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Original Skin: Exploring the Marvels of the Human Hideby Maryrose Cuskelly
Synopses & Reviews
"An omnibus of meandering essays on human epidermis takes Australian journalist Cuskelly through reflections on touch, tattooing, fingerprinting, and organ donation, among other themes. Cuskelly delves into skin color and new theories about reproduction that better explain why dark-skinned populations tended to be near the equator and light-skinned ones in the north. (Moreover, women have lighter skin tones than men in all racial groups in order to absorb more vitamin D when pregnant and breastfeeding.) Moles, aging, and blushing garner their own treatment, as well as a host of ghastly skin diseases from leprosy to melanoma. Most unnerving is Cuskelly's look at different cultural practices of flaying, such as depicted in Herodotus and Ovid and, later, its grisly apotheosis in the Nazi lampshades made of human skin. There's a good deal of humor ('Facial tattoos, for example, will most likely ensure that you have a seat to yourself on public transport') though such nuggets as 'peering into the abyss' of severe burn injuries reveals startling information that elevates this lightweight title above an engaging magazine article. (July)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Book News Annotation:
Cuskelly, a freelance writer and editor, offers a sometimes sensual, sometimes scientific, consideration of every conceivable angle from which to approach the subject of the human skin. She explores issues such as race, age, gender, culture, art, medicine, commerce, superstition, metaphor, the nature of humanity, literature, and law by way of our relationship to our largest organ. She examines the nature of blushing, tickling, wrinkles, skin color, tattoos, babies' bottoms, moles and freckles as well as circumcision, fingerprints, and the hospital burn unit, all with a sincere sense of reverence, curiosity and appreciation. Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Like the air we breathe, we take our skin for granted . . . Yet it is remarkable; it mitigates and ameliorates the sometimes harsh world we dwell in, and is at the interface of so much of what we encounter. It is our border, the edge of ourselves, the point where we meet our universe.”
Original Skin is at times a scientific study, remarking on the biological magic behind the human bodys largest organ. At others it becomes an anthropological survey, dissecting separate societies attitudes towards bare bodies, and the motives behind cultural rituals such as tattoos. However, Original Skin is, above all, a celebration of the human body; its tone one of absolute awe for the simultaneously protective and fragile membrane that divides us all from the world that surrounds us. Maryrose Cuskellys book—in its examinations of everything from tickling to Botox to books bound in human derma—is a delightful meditation on skin.
About the Author
Maryrose Cuskelly is a freelance writer and editor. She has had essays and articles published in a range of magazines, journals, and newspapers, including Family Circle and The Melbourne Times. She lives in Melbourne with her husband and their two sons.
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