Our 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.

  • Fetish. Edited by John Yau (Four Walls Eight Windows) "The pleasures here come from the unknown and the famous alike --- from Rudy Rucker and Robert Kelly and Laurie Weeks and Kevin Killian, but also Charles Bukowski, Paul Bowles, John Yau (the editor of the anthology) and, at the top of our list, a delicate fantasy by Guy Davenport, called The Haile Selassie Funeral Train."

  • Prozac Backlash:Overcoming the Dangers of Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, and Other Antidepressants with Safe, Effective Alternatives, by Joseph Glenmullen, M.D. (Simon & Schuster). "Never mind that hundreds of thousands of patients with painful depression were returning to productive lives. Never mind that 99% of those who commit murder are not on Prozac. What kind of headline is that? Blowtorch Murderer Was Not on Prozac?"

  • 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."

  • My Bloody Life: The Making of a Latino King, by Reymundo Sanchez (Chicago Review Press). "Escape is almost impossible. Powerful economic forces are in place to keep the poor and the minority in the war zone. Rents are cheap. If you are Latino or Black, the 'hood is where your families live. Poverty and unemployment are the rule, so those who want to survive must go into one of the accepted tax-free ghetto businesses: protection, dealing drugs and guns, procuring and selling stolen goods, prostitution."

  • Good-Bye My Friend: Pet Cemeteries, Memorials, and Other Ways to Remember --- A Collection of Thoughts, Feelings, and Resources, by Michele Lanci-Altomare (BowTie). "'The Peaceable Kingdom' in Hartsdale, New York, is the final resting place for nearly 70,000 pets, and one headstone shows J. Edna Hoover: The Greatest Little Girl to Walk this Earth on Two of Four Legs. The cat once known as Tisha Roberts at the San Diego Pet Memorial Park proclaims, I Am Too a People --- and at a cemetery in Las Vegas, a rabbit named Charles Clayton has his picture graved in stone, next to the words, You'll Be the Thump in My Heart 4 - Ever. It's signed, Luv, Jennifer."

  • Nude Sculpture: 5,000 Years. Photographs by David Finn (Harry N. Abrams). Lord knows if we can figure it out. Anytime we put a sex-toggle word in one of our computer titles, we begin getting repeated hits there, despite the innocence of the material. "Onanism" --- a silly bit of doggerel by Mark Twain --- gets a bunch. So does "X-rated-video," a serious look at a strange world, and "Fetish" (see above). This one, Nude Sculpture, comes up all the time on our hit-list. You'd have to be stretching somewhat to find anything overly lurid in any of these glorious pictures. Nude Sculpture is just that: cold, hard, smooth marble. Perhaps our viewers just want to get their rocks off.

  • All the Time in the World, by Hugo Williams (Akadine --- Common Reader). "Williams' description of living in Franco Spain came so close to my own experience that I sat down and wrote him a letter. I told him I was President of the South-East Burbank Hugo Williams Fan Club, and I invited him to visit to make a presentation. I assured him that although we didn't have enough in the till to pay his passage from London, that, after his reading, we would guarantee him a place in the Club's faded front room over the Hung Chu laundry, on the couch, next to head of Milton (or was it Keats?) I also told him that we would pay for a testimonial dinner with his local followers at the nearby In-'N'-Out Burger."

  • Strange Foods: An Epicurean Adventure around the World, by Jerry Hopkins (Periplus/Tuttle). "It's one thing to read about these disgusting dishes --- it's even worse to look at them. The photographs are, so to speak, all-consuming. The author is on a fine line here. I mean, they do eat duck embryos, on the street, in the Philippines. But I am not so sure you are prepared --- I wasn't --- for the closeup of a young fellow on page 139, chowing down on one (they don't get cooked until they are aborted at mid-term) with bits of yellow you-don't-want-to-know all over his puss."

  • Sex, Drugs & the Twinkie Murders, by Paul Krassner (Loompanics). "Krassner first and foreskin was and is a journalist and a reporter. His writing is clear and direct, and he marshals facts to make his point, no matter how bizarre: he trained himself to write in a snappy fashion, and he does his homework. In that way, we could say that he represents the New York Times of the acid set."

  • The World's Most Dangerous Places, by Robert Young Pelton (Fielding). "This is your anti-travel guide --- a purge for all the Fodors and all those giddy travel sections in your home-town newspaper. There are thirty-four dangerous countries listed, with are another twenty-four "Coming Attractions" --- including The Basque Country, Northern Ireland, and Panama. The descriptions are cynical, and scary, but the real prizes in The World's Most Dangerous Places are the charts and lists. What are the most dangerous places in the world for European travelers? In reverse order: Kenya, California, Turkey, North Africa, with the worst being (get this!) Florida."

  • Conversations with E. L. Doctorow, Christopher D Morris, Editor (University Press of Mississippi). "Doctorow comes across as a saint, putting up with interviews from every literary peddler on the planet --- in this case, twenty-two of them, ranging from a hack on assignment for Publishers Weekly to a boor from Budapest, Hungary, with stentorian questions like, 'You majored in philosophy at Kenyon College. To what extent has your training in philosophy helped shape you as a writer?'"

  • "Geography Isn't Destiny," by Jon Gallant. "Sweden could escape those dark winters and the Strindbergian gloom by simply announcing that it will henceforth be a Mediterranean country. The Irish can fulfill their dream to be as far from England as possible by describing themselves officially as an island in the Pacific Ocean, and offering to federate with Tahiti. Seattle will make unnecessary its pell-mell race to look and feel like New York City by simply announcing that it is the sixth borough, and has been all along. Other slighted backwaters, from Winnipeg to Newcastle, will claim to be adjuncts of Florence or Aix-en-Provence. The possibilities are endless."

  • litany by Carolyn Creedon.
      Tom, will you let me love you in your restaurant?
      i will let you make me a sandwich of your invention and i will eat it and call
      it a carolyn sandwich. then you will kiss my lips and taste the mayonnaise and
      that is how you shall love me in my restaurant...
      Tom, will you come to my empty beige apartment and help me set up my daybed?
      yes, and i will put the screws in loosely so that when we move on it, later,
      it will rock like a cradle and then you will know you are my baby...

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