Some of the Dead Are Still Breathing: Living in the Future

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In more than a dozen groundbreaking books and many articles, Charles Bowden has blazed a trail of fire from the deserts of the Southwest to the centers of power where abstract ideas of human nature hold sway — and to the roiling places that give such ideas the lie. He has claimed as his turf "our soul history, the germinal material, vast and brooding, that is always left out of more orthodox (all of them) books about America" (Jim Harrison, on Blood Orchid).

In this seminal ...

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Some of the Dead Are Still Breathing: Living in the Future

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Overview

In more than a dozen groundbreaking books and many articles, Charles Bowden has blazed a trail of fire from the deserts of the Southwest to the centers of power where abstract ideas of human nature hold sway — and to the roiling places that give such ideas the lie. He has claimed as his turf "our soul history, the germinal material, vast and brooding, that is always left out of more orthodox (all of them) books about America" (Jim Harrison, on Blood Orchid).

In this seminal book, Bowden turns his fearless gaze toward the future, the future we can feel hurtling toward us as fuel reserves dwindle, species die out, terrorism flourishes, the Earth warms, and our ability to be fully awake — alert and impassioned in our lives — wanes. Weaving together natural history, memoir, reportage, and sheer virtuosic writing, he takes us on a furious tour of our emerging reality, his observations from the borderlands — of nations, laws, species, and desire — all the more searing for his refusal to be our scourge.

Bowden has always had the gift of prophecy, but Some of the Dead Are Still Breathing is proof that the times have caught up with his vision. We need that vision now more than ever.

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Editorial Reviews

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 - Donna Seaman
"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."
From the Publisher
"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
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
Kirkus Reviews
A dark, foreboding meditation on life from the provocative author. In a postscript, Bowden (A Shadow in the City: Confessions of an Undercover Drug Warrior, 2005, etc.) writes that this unclassifiable blend of memoir, reportage and philosophy, together with his Blood Orchid (1995) and Blues for Cannibals (2002), form an "accidental trilogy" seeking to answer the question, "how can a person live a moral life in a culture of death?" Written in a piercing blur of sharp sentences, the book conjures a landscape of death and loss-from the dead city of New Orleans, where "night comes down like the lid on a garbage can," to terrorist-bombed Bali-in which people attempt to explain the reality that is all around them. Bowden notes, however, that our ability to express ourselves through writing is often inaccurate, even artificial. "But words are all I have," he writes, "my skills are limited and the words at best are a veil, maybe even a shroud, between us and this world we touch but cannot embrace, a ball of dirt we stand on but never can really know." The author embraces all manner of experience, including drink, lovemaking, violence and nature. He declares himself a man at the edge, forever engaged in foolhardy and dangerous activities, always accepting but never submitting. "I have been walking out the door on peace and quiet most of my life," he writes. We see him trying to make sense of his childhood in Illinois, womanizing in Mexico, at sea on a 600-ton fishing vessel and firing his rifle carelessly at a coal train while driving across a desert in his pickup truck. Undoubtedly an acquired taste, Bowden's breakneck writing is bracing and irreverent. Yet a zenlike calm lies at the heart of hisbleak vision, one that he calls "snake-time," where he can simply be like the rattlesnake. In the end, he writes, love is the only thing that matters. Affirms Bowden's place in the cranky Edward Abbey-Hunter S. Thompson school of Western individualists.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780151013951
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 4/9/2009
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

CHARLES BOWDEN is a writer whose work appears regularly in Harper's, GQ, and other national publications. He is the author of several previous books of nonfiction, including Down by the River. He lives in Tucson, Arizona.

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