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Melissa Wagner

The 248-page Field Guide to Gestures, fastidiously designed to resemble the standard bird- and plant-spotting handbooks, is amusing in concept. But why not just make a Web site? Because, in printing this book, irony of ironies, the publishers have caused more trees to be destroyed—trees that are the habitat of the very birds that appear in legitimate bird guides, trees that also appear in legitimate flora guides. If this book is a runaway success, will future generations even have real field guides? Or birds? Or trees? Though authors Nancy Armstrong and Melissa Wagner make an attempt at scholarship, providing brief mention of the derivation of various gestures and placing them geographically, the book is still Eurocentric. According to my fiancée, who spent time in Japan and knows everything, the Japanese have a habit of pointing to their own noses to indicate “You talkin’ to me?” This curious gesture is not in the purportedly comprehensive Field Guide to Gestures. But the finger is. Also the “Eyebrow Furrow,” the “Handshake,” “Okay,” and “Shhh!” I applaud Armstrong and Wagner for their fortitude in actually seeing the joke through to the end. But seriously: Thumbs down. —Dave Nuttycombe