POPSThe most popular book reviews, essays and readings from Ralph's first five or so years --- being those that have received and continue to receive, on average, the most number of hits.
- "Eating Out in Sweden." "These exotic Swedish dishes hold no terrors. For example, Tonsfisksallad med Sardeller och Oliver is obviously tunafish salad with sardines and olives, unless reference is being made to someone named Oliver. Spansk Bondomelett is obviously Spanish omelette with Bondo. And Pelotas en Salsa Roja is without a doubt baseballs in red sauce, although I am at a loss to explain what it is doing on a Swedish menu."
- A Woman of Rome, by Alberto Moravia, Translated by Lydia Holland (Steerforth Italia). "She pulls all men into her, sees them all with a dispassionate warmth that leads us to believe that perhaps she is one of the divine, a Mary Magdelaine, the Sweet Mother of Jesus, our Lady of the Streets."
- Dr. Laura: The Unauthorized Biography, by Vickie L. Bane (St Martins). "Schlessinger has a PhD, but it isn't in psychology --- it's in physiology. Her doctorate was entitled Effects of Insulin on 3-0 Methylglucose Transport in Isolated Rat Adipocytes. According to one of her professors, she spent most of her doctoral training time pulling fat pads off rat testicles."
- "My Personal Care Attendant (Who Steals)" "I think you'd like Raul. He's neat and pleasant and well-spoken. He is as good a PCA you could ever ask for. When we get to the store, he has my wheelchair out and around to me in seconds, gets me out painlessly and quickly. He's very strong. And he steals me blind."
- When I Was Mortal, by Javier Marías, Translated by Margaret Jull Costa (New Directions) "Marías takes an obviously wonderful plot line, and quickly sticks us right in the middle of it, sucks us into the shaggy-dog story, making it totally believable, making us want to go on with it, get to the end of it, or even better, us not wanting it to end. He spins his characters and us in a perfect tale, as perfect as most --- if not all --- of the twelve tales he conjures up in When I Was Mortal."
- Letters to RALPH. On the firing of Ralph Roister Doister, replacing him with Lolita Lark. "That you would put this Linda Tripp of Verbiage in R. R. Doister's place beggars all description."
- Ol' Strom An Unauthorized Biography of Strom Thurmond, by Jack Bass and Marilyn W. Thompson (Longstreet). "These things should be declared a public nuisance. Oh, not Strom Thurmond --- he's been a public nuisance for longer than anyone can believe. No, we're talking about these dump truck bios like Ol' Strom. Terrible type, terrible binding, ill-conceived, ill-designed, ill-put-together --- an altogether vile union, written in a style that would have flunked you out of Clemson Junior College's freshman writing program."
- Dorothea Lange Photographs of a Lifetime, Edited by Michael E. Hoffman (Aperture) "When she decided to become a photographer, she did it all. In those days, you didn't shoot some pictures and send them off to 'the lab' to be processed. You chose the film, shot it with a camera you had probably modified in some way. You did all the developing, choosing the focus, the crop. You made one of the thousand choices of light and contrast and size and cutting, all to create your vision, or what you thought was your vision."
- The Seduction of Don Juan by Lord Byron.
And Julia sate with Juan, half embraced
And half retiring from the glowing arm,
Which trembled like the bosom where 't was placed;
Yet still she must have thought there was no harm,
Or else 't were easy to withdraw her waist;
But then the situation had its charm,
And then --- God knows what next --- I can't go on;
I'm almost sorry that I e'er begun.
- H. L. Mencken on Isadora Duncan and Aimée Semple McPherson. "There is comfort here for poor and wormy folk. They swam in Los Angeles as they swarm nowhere else on earth. They come in from the farms and cow towns with their lumbago, their shortness of breath, their broken ribs, their ringing in the ears, their souvenirs of bad medicine, bad surgery, bad obstetrics, and Aimée cheers them up. In a little while they vanish into Heaven, but more are always on the way."
- "Hitler's First Photograph."
And who's this little fellow in his itty-bitty robe?
That's tiny baby Adolf, the Hittler's little boy!
Will he grow up to be an LL.D.?
Or a tenor in Vienna's Opera House?
- Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia, by Marya Hornbacher (Harper). "The truth is," said our reviewer, "Hornbach probably needed nothing more than a couple of whacks on the fanny."
- A Whole New Life by Reynolds Price. "The book is a maudlin failure. One does not have to demean Price's real suffering to say that the work feels like something he whipped off and got to his agent in a hurry so he wouldn't miss out on his monthly royalty check."
- Lady Chatterley's Lover, by D. H. Lawrence (First Penguin Books Edition, September, 1946) "Has some generally useful descriptions of wildlife, botany, and hunting practices at a typical Edwardian English estate, but --- unfortunately --- the noisome activities of a certain gamekeeper and the lady of the house keep getting in the way of these otherwise excellent passages."
- "Death in the Mountains," by Carlos Amantea. "Pedro Sanchez died yesterday. No big deal. Except to his family --- wife Sarah, and the three kids: Emiliano aged 8, Juana, 4-1/2, and the esquincle, the one they called Junior --- barely six months old."
- Heart of Spain: Robert Capa's Photographs of the Spanish Civil War, Leslie A. Martin, Editor (Aperture) "It was, as they say, the curtain-raiser on WWII --- and to those of us who believed in the wonder of human freedom and the hopes of democracy --- the end, the loss of the Republic, was a bitter denouement. It's probably impossible for those who weren't alive, or at the age of reason, between 1936 and 1939, to comprehend how this one gripped us."
- "The Evils of Masturbation," by R. N. Barr (1855)
In vain we scan the springs of human woe,
To find a deadlier or more cruel foe
To erring man, than this sad self-pollution,
This damaging wrecker of his constitution.
- "Why Anti-matter Matters," by Douglas Cruickshank. "Alfred Jarry, whose work prefigured theater of the absurd, Dada, Surrealism and Futurism also may have anticipated certain modern physics theories."