Diane Ackerman’s lusciously written grand tour of the realm of the senses includes conversations with an iceberg in Antarctica and a professional nose in New York, along with dissertations on kisses and tattoos, sadistic cuisine and the music played by the planet Earth. “Delightful . . . gives the reader the richest possible feeling of the worlds the senses take in.”–The New York Times. (Literature–Classics & Contemporary)
“One of the real tests of writers,” notes Ackerman in this liveliest of nature books, “is how well they write about smells. If they can’t describe the scent of sanctity in a church, can you trust them to describe the suburbs of the heart?” Ackerman passes the test, writing with ease and fluency about the five senses. Did you know that bat guano smells like stale Wheat Thins? That Bach’s music can quell anger around the world? That the leaves that shimmer so beautifully in fall have “no adaptive purpose”? Ackerman does, and she guides us through questions of sensation with an eye for the amusingly arcane reference and just the right phrase.
Physiology and philosophy mesh in this poetic investigation of the five senses; essays explore synesthesia, food taboos, kissing and the power and diversity of music. “Rooted in science, enlivened by her own convincing sense of wonder, Ackerman’s essays awaken us to a fresh awareness,” said PW.