Now I'm a sucker for books about evolutionary biology especially when difficult subject matter is enjoyably readable for a lay audience, so I was pretty interested. Then I realised that the name of the author seemed familiar ... and then it clicked, Viren Swami's short story The Monkey of the Inkpot was included in Silverfish New Writing 6. How great to have a very interesting popular science book written by a Malaysian author and published in the UK (by independent publisher Book Guild)! I hesitated about buying it because it was RM120 which seems a bit ouchy (although this is in fact a close ringgit equivalent to the £16.99 UK price). I hope that a paperback version is in the pipeline. (Can see I'm rapidly talking myself into going back for a copy ...)
I lifted this blurb from the Silverfish website:
We are constantly told that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. But what if, just as our lives are governed by universal physical laws, the notion of beauty could be reduced to a system of immutable facts? Could there be one universal concept of beauty by which we are all measured? In Viren Swami's intriguing investigation into the science of attractiveness, the author sets out to deconstruct the myths and uncover some of the truths about beauty. Taking the Venus de Milo as his constant companion, Swami embarks on a fascinating journey through historical, cultural, economic and social contexts of this age old debate. On his way he encounters an impressive gallery of advocates and adversaries: from Plato to Michelangelo, from Rubens to Manet, from Darwin to Stephan Jay Gould; Shakespeare to Naomi Wolf. The definitive guide to psychologists, art historians and philosophers of science, this highly accessible and wide ranging exploration is also an indispensable introduction for any of us who has ever wondered what constitutes the body beautiful.Viren Swami is currently living in London. He is a Research Associate at the University of Liverpool, UK. He received his doctorate from University College London, where he specialized in evolutionary psychology. His current research interests include interpersonal attraction, especially across cultures, and gender studies. He has also written (with Adrian Furnham) The Psychology of Physical Attraction, as well as numerous psychological studies.
He has also translated George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia into Bahasa Malaysia and is currently translating Kafka's Metamorphosis. How nice to see a scientist bridging the literary divide.