I came to this book from the perspective of having some familiarity with Montagu's writing against Scientific Racism. What little I had read, had quicI came to this book from the perspective of having some familiarity with Montagu's writing against Scientific Racism. What little I had read, had quickly registered him on my radar as someone whom I greatly admired. I was therefore not entirely sure what to expect from this book. Despite finishing it yesterday, I am still not entirely sure how I feel about it. The book itself consists of a series of articles which Montagu has had published in various journals between 1937 and 1960 (inclusive) on a variety of topics roughly relating to the human condition. There is quite a scope of variety here from his speculations on the evolutionary significance of communities to why we weep, laugh and swear.
With a fair variety encompassed within this book, the articles varied in how much of my interest they managed to arouse. Some of them I found to be incredibly engaging reads, others however I found myself longing for the chapter to come to an end. This was not helped by how repetitive his writing style can be at times. Several chapters seemed to consist of him droning on for several pages, without offering anything which he has not already presented. One particular instance was during his chapter on why we swear he started with an example whereby the agent in it swears in response to a series of events. At this point it was all good and well. However he then proceeds to spend an entire paragraph explaining the example he just quoted. The quoted example was already pretty simple and easily grasped. In other chapters however I found the Montagu that I love. His refutations of Nineteenth Century Evolutionism, Warfare as Human Nature and Scientific Racism were truly inspired. I also found his attempt to refute the "red in tooth and claw" narrative of biological evolution with a more societal understanding to be an interesting one, even if possibly going too far in his adjustment.
His writing style will limit the appeal of this book, which is a bit of a shame. As there are some really interesting and important ideas which can be found within this book. Unfortunately it is somewhat of a dry read and he is prone to needlessly droning on when his points have already been sufficiently presented. That being said, the articles themselves are fairly short in length and I could be doing this book an injustice by having read it cover to cover. I imagine if one was to pick and choose between the articles, it might contribute to a more enhanced enjoyment....more