Two things: First, you should know that I am now professionally constrained from making any detailed comments about the book I'm selling. There'll be plenty to hear about once we get a contract, but for now, expect radio silence.
Second, MARY ROACH HAS A NEW BOOK OUT! You can keep your David Sedarises and Augusten Burroughses and whatnot: Mary Roach is, for my money at least, the funniest writer living today. (Someone tell Christopher Hitchens
.) I suppose she's technically a science writer--and a very clear one at that--but she's also a character in her own explorations, commenting all the while on the funny names of the people she's meeting, the ironies that show up in their work, and adding copious footnotes with amusing details that aren't technically on topic, but show other weird things she came across in her research. We join her in every aspect of the journey, and she's a hilarious tour guide.
Her first book was Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
, where she brought morbid humor to the scientific study of death. Her second, Spook: Science Explores the Afterlife
, shows the bizarre and creative lengths scientist have gone to in order to attempt to quantify the spirit world. They were both wonderful, and I recommended them to all my friends. But with her latest book--Bonk:The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex
--she has found the best topic in her career so far. This is because the best arrow in her quiver is ironic understatement, and here, because she's writing (she says) a book about sex that her parents can read, the tension between what she's alluding to and what she's actually saying is all the more risible.
I realize I'm just telling you about
the book. I should quote her. But I wouldn't be able to stop. (One side comment still stays with me: in discussing a certain procedure, Mary interrupts to say, "--again with the inserting of Pyrex tubes--" and it's like a perfect grace note on the whole description.) I could quote her all day, but I've got places to be and things to do. Just go and find it and open damn near any page. Or find it on Amazon
and Search Inside. Here's how good it is: I read my friend Dan Kennedy's very funny memoir
of his year as a befuddled rebel in the rock and roll business (Rock On, from Algonquin
), and I actually laughed out loud four times. (I rarely laugh out loud, so when it happens I tend to keep track.) With Bonk
, I have laughed out loud sixteen times
, and I'm only halfway through. I haven't even finished the chapter where she talks about scientists in the twenties who thought it would be healthy for men to surgically implant a third testicle.
Trust me. Mary Roach is a gift to the art of the humorous essay. Plus, of course, you learn all kinds of stuff.