Good Reading : October 2010
Sex at Dawn: The prehistoric origins of modern sexuality Christopher Ryan & Cacilda Jethá The authors of this remarkable book paint a picture of prehistoric man as a hunter-gatherer, and also as irredeemably polygamous. But not the sort of polygamy that hor r ifies churchgoers -- this was the polygamy of small tribes who were supplied by nature with almost everything they wanted. So personal possessions were unknown; everything belonged to the tribe, and that included sexuality. What ended this sexual utopia was agriculture.When humans began to live in settled communities they built houses, and owned crops, implements and animals. This led to the need to protect their possessions from others. And that included the child-producing woman of the household. Hence religious ceremonies were created to sanctify the reproductive capacity of women. Ryan and Jethá delve into considerable detail, comparing ancient humans with their primate forerunners, especially bolstering their case by comparing the genitalia of apes with those of modern humans. But there's a feeling in reading this book that the authors' case is based more on an interesting supposition than empirical evidence. This isn't to say that their book isn't a challenge to orthodox Judeo-Christian religion, but I would have been much more comfortable with more evidence to support such a dramatic hypothesis. ★★★ Scribe $35.00 Reviewed by Alan Gold The Finger: A handbook Angus Trumble The human body is a marvel of engineering, culminating in, arguably, nature's greatest achievement -- the hand.The architecture of the forear m, wrist and fingers is extraordinarily complicated, enabling a remarkable range of movement and delicacy of touch.The opposable thumb is still held by many to be the crucial differentiator between man and beast, even though we now know that a number of other primates use their thumbs to wield tools. This book takes the reader on a well-researched journey through the history of the finger, exploring the fascinating mechanics of flexion, the finger's representation in eastern and western religious art and iconography, its use as a medium of silent communication, and how it has enabled man to play games and wage war. The book also looks at the role of that special finger -- the thumb. This is an accomplished academic text that lightly explores the funny things on the end of your ar m. I would prefer to have seen more about the representation of the hand in art and about the secret sign languages of medieval silent monastic orders -- and less about the nail polish industry and the history of flipping people the finger, but that might just be me. ★★★ MUP $44.99 Reviewed by Daniel O’Brien general non-fiction word of mouth OCTOBER 2010 IN ALL GOOD BOOK STORES panmacmillan.com.au KATHRYN FOX is one of Australia's leading writers of crime, and in her remarkable new thriller, she explores morality, social justice and the rights of victims through one of the most topical issues of the moment -- the murky mix of sex, stardom and sport, and the code of silence that exists within.