Michael Stusser: The Dead Guy Interviews (Penguin)

Book Review


Personalities fascinate. That's why, despite the laws they pass, the films they produce, the inventions they create, it's the people behind the creation that we're most curious about. Rockets that soar into outer space are old hat, but put a murderous astronaut in a diaper and we're all ears. Michael Stusser's book, The Dead Guy Interviews: Conversations with 45 of the Most Accomplished, Notorious, and Deceased Personalities in History, has more weight than that, but not a lot. Deceased luminaries including Caligula, Joan of Arc and Oscar Wilde are dug up for interviews from beyond the grave. There are no channellers involved. The book is a collection of made up Q&As that make no bones about the their stiff subjects' conditions. It's offered as lighthearted fiction that assumes there is some non-specified way to commune with the dead. I can accept that, and I did learn quite a bit about the private lives of these past-tense celebs. The talks are educational and sometimes funny, though unfortunately almost all in the same smart-ass voice. It's clear that the author is interviewing a mirror and, like a sloppy post-mortem impressionist, little thought was given to trying to capture the actual voice of the deceased. I'm not sure I could have done better, but I don't think I could have done much worse, either. The book makes sense if you're a kid or an immature college student but not if you're someone who can appreciate much of the rich, first-person writings that feature the actual person's voice rather than a simplistic caricature. (Steve Carter-Novotni) Grade: C-