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Angier, a Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer for the New York Times,
admits that she anthropomorphizes "shamelessly," a perspective
that imbues her marvelous essays with a palpable delight in life's madcap
ingenuity. Not only does every creature, even a roundworm, have consciousness,
even personality, but under Angier's perspicacious scrutiny, so do molecules.
Although terrified of cockroaches as a child, Angier has become a champion
of roaches and their ilk--" the bloodsuckers, the low lowlifes,
and the brutes" --and writes glowingly about such intriguing creatures
as scorpions, pit vipers, and parasites. She has organized her widely
varied and snappily composed essays under such headings as "Loving"
(monogamy is not evolution's favored practice), "Dancing"
(DNA's graceful and efficient choreography), "Slithering"
(creepy crawlers), "Adapting" (the importance of play in the
development of muscle tissue and the brain), "Healing" (what
menstruation really achieves), "Creating" (the indisputable
link between art and madness), and "Dying." In every essay,
Angier offers us something new to ponder, whether she's proving that
dolphins aren't cute, describing androstenedione, the female equivalent
of testosterone, or explaining how joy actually promotes health.
--- Donna Seaman