From our (now) over seventy-five issues on-line, we offer the twenty most popular book reviews, essays and readings --- being those that receive, constantly, and regularly, the most hits.


  • Bound and Gagged: Pornography and the Politics of Fantasy in America, by Laura Kipnis (Duke University Press). "This Laura Kipnis is no shrinking violet. In two hundred or so pages, she takes us through fat people's sex, the works of Larry Flynt, Transvestites ('Clothes Make The Man'), a tale of two men in prison for spilling out their sex-murder fantasies to the FBI, and --- in general --- some discussion of how feminists might better and more honestly deal with pornography. In the summing up last chapter, entitled 'How to Look at Pornography,' Ms. Kipnis repeats one of her central themes: that is, that pornography is there to take us to the furthermost reaches, well beyond the limits of what we might think of as 'acceptable.' In the process, it might well be able to teach us something very important about ourselves."

  • 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?"

  • When I Was a German, An English Woman Living in Nazi Germany, by Christabel Bielenberg (Bison --- University of Nebraska). "My father was killed by the Russians and my mother died of grief --- I think it must have been. Our people baked cakes and stood by the roadside and gave them to the German troops as they marched through our villages. The troops looked splendid, crack German regiments, and each soldier had a flower in his cap, and as I watched I knew that I had only one wish in the world and that was to get into uniform as soon as possible and to march with them."

  • "The Ballad of Hans and Jenny," Aquiles Nazoa.

    Truly, never was love so pure as when Hans Christian Andersen loved Jenny Lind, The Nightingale of Sweden.

    Hans and Jenny were dreamers, and they were beautiful, and their love divided itself like two schoolboys dividing up their almonds.

    To love Jenny was like going around eating an apple in the rain. It was being in the fields and discovering that the cherries were ripening like the dawn.

    Hans used to sing to her whimsical tales of the time when the icebergs were great bears in the sea. And when the spring came, he would hang her pigtails with wild coltsfoot.

    The glance of Jenny peopled the landscape with Sunday colors. Jenny Lind could well have been born in a box of water colors.

  • The Little Ice Age: How Climate Made History, Brian Fagan (Basic Books). "Because of the warm weather, the Norse were able to colonize Greenland and Iceland, and reach down as far as the present Long Island, where they were finally drummed out of town by the denizens of East Hampton who didn't care for their silly horned helmets nor their B. O. Most of Europe was temperate, perfect for growing B. O. and the other principal crop of the times: mildew, ragweed, liverwort, and scotch-berries, which were fermented to produce mead for the famous mead-halls. The cold cycle began in earnest the 14th Century, which was followed by the 15th Century and then the 16th Century, although accounts differ. The cycle was at its worst during the 18th Century where you could find your granny's false teeth in the glass, at the side of the bed, chattering away to no one in particular."

  • Nude Sculpture: 5,000 Years. Photographs by David Finn (Harry N. Abrams). "This one comes up all the time on our hit-list. Perhaps they are looking for something lurid, but you'd have to be stretching somewhat to find anything overly lust-making in any of these pictures. Nude Sculpture is just that: hard, smooth marble. But gorgeous, and gorgeously organized and laid out."

  • Sex, Drugs , and 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. People magazine had the temerity to say that he was the "Father of the Underground Press" which cleverly ignores other activists such as Milton, John Stuart Mill, Eugene V. Debs, John Steinbeck and all the samizdat magazine publishers."

  • 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."

  • Highwire Moon,by Susan Straight (Houghton Mifflin). "I am as willing as the next man to admit that the life of the indocumentos is a tough one. I will not gainsay that there are disasters in finding work and love and dealing with prejudice and death and disaster and drugs on the border. But my take on that world (and the world of novels) is that these things are (or should be) parsed out a bit. For their lives can be terrible and remorseless and soul-destroying, but there are also moments --- at least in the lives of the people I know who live in that world --- of joy and life and fiesta and music and poetry."

  • The Practical Guide to Aging: What Everyone Needs to Know, Christine K. Cassel, Editor (New York University). "Now, I don't doubt for a moment that all us old haybags need to know what's in The Practical Guide --- but it's a depressing mix, nonetheless. Anxiety, Memory Loss, 'Behavioral Problems,' High Blood Pressure, High Cholesterol, Chest Pains, Sleeplessness, Constipation --- you name it, we've either got it or it's waiting just around the corner to run out and bite us on the ass. I read that by age 65 (that's me) the life-expectancy charts give me only 15 more years to screw around, and, when I reach 85 --- I'll be clocked in at 6 more years of doddering, max. Do I really need to know this?"

  • Gangrene and Glory: Medical Care During the American Civil War, by Frank R. Freemon (Illinois). "Just when you thought it was safe to go back into war again, along comes Gangrene and Glory which describes, in disgusting detail, the quality of medical care during the American Civil War. It wasn't just having an arm or a leg or a head ripped off by a shell --- it was yellow fever, malaria, small pox, typhoid, dysentery, scurvy, measles, 'black' gangrene, and infections from being in the hospital. Out of a total of 2,400,000 soldiers that were mustered up on both sides, mortality figures reached over 600,000."

  • "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."

