Everything—and everyone—seems to be for sale in these riotous biographical sketches of famous and infamous prostitutes.
Like his subjects, humorist and The Nervous Breakdown contributor Smith wants to offer a good time. In these nuggets of smarmy gossip, he rambles across the whole history of whoredom, from the Roman empress Messalina, who was said to have gone to work in a brothel for kicks, to latter-day strumpets Heidi Fleiss and Jeff Gannon, the online escort who moonlighted in the White House press corps. He toasts brainy 17th-century courtesans, like the Chinese poetess Liu Rushi and the French philosophe Ninon de L’Enclos, and modernist littérateur Jean Genet, who peddled himself to British sailors for sardines and bread. His favorite category of prostitute is the kind you’d never imagine, among whom he numbers Malcolm X, Hollywood he-men Steve McQueen and Clark Gable, and The Brady Bunch’s adorable Maureen McCormick. Smith wouldn’t be caught dead drawing sociological insights from any of this data; he’s strictly out to regale readers with lurid anecdotes, chortling color commentary—“Hell hath no fury like a whore cheated out of her opera tickets”—and miscellaneous zingers. For instance, Bob Dylan’s dubious claim to have sold his body in his salad days makes the author wonder why anyone would pay for sex with “a jaundiced gnu.” Despite his assertion of a nonjudgmental stance, Smith is furiously judgmental toward anyone who cops a moralistic attitude: Televangelist (and secret john) Jimmy Swaggart is “a loathsome pig too tainted even for the abattoir,” and Nancy Reagan is a “hypocritical charlatan.” There’s nothing too edifying between these covers—even the digressions on Diogenes and Hegel are lightweight—but Smith’s caustic wit and bawdy exuberance will keep readers amused.
An easy-to-follow guide for a healthy, happy home for you and your pets.
The feng shui that Wayman refers to is less about the Chinese practice of acquiring good chi through the arrangement of objects and their energies and more about having a comfortable home that is low-maintenance yet welcoming and accommodating to your pets. Living with three large dogs, Wayman shares the ups and downs of canine companionship and passes on lessons she learned through trial and error. She clearly states that her intention is to offer simple, friendly advice, not a training tool. Dog owners will glean tips on simple home repair due to chewing, scratching and other destructive habits, as well as helpful hints on ways to protect home furnishings and create easy clean-up solutions for various areas of the home. Owners will also learn how to make clean, comfortable and aesthetically pleasing dog beds, and much more. Through trial and error, as well as necessity, Wayman learned to be handy in home repair, which, she says, she found to be surprisingly easy and rewarding. With consideration for the environment, Wayman’s suggestions are strongly steeped in recycling and reusing old items, not to mention thrift-store buys. Even with her self-proclaimed addiction to fabric, Wayman’s decorating suggestions are efficient, functional and budget friendly. Beyond the ideas for eye-pleasing décor and helpful teething tips, Wayman’s main achievement is in helping dog owners create an environment—whether it be one room or the run of the house—that is emotionally healthy and enjoyable for both canine and human.
Though the pages are few, Wayman’s practical, sunny advice is plentiful.
Brutus’ first book of philosophy offers a glimpse into the minds of some of history’s greatest thinkers.
Starting with the ancient Greeks and jumping through cultures and epochs, Brutus leads his readers through various musings on the titular question: Is philosophy merely important nonsense? After focusing by turn on suffering, peace, hope and other philosophical dilemmas, his essays ultimately conclude that philosophy is, indeed, a worthwhile—though occasionally nonsensical—pursuit. Of course, a philosopher would say that; still, while Brutus posits (along with Buddha and others) that life is all about the problem of suffering and how to best deal with it, he nonetheless leans toward the Nietzschean attitude of striving ever forward as the best way to surmount life’s difficulties, rather than developing any new theories on the subject. In fact, Brutus identifies Nietzsche’s philosophy as the cure for the disease of modern life. Brutus also contemplates Wittgenstein’s idea that “doing philosophy” is actually the product of a diseased mind, where one must eventually be cured of this funny habit of pondering existence if one is to “get well.” Therefore, can or should one stop doing philosophy? Wittgenstein, the notoriously dour Austrian, certainly believed so, but here the question is left unanswered for the reader to decide, depending on his or her preferred school of thought. Rather than bringing any new ideas to the table, this book reads more like a primer on philosophical thought throughout the ages, in which Brutus demonstrates considerable command over the looming philosophical questions that continue to plague contemplative modern man.
A fine philosophical text to aid in considering the big ideas.
