How sperm, fertile women, and genuises make a riviting story
It’s summertime, and the pile of books at my bedside waiting to take to the lake are at an all time high. I heard a fact that you could speed read all day, every day and never make a dent into all the new material being produced. With so much to choose from, I get impatient with bad writing, (but please excuse mine, smile) and wish there were more hours in the day for which to read. Given all the sex books I get to review the sameness of them (with no new body parts or orifices for which to explore in new ways) I become a bit of a PR rep for books I think add something to my thinking about sex. I’m finishing my documentary of female ejaculation, researching the weird and the wonderful world of the male submission psyche, and trying to understand some obscure Asian sex rituals in my role as a sex therapist. After a few drinks with my Japanese friend I had him try to explain Aime squid sex, but that’s a blog for another day as I still don’t get the appeal.
This week’s treasure is the first book by Slate Magazine’s senior editor (the online magazine partially owned by Microsoft) David Plotz, called The Genius Factory. It called out to me in the discount pile of Chapters, and is the true truth-is-stranger-than-fiction story of the Nobel Prize Sperm Bank which gathered sperm from a bunch brighter than average guys and sent them out to women in hopes of spawning a new generation of brilliant babies. The guy who started the sperm bank a rich optometrist Robert Graham who believed that the ignorant masses were breeding too prolifically and that were were dumbing down the gene pool. The whole thing reads like a comedy of errors, but it was compelling, and I couldn’t put it down. The reality is that these kids seem to to turn out like all other kids in a similar environment and brilliant Dads certainly don’t guarantee you brilliant kids.
I happen to think that the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree, (and given the crazy, colorful-but kind nature of my extended family I’m not sure how comforting that is), and that nature is every bit as strong if not more so than nurture. Considering people tend to marry those most like themselves, if brains kept being enhanced each generation then we would have had a super race long before now. My pediatrician said something profound when my son was an infant. She believes that “kids are dealt their hand of cards at birth, and that we only help them handle and cope with the particular cards they have.” She would have some insight into that, and my kids personalities seem to be similar to the way they were as babies. As a parent, I am far more concerned with how happy my kids are, and wonder if there is a cheerful gene that can be passed or turned on (especially when confronted with a defiant nine year old). My Mother the Minister, has a saying in her sermon about grace that “we are as happy as we choose to be”. I know that what makes me happy is finding a great book that makes me think. And while it doesn’t have all the answers, David Plotz and the Genius Factory shows some gifted writing and allows the reader to come to their own conclusions. All I know is that in telling about what I was reading it made great dinner conversation. And my Dad and brother are fighting over who gets to read it next. And in my family, that’s the best review there is.