Spread across the table, mixed in with the takeout cartons, are dozens of academic journals, along with notepads full of scrawled handwriting and hastily drawn figures. At the far end of the table he sees that his wife is smiling up at him with that childlike enthusiasm that so charmed him, years ago. Maybe read for a bit." "Oh, that's probably a good idea." She steps to him and hugs him warmly, "maybe a hot bath first?" He almost shudders. Just a bit preemptive." She smiles up at him. But reading in bed is a bad habit, you know." Giggling, she flicks off the dining room lights and takes his hand. "I know exactly how to make sure you get a good night's sleep. I learned a trick from a tropical spider mite that I've been studying all afternoon." Too late, he spots the folded graph paper in her other hand and whimpers.
Quite apart from the convoluted mental processes needed to accommodate such inconvenient evidence as the entire fossil record, (remember, these people would have us believe that humans and dinosaurs coexisted, Flintstone-like, in some kind of post-Genesis theme park), why would anyone choose such a parched, unimaginative view of the natural world when the reality is so much more glorious? Dr. Judson has chosen a particularly delightful conceit to enlighten and entertain her readers the book is structured as a series of letters and answers, spanning the entire natural world, to the eponymous agony aunt of the title, Dr. Tatiana.
This is the kind of book that I really want to like. It's written like an advice column in Cosmo or something. Also it's a lot of the same kind of stuff over and over, and while there was some truly fascinating things in here, I feel like I'm going to forget most of this information within a week. Because it's written like a Cosmo column, the persistent "I'm super cool and sassy" delivery distracted me and got old pretty quickly.
If I tell you that this is a book about science, zoology, and aspects of evolution - some of you may immediately tune out and rush to click on to another page. Well then, it's a book about the sex lives of various creatures - oh let me just make it easier and give you some quotes, so you can see what sorts of questions Dr. Tatiana receives, and some of her answers. Another example, this is part of an answer to a male stickleback whose eggs were stolen. Dr Tatiana brings up the male bowerbird, which also the gender that does the nest building, and has to deal with rivals messing with their nests.: page 73, from Chapter 4: Swords or Pistols, in Part 1, Let Slip the Whores of War! "...Because they are quite big, bowerbirds are easily able to monopolize fruit trees, scattering smaller birds out of their way. Male bowerbirds spent weeks building and decorating elaborate "bowers." Depending on the species, the bower could be anything from a clearing strewn artfully with leaves to huts more than four meters (thirteen feet) wide or towers more than three meters (ten feet) high, woven out of sticks, painted with juice from crushed fruits, and decorated with flowers, mushrooms, feathers, snakeskins, snail shells, butterfly wings, beetle heads - or anything else that catches the artist's eye. And one way to make your bower look even better than a rival's is to resort to theft and vandalism. And some bowers are regularly vandalized or completely destroyed." This example in particular so interested me that if someone had asked me (just after I'd read the page) to join an expedition to observe and take notes on bowerbirds over the next decade I would have probably signed on. (I'm trying not to look and find more to read about the bowerbird - I already have a huge To Read stack.) This is also a great book to pick up, read a chapter or two, and put down.
Most of the book is focused on animal sexual behavior, but plants and even bacteria are both also touched on. And while most of the book is focused on non-human sexual behavior, humans are not left out, with many of the chapters applying some of the factors to human sex and reproduction.
The book also has an index, author's notes, and an extensive bibliography, making it a good resource to find specific information, or to find further reading on the subject. I do love the way she repeatedly uses "sexy" to describe the myriad characteristics that animals find attractive; it's a good reminder that everyone has different things that turn them on, and overall her message seems to be one of acceptance for those of different genders, sexual practices, or lack of sexual practices, but the problematic language undermines that attitude.
Read Dr. Tatiana's Sex Advice for All Creation.
Written in the style of a sex-advice column to animals, the book details the variety of sexual practices in the natural world and provides the reader with an overview of the evolutionary biology of sex.