Books by David Shaw

Released: June 7, 1996

Shaw raises important questions about balancing pleasure and responsibility in modern society but defeats his own purpose with superficial analysis and smug prose. The Pleasure Police, according to the rather vague defintion offered by the Los Angeles Times media critic, have ``narrow minds, unbending wills, [and] dictatorial ways'' and, to promote their crabbed vision, would dictate most aspects of our personal lives. The fascinating irony raised by Shaw is that these ``new Puritans . . . are increasingly trying to leech all joy from our daily lives'' at the very time when, for many, living has never been better. Much of Shaw's discussion is thoughtful and informative, such as his history of the movements in opposition to smoking and alcohol. Unfortunately, the book's strengths are overwhelmed by its failings. With rare exception, Shaw's writing is unrelentingly smarmy and trite. Describing a new fat substitute which may cause gas, Shaw states, ``Trading fat for farts will be the odor—er, order—of the day.'' Similarly, Shaw's frequent references to his sex life, his family, his hobbies, and his preferences are cloying and self-important. Moreover, Shaw's analysis is often distressingly shallow. Due to their ruinous effects, he opposes legalization of hard drugs. Yet, despite equally dire consequences, with regard to alcohol, Shaw counsels only education and moderation. And it is typical of Shaw's lack of definition that we remain unsure as to who these ``pleasure police'' really are. Furthermore, Shaw, despite his stated dislike of intolerant proselytizing, indulges in it frequently. He is amazed that his compromises and standards regarding private pleasures have not been universally embraced. With no overriding theory to help us reach a useful balance between striving for fun and accepting responsibility, this thesis devolves into a superficial, rambling, cocktail party monologue. Read full book review >