Monday, February 04, 2008

Book Review: Carnal Knowledge: A Naval Gazer's Etymology of Anatomy, Etymology, and Trivia by Charles Hodgson

Every Monday, I'll be doing spoiler-free book reviews.

Sadly, I don't read nonfiction books often but this was one of those publications that when I heard of it, I immediately knew I wanted to get it, especially after following Hodgson's work at Carnal Knowledge tracks down the various etymologies of various parts of the body (both familiar and unfamiliar) but that's not readily apparent from the book cover and Hodgson himself has anecdotes of the book being misplaced in various parts of the bookstore (and personally people catching me reading it thought I was reading erotica). It's really an interesting compilation of etymologies and unlike dictionaries, Hodgson features a short narrative in each entry, either relating it to modern day or showing us how the word has evolved over the years. The various entries are sorted by areas in the body (i.e. face, torso, etc.) and then alphabetically but it also has a comprehensive index at the back which basically serves as a table of contents if you're looking for a specific body part. I think that layout works because more often than not, especially if you're ignorant of anatomy like me, you might know where the particular body part is located but not what it's called. I think what would have enhanced the book were illustrations of each body part but that's not the case here. Instead, we rely on Hodgson's descriptions and for the most part, they are effective (but people will be surprised when you suddenly start staring at your palm and seeing something that's not there). As a wannabe writer, going through Carnal Knowledge immediately inspired several short stories because of the fantastical and not-so-known facts featured. Logophiles might also want to give this book a look but I can imagine Carnal Knowledge catching the casual reader's attention because of the topic it covers and the casual way (as opposed to clinical) Hodgson explains things.

Rating: 3.5/5.

Rating System:

1 - There are better ways to spend your time.
2 - Ho hum books, usually typical of its genre. Probably only recommendable to die-hard fans.
3 - A cut above the rest, usually with one or more elements that sets it apart from the norm.
4 - Highly recommended and is easily a pioneer of the genre.
5 - A classic or it will be.

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