found hard to put down. I nearly cried, as well, when the author discusses her teenage decision to have a nose job, having bought into the larger society's view that Jewish noses (if there really are such things) are ugly, while snub gentile noses are attractive. Without a weak essay in the entire collection, this is a book to be treasured.
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