Friday, June 27, 2008
If I could describe this book in one phrase, it would be this: Touchingly candid. Whether writing about her own life or those of the odd and eccentric, Kennedy recounts her stories with loving detail and wonder. The people she writes about are truly people to ponder and marvel at. She deals with them all with a level of respect normally not afforded to these quirky trendsetters. Throughout their stories, she captures their brilliance, strength and mostly their humanness.
Among some of these unusual people are the quiet scientist and doctor Alex Comfort, who created a facet of the modern sexual movement by authoring the book The Joy of Sex. An older, shy man, Comfort reinvents himself as a sexual guru who reclassifies sex as a freedom of expression and who even bases the models in the book upon himself and his partner. She chronicles unknown scientists whose inventions just may relieve the economic pressures of third world countries, and sheds light on the brain bank, an organization at Harvard College that studies donor brains in an effort to understand the organic causes of mental illness. She explores people who are scouting new fuel sources and a man who realizes that children are the scientific future and creates an educational fun house for them. We meet one of the strongest women in the world, and a parrot named Alex with an attitude. Even more revealing are her personal essays, touching on topics of scary vacationing encounters and relationships that defy conventional thinking. Kennedy explores all these subjects with venerable compassion and an infectious marvel that highlights the importance of these people's advancements and uniqueness.
I tore through this book, wondering what and who was coming next, and enjoying the exposure to people who would have otherwise been unknown to me. The subjects in this book are fascinating and complex, inspired to make the world sit up and take notice of the unmentionable and unpopular. Some of the stories have hidden glimpses of humor, and some are laugh out loud funny. I particularly enjoyed the story of Vermin Supreme, a quirky and sometimes offensive activist who travels to rallies and protests with a boot strapped to his head, releasing the crowd's tension with his absurdities. The story of the Mystic mechanic, a man who wants all religions to embrace each other and has built a machine to be closer to God, was just as curious as it was humbling.
All in all, this book of stories was refreshingly peculiar and winning. It sparked a part of my interest that I didn't know was there, and made me think about the extraordinary people who are lurking behind their everyday facade. Kennedy's graceful style in addressing these compelling people made this book an admirable read. Highly recommended for those who would like an unusual experience.