In her long-anticipated companion volume to A Natural History of the Senses, Ackerman mines deep within the caves of human emotion for artifacts of 'the great intangible': love. Proceeding with the disdainful understanding that sociologists prefer to study negative behaviors and emotions, Ackerman sets out on her exploration by reviewing the lessons provided across time by such lovers as Antony and Cleopatra, Orpheus and Eurydice, Dido and Aeneas, Abelard and Eloise, and Romeo and Juliet. During this journey, she explores the neurophysiology of love and exposes the components of modern-day relationships, from the 'New Age Sensitive Guy'' to sexual chic. With dazzling poetic charm and insight, she uses history, literature, science, psychology, and personal experience as tools to illuminate the vigor and vehemence of the thrilling, devastating, and comforting phenomenon of love. -- David R. Johnson, Louisiana State University Library
No one writes quite like Ackerman. She glides from the peaks of poetry to the secretive valleys of science to the plains of personal musings with ease, apparent pleasure, and a frankly feminine form of confidence. Her most acclaimed book is A Natural History of the Senses (1990); this book is a companion work of sorts and bound to create quite a splash. Here Ackerman marshals all her perceptive and synthetic abilities to consider love, the 'great intangible.' Ackerman begins her cultural, literary, and physiological investigation with fresh and intuitive interpretations of classic love stories such as Orpheus and Eurydice and Tristan and Iseult. Her loosely chronological format includes stops in Greece and Rome, an extended pondering of the tradition of chivalry and courtly love, and a selection of vivid profiles of such lovers and students of love as Don Juan, Ben Franklin, Stendhal, Proust, and Freud. Ackerman is especially intrigued by the connection between danger and desire that makes adultery so common, but she is also enraptured by the chemical reactions love precipitates, noting that love is a 'biological imperative.'
Turning from quantifiable sensations to the mysteries of eroticism, Ackerman contemplates hair, women and horses, men and cars, mermaids, sex and flying, and sexual chic. As erudite, sensual, sensitive, and brilliant as Ackerman is, she is also devilishly funny and quite mischievous. -- Booklist
Book World Washington Post
[An] audaciously brilliant romp through the world of romantic love. . .