Despite scientific evidence to the contrary, as far as the health care profession is concerned the standard operating design of the human body is male. So when a book comes along as beautifully written and endlessly informative as Natalie Angier's Woman: An Intimate Geography
, it's a cause for major celebration. Written with whimsy and eloquence, her investigation into female physiology draws its inspiration not only from scientific and medical sources but also from mythology, history, art, and literature, layering biological factoids with her own personal encounters and arcane anecdotes from the history of science. Who knew, for example, that the clitoris--with 8,000 nerve fibers--packs double the pleasure of the penis; that the gene controlling cellular sensitivity to male androgens, ironically enough, resides on the X-chromosome; or that stress hormones like cortisol and corticosterone are the true precursors of friendship?
The mysteries of evolution are not a new subject for Angier, a Pulitzer Prize-winning biology writer for the New York Times whose previous books include The Beauty of the Beastly and Natural Obsessions. The strengths of Woman begin with Angier's witty and evocative prose style, but its real contribution is the way it expands the definition of female "geography" beyond womb, breasts, and estrogen, down as far as the bimolecular substructure of DNA and up as high as the transcendent infrastructure of the human brain. --Patrizia DiLucchio
From Publishers Weekly
Did postmenopausal women invent the human race? Are males more similar to females than females are to males? These are among the many stimulating questions at the core of Angier's provocative "scientific fantasia of womanhood," a spirited and thoroughly informedAif admittedly biasedAstudy of how the body is "a map of meaning and freedom." Angier (The Beauty of the Beastly; Natural Obsessions) presents new theories on the evolution of women's anatomy, physiology and social behaviors. She points out, for example, that the X chromosome has a "vastly higher gene richness" than the Y, which by contrast is "a depauperized little stump," and she champions the argument of anthropologist Kristen Hawkes that the role of postmenopausal grandmothers, who could help younger females nurture their weaned but still dependent offspring, "invented youth.... And in inventing childhood, they invented the human race. They created Homo imperialis, a species that can go anywhere and exploit everything." With wit and verve, Angier discusses such topics as ovulation, conception and birth; the social and physiological functions of breasts; orgasm, mate selection and child-rearing behavior; the complex workings of estrogen; hysterectomy; muscle strength; and female aggression and bonding. Her wide-ranging celebration of the female body engages the intellect but, more importantly, also offers a rigorous challenge to male-oriented theories of biology. BOMC selection; author tour.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.