It drove Ovid to anguish and Stendhal to exquisite suffering. It may be ignited by a sidelong glance or a good head of hair. To Plato, it was the yearning for a sundered second self. to some contemporary scientists, it may be a biochemical cocktail of oxytocin and phenylethylamine. The subject is love, and in her latest book, poet and naturalist Diane Ackerman brings to it all the high-wire erudition and rapturous prose that made A Natural History of the Senses a national bestseller.
Ackerman combs through history, literature, biology, and pop culture in search of “the great intangible.” She juxtaposes Cleopatra with Abelard and Heloise, Freud with Blade Runner. She explores the allure of adultery, the appeal of aphrodisiacs (including a Roman concoction made from rotting fish entrails), and the cult of the kiss. She reveals the secrets of insatiable lovers like Casanova and Don Juan while baring the trauma of an entire society that has lost its ability to love. Enchantingly written, stunningly informed, A Natural History of Love is the next best thing to love itself, a book that caresses, arouses, and transports.