June 2nd, 2013


Dr. Tatiana's Sex Advice for All Creation

I got this book because the author had had a column on evolution and biology in the New York Times for several years, which I greatly enjoyed. I didn't expect to much from this, besides lots of information that I could turn into awkward social anecdotes (penis jousting, for example). And that's what I got. There's a lot of material, lots of examples of some of the crazy strategies that various organisms have evolved into, but it didn't feel very deep. The author tries to fake being tongue-in-cheek with her language (hence the title) but doesn't sell it all the way: most of the language is not nearly as ridiculous as the title might suggest. Part of the problem seems to have been that the book seems to have been cobbled together out of shorter pieces that the author had written. While that made for nice discrete sections, I think it also prevented the author from building a more risque narrative. It's also possible that the idea just doesn't work conceptually: the last chapter is written as a description of events from a fictional afternoon tabloid, with an asexual organism verbally defending itself against a crowd devoted to more typical sexual reproduction. And it's frankly the worst chapter of the book.

That said, the book was a quick read, so far as I know the science is fundamentally sound (albeit as of 10 years ago), and so I can't say it was a bad book. It was certainly what I needed after failing to finish The Proud Tower