Strategies of Sex includes verses by a physician-scientist member of the National Academy of Sciences that are a celebration of the diversity of arrangements (often bizarre) that ensure the propagation of species, from Anableps to surgeonfish. The result is somewhere between Cole Porter (“bees do it”) and Elizabeth Barrett Browning (“let me count the ways..”) with a touch of Ogden Nash. Strategies of Sex (and other verses to diversity, adversity and perversity) comprises 4 different sections:
Book 1, focuses on the title topic, Strategies of Sex. Pudgy moorhens, hairy-legged fruit flies, doubly endowed four-eyed fish – whatever turns you on – they are all here, immortalized with grace and style. The “mating of a flasher” describes not the open trench coat, but a firefly attracting mates (the flashier, the better). The price of too much male enthusiasm is described in “The Ballad of Howie” a four-eyed fish blessed (?) with two sex organs, and in “Never on Sunday, Hunday” about a bull who sired too many calves before dying of exhaustion. In the case of the fruit fly, Melanogaster, “acts of millisecond brevity interfere with his longevity”. But female promiscuity is the subject of “The Round-Heeled Snakes of Sweden.” The rewards of deceit are celebrated in “Owed to a Toad”, “Speak Low”, and “Flowers from Algernon”. But, alas, Cnemidophorus and “To Bee or Not to Bee”, forecast a future without father!
Book 2, Annotated Animals, defines the “zoo out there” in which the implicit verbal defamation of the Slow Loris is decried and doubts are expressed on the arrival of a “Tiny Pale Whale” at Coney Island. If that isn’t news, then read “The Hippopota-news” or about the dog, man’s best friend, with “no control at either end”. Or about the turtle in the middle of a four lane highway, “Einstein tortoise, questing, blind…..” And “in ages long past somewhere west of the Nile,/ crawled a large mesosuchian (sic) crocodile,/ whose saurian grimace revealed as he dined,/ teeth, compressed and serrated and neatly aligned/ in rows on his jawbone, the better to munch/ on the Eocene fauna he had for his lunch”.
Book 3 covers – in verse and in prose – a sample of Humanity’s Inanities. The author has taken license to indulge in a mixed bag of philosophical musings, an obsession with proper English, (“More Importantly”), “An Ode to Aide”, “The Bikini Area or Bust”), reaction to new technology (“Toeless in Texas”) and politically incorrect observations, (“Of Math and Sex”) – as well as a little parody on “Dick and Jane”. This Book concludes with a short story, “The Immortal Breast of Evelyn G.” that defies easy description. It has to be read.
Book 4 concludes with several serious poems in which the author puts aside his defiance of gravity to embrace moments of beauty , in “Bluefishing” and “The Ice Dancers” , and of tragedy, in “Susan Dying” and “Insight”.