Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Body Snatchers

I've been ordering this book into our warehouses for a week or so now, and I happened to stumble across a free copy this morning. Now, when I order things, I just see the titles, not the covers, so I read "Napoleon's Privates" and thought it was in reference to military rank. Nope, as it turns out it's about his actual privates. His "baguette" as the liner note description puts it. Basically, we have a book about weird stuff from history that you may not know about. Most of this stuff is too strange to be true. For example, the title comes from the fact that the author heard that Napoleon's "little Napoleon" was removed by his disgruntled doctor after his death, so he went to New Jersey where a collector was keeping Napoleon's little friend in a suitcase under his bed because he'd bought it at auction some years prior to this encounter. HOLY COW. So there's a whole section of the book called "Where are they Now? Celebrity Body Parts" that talks about body parts that were taken from people and handed off to other people throughout history. A couple of examples:

Oliver Cromwell's head was passed along between collectors until 1960.

Galileo's finger was removed by an admirer in 1737 and then put on display in Florence.

Jesus's foreskin was supposedly given to John the Baptist, and was stolen from Rome in 1557 and put on display in Calcata, until it was stolen. Again.

Einstein's brain was removed and studied and now resides in the University Medical Center at Princeton.

King Charles I's vertebra was not returned to his coffin when he was exhumed in 1813, and was kept by Sir Henry Halford, who kept the item on his dinner table and used it as a salt holder. His heirs returned it to Edward VII who reunited it with the corpse.

Ok....so these are just a few, but HOLY CRAP! Who just says "Hey, let's take a body part from this person, no one will notice right?" This may be the weirdest and funniest book I've come across in a very long time. I want to do dramatic readings of this thing at social gatherings because the history in it is just so shocking. Most of the chapters deal with strange sexual facts, but then you have things like "What was J. Edgar Hoover's favorite party dress?" or "Are champagne glasses really modeled on Marie Antoinette's breasts?" which are just too funny.

So, this may be my favorite free book discovery so far this week. I might have to put down my novel to read through this thing, because everyone needs a good laugh every now and again right?


Anonymous said...

I don't think I'd want a shoe box with a famous person's bits under my bed. GROSS! And what if the dog or cat got it and though it was a fun chew toy! I"m just saying, if you're going to collect the bits of dead people, perhaps a shoe box isn't the best storage device.

Amy W. said...

You might be interested in some books I read recently called "Sex With Kings" and "Sex with the Queen" by Eleanor Herman. They are fascinating and very entertaining accounts of the role of mistresses and male lovers of various monarchs over time. They are really extremely interesting!