The Way of All Flesh: The Romance of Ruins

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A wonderfully witty, erudite, and insightful book about the way "things fall apart" -- about the inevitable ruin of everything from bodies and works of art to ideals and whole societies

In The Way of All Flesh Midas Dekkers argues that things are at their most beautiful when they decay, provided they are given the chance. Old buildings are usually pulled down or restored. Aging people desperately try to act and look young, becuase novelty, ...
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Overview

A wonderfully witty, erudite, and insightful book about the way "things fall apart" -- about the inevitable ruin of everything from bodies and works of art to ideals and whole societies

In The Way of All Flesh Midas Dekkers argues that things are at their most beautiful when they decay, provided they are given the chance. Old buildings are usually pulled down or restored. Aging people desperately try to act and look young, becuase novelty, youth and beauty are equated in our minds with what is desirable. Only mankind is bothered by the realization that "life is a way of dying slowly." By ignoring or evading the lure of decay, which has its own attractions, are we simply trying to escape from the truth?

With the idiosycratic erudition of the european intellectual -- Roberto Calasso and Umberto Eco come to mind -- Dekkers stresses that our aversion to decay and mortality makes our lives shallow. This is the meditative essay as written by Fellini; Dekkers that ancient Rome's days of decline were its finest, and The Way of All Flesh is a profound and entertaining meditation on what it means to outlive one's usefulness, when the wheel of fortune has gone full circle.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Dutch biologist-writer Dekkers offers an extended, quirkily charming meditation on Yeats's insight that things fall apartDfor everything, Dekkers says, is bound to do just that. Though we postmoderns, he contends, are obsessed with propping things up, from faces to buildings, we should recognize not only the inevitability but also the beauty of decayDone can find it in all manner of decayed things, from a South American train graveyard, where rusting axles and wheels lie piled on top of one another, to willow trees. Dekkers turns his sharp (at times savage) tongue on many Western attempts to stave off decay. He doesn't approve of conservation: he would rather we take care of and "cherish" things, but when their "final days arrive," let them deteriorate. In a chapter called "Souvenirs," Dekkers turns his fire on mementos: if your dog passes on, don't take him to the taxidermist, but simply remember him fondlyDand get a new dog. Dekkers even criticizes the impulse to "build to last." Many things, he argues, from ugly buildings to evil dictatorships, should come to an end. What we often portray as decay is really fulfillment: we should revel in autumn, treat old people with respect. (On a somewhat less convincing, more scatological note, Dekkers suggests we should even delight in defecation, which he terms a pleasurable "creative process.") Despite his apparently grim subject and occasionally abstruse style, Dekkers writes delightfully (he calls dandruff, a sign of physical decay, "skin confetti from your hair") and emphasis on his book's quirky, combative nature could help this catch on in a big way with savvy readers. 140 b&w illus. (Oct.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Booknews
Dekkers, a biologist and writer in the Netherlands, wrote in 1997; this is its first publication in English. The subject is decay, and Dekkers writes fatalistically about the human desire to save things from age and destruction, an impulse he sees as hopelessly naive in the face of evolution, human activity, and the basic force of change. Discussing diverse topics that include cremation and burial, extinction, the long history of touring ruins, and evolution, he argues that we would do well to relinquish our love of youth and our sentimental attachment to things and find the beauty that exists in mortality. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Economist
...behind all this, there are serious and thoughtful arguments. One is the need for better treatment of old people. Another is for a wiser attitude to the process of decay and the fact of death.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374286828
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 10/25/2000
  • Edition description: 1 AMER ED
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.36 (w) x 9.33 (h) x 1.08 (d)

Meet the Author

Midas Dekkers was born in 1946 in Haarlem, the Netherland's and is his country's most popular writer-biologist. He is also the author of Dear Pet: On Beastiality
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 21, 2005

    another garbage publishers weekly review... here's the real deal:

    publishers weekly seems to have it in for certain authors. though this is the only book of dekkers i have read to this point, i have found that good ol' pw seems to rip him right and left in other reviews. this mediocre description, just like all the others, are treated as though the book was an original english work. the man is flippin' DUTCH!!! any book by dekkers written in english is a TRANSLATION people... and this is a damned fine one at that. pw reviewers are trying to take themselves way too seriously. this book is insightful, refreshing, and as they say, requires a savvy reader (something they dont seem to have the luxury of). the serious undertones are contrasted wonderfully with light-hearted situational comparisons, and the idea of 'preserving death through the destruction of new life,' particularly in historical site preservation, is a well developed and unconventional position. this book will make you think. hard. one of those that you read some pages at least twice. i loved it.

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