Sympathetic Stupid

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Adam's Navel: Michael Sims

Readings' Famous Bargain Table was the source of this nice little non-fiction volume. It's A Natural and Cultural History of THE HUMAN FORM.

It's a brief tour of the entire outside of the human body; no analysis of (for instance) the brain, the heart, or the origins of bilious and splenetic, which could all have been fertile ground. It discusses: hair, the face, the eyes, the ears, the nose, the mouth, the arms, the hands, the breasts, the navel, the vagina and penis, pubic hair, the bum, the legs and the feet.

An exhausting catalogue, and all in just 300 pages. As a result, none of the sections are particularly detailed, simply skimming the surface of millions of years of humans inhabiting bodies, but this is not bad. Sims makes up for this lack of depth with a great breadth of sources, quoting from not only academic and research papers, but from literature, from the classics to modern writers, and even from music, films and politics.

The obvious unifying theme is the body, but the barely concealed secondary theme is sex, as befits the 21st century milieu. Everything aesthetic can be related to sex appeal, sexual function or reproductive suitability, as the tenets of Darwinism proclaim. On a side-note, it's kinda surprising that sex is more important than ever in the modern world, given that we've apparently bypassed natural evolutionary process. (This is another point where I put forward my favourite theory: dysgenics, specifically that currently intelligence appears to have a negative correlation with reproductive attractiveness, which will make future generations dumber.)

And it's well-written, not without humour, as befits the subject. I mean, how can anyone discuss the frankly ludicrous penis or nose without giggling? Full of factoids sure to bore friends and colleagues.