The twelve most popular book reviews, essays and readings from Ralph's first seven years --- being those that have received the most number of hits over the last few weeks.

  • Bound and Gagged: Pornography and the Politics of Fantasy In America, by Laura Kipnis (Duke University Press). "Ms. Kipnis has put together an astounding thesis. She has evidently immersed herself in no small amount of lurid literature in order to deliver the message that the reaction of most of us (sneering, shutting our eyes, calling the police) means that we are missing the vital truths that pornography can give us."

  • Heart of Spain: Robert Capa's Photographs of the Spanish Civil War, Leslie A. Martin, Editor (Aperture). "Was it Pete Seeger --- one of the 'International Brigade' --- singing Los Cuatro Generales, a scratchy 78 rpm record, recorded in the hills of Córdoba? Or is it the photographs of Robert Capa, that now, sixty-five years later --- can still stop the heart...the thousands of bleak pictures, of which he once said, No tricks are necessary to take pictures in Spain. You don't have to pose your camera. The pictures are there, and you just take them. The truth is the best picture, the best propaganda."

  • A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, by David Eggers (Simon & Schuster). "Eggers is full of a kind of perverse quasi-Puritan, 19th Century thinking, heavy with insight, but also heavy with punishment --- often self-punishment. Above all, his words are jam-packed with attention to process, to thinking about thinking."

  • The Goslings: A Study of the American Schools, by Upton Sinclair (Upton Sinclair Publishing). "The theory behind the public schools, which cost the taxpayers hundreds of millions every year, is that they manufacture hordes of enlightened and incorruptible voters, and so safeguard and mellow democracy. The fact is that they are mainly manned by half-wits and bossed by shysters, and that their actual tendency is to reduce all their pupils to the level of Kiwanis."

  • "Handicap as a Social Construction" from The Unexpected Minority: Handicapped Children in America, by John Gliedman & Wm. Roth. (Harcourt Brace 1980). "They tell of the fascination of the ancient Chinese with certain parts of women's bodies. According to one writer, merely seeing it produced in the male an indescribable degree of voluptuous feeling. It was not rare, [the correspondent continued], to find Chinese Christians accusing themselves at confession of having had evil thoughts on looking at it. We are not talking about buttocks or breasts or private parts. No. We're talking about feet."

  • Victorian Painting, by Christopher Wood (Bulfinch). "Mr. Wood defines the Victorian period as lasting, as did the good queen, from 1837 to 1901. Wood also tells us that his Dictionary of Victorian Painters lists 11,000 artists --- indicating that the era was 'hugely prolific.' You can say that again. For those of us who are softies for this lush, garish, tearful, almost pornographic style of art, Victorian Painting is a treasure-pot. There are 500 illustrations which means that for sixty bucks, you get a lush, garish, tearful collection of watercolors, line drawings, and paintings --- some in color --- at 8.33 cents a shot."

  • Family Kaleidoscope: Images of Violence and Healing, by Salvador Minuchin (Harvard University Press). "Salvador Minuchin sounds like a refugee from a New York salsa band --- but is, in reality, an Argentine/Jewish family therapist practicing in Philadelphia. And his therapy technique is a doozy, outside the mainstream, culling the best of Fritz Perls, Freud, Alice Miller, Milton Erickson."

  • Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia, by Marya Hornbacher (Harper). " For those of us who are concerned with somewhat greater issues --- ecological destruction, the New Violence of America, disease and famine in the Other Half of the world --- a girl's rather Pollyanna self-destruct, her delighted description of the process (from refrigerator to vomitoriumand then back to refrigerator again) tends to make us a bit impatient."

  • A Fly for the Prosecution: How Insect Evidence Helps Solve Crimes, by M. Lee Goff (Harvard University Press). "Most people do not share my enthusiasm for maggots, and I have to present the subject very carefully to avoid repelling the jurors --- and others in the courtroom...At this point in the trial, the jury and I both get a break while the judge and attorneys argue over the repulsion factors of the various exhibits."

  • "Hitler's First Photograph," by Wislawa Szymborska.
      A little pacifier, diaper, rattle, bib,
      our bouncing boy, thank God and knock on wood, is well,
      looks just like his folks, like a kitten in a basket,
      like the tots in every other family album.
      Shush, let's not start crying, sugar,
      the camera will click from under that black hood.

  • "Three Poems," from The Teachers and Writers Collaborative.
        Reality is a cupcake
        with no icing
        is oranges
        I hate oranges
        do I hate
        the taste
        is reality...

                              --- Daniel Cohen, Second Grade

  • "Letter from Uppland #3: Eating Sweden," by Dr. Phage. "One cannot discuss Swedish cuisine without some mention of herring, which is the national bird. There is a particularly refined type in the Baltic called strömming, which swim in gymnasia rather than ordinary schools, and speak French among themselves. A special delicacy is created from these strömming by burying them in the backyard and allowing them to ferment. After a year or two, they are dug up to produce a fish sauce which was used as a secret weapon during the days when Sweden's army was the terror of Northern Europe."

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