If skin is the house that contains us, then within this clever, optimistic book there are many floors. Lyman ranges impressively from Didier Anzieu, the psychoanalyst who talked about the concept of the skin-ego, the surface of the body as integral to the functions of the mind, to the bold but rather less cerebral 19th-century Empress Elisabeth of Austria. She put her trust in Crème Celeste, a concoction of spermaceti wax (from whale heads), almond oil and rosewater, together with raw veal and crushed strawberries held to her face by a made-to-measure leather mask as she slept. Bet that confused the Demodex mites.
This is an exciting introduction to a little-known microscopic universe and to a talented new writer. Lyman’s next book will apparently be on the subject of pain. I will be pouncing on it.