THE BOOK OF THE HEART

Louisa Young, Author
Louisa Young, Author . Doubleday $24.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-385-50173-6
Hardcover - 534 pages - 978-0-00-710910-4
Paperback - 478 pages - 978-0-00-710911-1
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From the beginning of history, the human heart has been revered, mythologized, poeticized and medicalized. In exploring these various modes, freelance journalist Young offers a very personal cross-cultural meditation on the symbolism of the heart. She begins with an excellent chapter that traces the understanding of cardiac anatomy and function, from the religious-based beliefs of the ancient Egyptians and Chinese to the work of Galen, who recognized but could not correctly explain the difference between venous and arterial blood, and Ibn al-Nafis, who suggested the role of the lungs in oxygenating blood. Young goes on to explain the basics of heart disease and to describe, in viscerally affecting prose, the process and implications of heart surgery—including the sense among some transplant patients that they have assumed elements of their donor's self. But Young's real subject is the heart as symbol of love and sacrifice. From the bloody altars where Aztec priests tore out the hearts of their living prisoners, to the Sacred Heart of Jesus or the broken hearts of poets and blues singers, Young examines the ways in which the heart means life and love, suffering and eros, self and desired other. Fascinating though this material is, one senses that Young is stating the obvious rather than delving into the deeper implications of her theme—but this is offset by the book's imaginative approach, handsome illustrations and unguarded sense of wonder. (Jan. 14)

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