  • ¡Cámara! Ciudad de México, Lorenzo Hagerman, Editor (Getty Conservation). "Ten kids with ten cameras, strolling everywhere, taking pictures of their families, and the local drunks, and the local iglesia, and the dogs, and the gangs, and the graffiti-filled walls, and the street clowns --- las chupacabras --- and their sisters during the day of the Candelaria. For those of us who love Mexico, especially Mexico City with its appalling chaos and noise and messy traffic, this is our book. Wonderful graphics. Excellent writing. Sensible editing. And fine words, words of burgeoning young artists who never knew they were artists until the Getty people came along and showed them how to do it."

  • The Seduction of Don Juan, by Lord Byron.
    Oh Plato! Plato! you have paved the way,
        With your confounded fantasies, to more
    Immoral conduct by the fancied sway
        Your system feigns o'er the controulless core
    Of human hearts, than all the long array
        Of poets and romancers: --- You 're a bore,
    A charlatan, a coxcomb --- and have been,
    At best, no better than a go-between.

    And Julia's voice was lost, except in sighs,
       Until too late for useful conversation;
    The tears were gushing from her gentle eyes,
       I wish indeed they had not had occasion,
    But who, alas! can love, and then be wise?
       Not that remorse did not oppose temptation;
    A little still she strove, and much repented,
    And whispering "I will ne'er consent" --- consented.

    Wind & Sand, by Lyanne Wescott (Eastern Acorn Press). "When the Wright Brothers weren't repairing bicycles and flying around the dunes, they were sleeping with each other --- and we ain't talking about keeping cold bodies warm on a winter's eve on Kitty Hawk. Outside of that juicy fact, they were drudges of the old school --- painfully, oh so painfully reworking plans, planes, and parts. The parts and the plans and the worry are all presented here, in detail. Their nighttime carryings-on --- nowhere to be found."

    21 Recettes Pratiques de Mort Violente, by J. Bruller (Self-published --- Paris). "M. Bruller is inspired to publish his suggestions, illustrated by himself, and in, full color. He describes suicide in many novel and exhilarating ways: by impaling, by squashing, by absorption animale, by explosion, by incineration, by immersion prolongée partielle, by excès hydraulique, and by laminage --- this last a very costly process, involving hiring a rolling-mill. The portrait of a man making off by excès hydraulique is extremely engaging. Spread out comfortably on the floor of a wine vault, he has a large funnel in his mouth, and into the funnel runs a ruddy stream of what appears to be excellent claret. He is already half-dead: his clothes have burst, and his face is excessively flushed. But what remains of it there is a noble smile."

    Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia, by Marya Hornbacher (Harper). "She can't figure out what it was, but it's as plain as the nose on her face (or the plate on her table). One who is treated with self-indulgence, by herself, by her parents, will, as always, test the limits --- even if the limits get close to suicide. Most children use temper tantrums or sulks to be heard. But the truly tyrannical children will use what goes in (and what comes out) of their mouths to boss everyone around....Hornbacher has written a book that pretends to be revelatory about the ins and outs of anorexia and bulimia but, in truth, what we have here is a juvenile who is yelling, I did it; boy! did I ever do it! And her implicit question: Aren't you impressed at what I went through to get my message across? The answer is --- in a word --- no."

    Autobiography of a Spiritually Incorrect Mystic, by Osho (St. Martin's Press). "Rajneesh, we find here, has come back again, disguised as Osho --- the name he gave himself before lapsing into his final silence. You wouldn't know it was Rajneesh at first glance, so it's a bit like the editors at St. Martin's were thinking, 'We know that people probably still find Rajneesh's reputation a little dicey. So how can we get people to pick up his autobiography? How about we change his name? They'll be sucked in before they can figure out the real skinny.' And so they create Osho. But, in truth, this isn't Rajneesh's autobiography, at all."

    Kiss My (Left) Foot, by L. W. Milam. "We are not talking about buttocks or breasts or private parts. No. We're talking about feet. In 19th Century Chinese pornography males were shown "voluptuously fondling" woman's feet.

      When a Celestial takes into his hand a woman's foot, especially if it is very small, the effect upon him is precisely the same as is provoked in a European by a young and firm bosom. All the Celestials whom I have interrogated on this point have replied unanimously: 'Oh, a little foot! You Europeans cannot understand how exquisite, how sweet, how exciting it is!'"

    We're All Doing Time, by Bo Lozoff (Human Kindness). "Bo Lozoff has written a book for prisoners, and it is a good one indeed. The writing is simple, wise, direct; it overflows with honesty. The book came out of the Prison-Ashram Project started by Ram Dass --- and it is subtitled (correctly) "A Guide for Getting Free," and the freedom described can be within or without. It is in no way preachy, or arrogant, or 'we're-up-here-and-we're-gonna-help-you-down-there.' It is an honest recounting of the methods that one can use to get free while one is in the most unfree place in American society. It makes no excuses for the specific methodology it offers to those who are, after all, in a violent war zone:

      Going to prison is one more opportunity to come closer to Truth, God, Self, Freedom --- whatever we want to call it. Prison life is so negative and intense, prisoners sometimes get the chance to work out karma and build strength in a period of months that might have taken fifty years on the streets, if they could have done it at all. What a blessing!

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