978-0-670-03224-2 / 9780670032242

Adam's Navel: A Natural and Cultural History of the Human Form


Publisher:Viking Adult



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About the book:

Are we more than the sum of our parts? Perhaps, but it's fascinating nonetheless to look at our noses, ears, feet, and other bits as isolated evolutionary stories. That's just what Michael Sims does in Adam's Navel, an amusing collection of bodily facts. Sims wrote the book while laid out recovering from back surgery, jotting free association musings about whatever body part he had in mind. The result is a set of chapters with such titles as "Skin Deep," "The Not-Quite-Naked Ape," and "Our Steed the Leg." Besides anatomy and evolution, Sims turns to literature, movies, comics, and pop culture to glean references. He doesn't have patience for puritanical or non-egalitarian attitudes toward body parts, defending Eve Ensler's Vagina Monologues against a "conspiracy of silence" and dismissing Camille Paglia's "nonsensical argument" that male urination is superior to that of females. But Sims doesn't let things get too serious:

The cleft where the buttocks begin to form into two hemispheres--the butt crack famously exhibited by fat plumbers who drop wrenches--was once called the nock. The word survives elsewhere, as the name of an arrow's notch to accommodate the bowstring.

As engaging as it is fact-filled, Adam's Navel brings together delightful anatomical trivia with abundant evidence that we pay as much attention to breasts, fingers, and patches of hair as we do to whole people. --Therese Littleton

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