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Manny Rayner's book reviews

I love reviewing books - have been doing it at Goodreads, but considering moving here.

Currently reading

The Greatest Show On Earth: The Evidence For Evolution
Richard Dawkins
R in Action
Robert Kabacoff
Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies
Douglas R. Hofstadter
McGee on Food and Cooking: An Encyclopedia of Kitchen Science, History and Culture
Harold McGee
Epistemic Dimensions of Personhood
Simon Evnine
Pattern Recognition and Machine Learning (Information Science and Statistics)
Christopher M. Bishop
Relativity, Thermodynamics and Cosmology
Richard C. Tolman
The Cambridge Handbook of Second Language Acquisition
Julia Herschensohn, Martha Young-Scholten
Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex - Mary Roach (Joint review with JORDAN, who's actually finished the book)

- George?

- Mmm?

- Don't go to sleep.

- Mmm.

- You are going to sleep!

- Mm-mm.

- George, tell me something you did today.

- Um... I read a book.

- That's better! Move around a bit. Yes, that's right, put your hand there. Good. What book?

- Bonk. By Mary Roach.

- That silly book about sex?

- It's not silly! She's really got a lot of interesting things to say!

- Like?

- Ah... I liked the bit about women's orgasms.

- Guess you don't know much about that. OW!

- Sorry, you asked for it. Now do you want me to tell you what she said about women's orgasms?

- OK. I'm sorry I teased you. Put your hand back there. What did she say?

- Well, she spends a lot of time discussing whether women really do have vaginal orgasms. I didn't understand how many different opinions there were. It's complicated!

- Complicated?

- Alright, so most women have clitoral orgasms. Stroking or kissing their clit gets them off.

- Certainly works for me. Talking of which...

- No, wait, let me finish. The question is whether so-called vaginal orgasms are really just clitoral orgasms in disguise. The guy's penetrating her, and it gives her an orgasm, but what's really happening is that he's just indirectly stimulating her clit. So it's not really a vaginal orgasm at all.

- Well, I agree with her. I think that's what's happening. But how could you know for sure?

- Look, that's what's so interesting. There was this French princess. Marie Bonaparte. Her clit was a long way from her vagina, and she never got any vaginal orgasms.

- Did her guy have to go down on her then?

- Um... I think this was before oral sex was invented. She talked to a bunch of women, and measured how far their clits were from their vaginas, and asked them how sex was for them. She has some French word that means you're a woman whose clit is a long way from her vagina. And...

- There's a French word that means that??

- There is! Look it up. I told you there was good stuff in this book! Teleclit... something. Téléclitoridienne. Aren't you impressed that I remembered that?

- You're not pronouncing it right.

- Well, how am I supposed to say it?

- Téléclitoridienne.

- That's what I said. I think. Anyway, the princess found that most téléclitoridienne women didn't enjoy penetrative sex. She wrote a scientific paper about it.

- You're asking me to believe that a princess went around, like a hundred years ago, asking a bunch of women questions about their sex lives and measuring how far their clits were from their pussies, and then published the results in a medical journal?

- I agree, it does sound a bit weird. But that's the way Mary Roach tells the story. The princess was so convinced by her findings that she paid a surgeon to operate on her and move her clit further in, so she could have better sex.

- And did it work?

- Well, no. She never had an orgasm again. He screwed up. But he figured out what he did wrong, and next time it worked.

- What a sad story! George?

- Mmm?

- Do you think I'm téléclitoridienne?

- Ah... well...

- Could you look?

- OK. Turn that light on. Hm. I think you're mesoclitoridienne. Between one and three centimeters. I'm guessing one and a half.

- Oh, what a relief. But I think you should check more carefully.

- Like this?

- Well, I was thinking more like this.

- Can you really measure distances that way?

- George, don't be silly. Of course you can.

- Mmm.

- George?

- Mmm?

- I'm glad I'm not a French princess.

This review is in my book What Pooh Might Have Said to Dante and Other Futile Speculations