The hypercompetitive rituals and other inanities of elite suburban preschools get a merciless but droll dissection in Woods’ debut novel.
Meg Norton, stay-at-home mom of two, strives to shoehorn her son Charlie into a prestigious preschool even though she knows he isn’t ready for the transition. The decision to keep him home isn’t hers to make: In her affluent Southern California community, interview tutors for kindergarten admission and waiting lists for preschool are as ordinary as PB&J. Moreover, her husband, Chuck, and wealthy father-in-law attended the Norwich School, which they continue to financially support as alumni. But Charlie’s “interview” isn’t a success—he throws a tantrum over his shoes—and he’s turned down by Norwich administrators. In fact, it takes little for Charlie to have a meltdown; bunchy socks, the wrong drinking cup, even humming can trigger tears and screams. Meg’s endless problems with her son spill into other areas of her life—isolating himself with work, Chuck seems to hold her responsible for Charlie’s oddities; the other moms at play dates and art classes make her feel outcast; even her best friend Dana seems to have transformed into the kind of “A-list mom” they previously mocked. After Charlie gets into Norwich on his third attempt, Meg’s troubles multiply and turn far more serious. She must acknowledge one secret in order to reveal another that will change her son’s life and her own. Woods crafts classroom and backyard scenes into keen, sly takes on the world the Norton family inhabits. Meg makes an ideal medium for this tale. A perpetual outsider, she skewers with delightful off-beat humor all that comes her way—bridal-themed birthday parties, kindergarten graduation ceremonies and school drop-off etiquette. What saves her from sanctimony is that she’s too smart to be unaware of her own complicity and her desperate desire to fit into a world she loathes. She’s astute enough to finally admit, too, that the distance between her problem child and herself may be less than she thinks: “We both have things to learn.”
An irreverent but stylish critique of a privileged social milieu.
Stunning panoramic views of Petra, one of the world’s archaeological treasures, adorn this beautifully designed coffee table book.
If your travel plans to the kingdom of Jordan fall through, the next best thing to visiting Petra—the famed desert city carved into sheer rock—is this gorgeous collection of panoramic photographs. You might remember the city from the final ride-into-the-sunset scene of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, but these photos capture the city better than Spielberg. Petra sits in the cradle of civilization, so it’s seen thousands of years’ worth of settlers—Greek, Roman and Byzantine cultures, with notable influence by neighboring Egyptian, Arabic and Eastern civilizations. The area’s impressive array of clashing cultures notoriously relates to its reputation as an unstable region. The city was abandoned after a series of devastating earthquakes between A.D. 363 and A.D. 551, and being located in a deep and narrow desert canyon, it wasn’t “discovered” by Europeans until 1812. Now, photographer Alghussain captures the sprawling richness of the ancient city with a professional eye and gear—Fuji Panorama (6x17) professional camera with 90- and 180mm lenses and Fujichrome Velvia film. Having obtained special permission from authorities to enter the site at sunrise and sunset, Alghussain exploits a magical balance of light and shadow to portray the unique architecture of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. The book’s perfunctory introduction includes minimal use of maps and cursory historical lessons to introduce the reader to the land, but that’s just preparation for the real treat—24-inch-wide, double-page panoramas of Petra’s hallowed beauty. Captions and corresponding thumbnails are relegated to the final pages so as not to interrupt the breathtaking visuals. From choice of film to the professional firms hired for printing and image scanning, all production details are of the highest caliber. Alghussain goes even further by collaborating with book designer Kevin Opp to produce an edition that sets the standard of design in independent publishing.
Highly recommended for anyone interested in architecture, classical history or travel photography.
An outstanding debut novel for young people by retired amateur steeplechase jockey Hambleton, who uses her knowledge of horses and the equestrian world to tell of the tragedies and triumphs that befall a thoroughbred racehorse—from the horse’s point of view.
Reminiscent of Anna Sewell’s 19th-century classic, Black Beauty, in its deeply felt narrative as voiced by a thoroughbred racehorse, this first-time novel for ages 11 and up is written with empathy and a vivid sense of drama by Hambleton, a lifelong equestrian and former amateur steeplechase jockey. Raja, a promising foal of distinguished lineage, bears the “Mark of the Chieftain” on his forehead. Bedouin legend has it that such a mark predicts either “great glory” or “great despair” for a horse, and Raja assumes that his road to glory is assured after triumphs on the track as a 2-year-old lead to early Kentucky Derby buzz. But the world of racing has a dark side. An injury, sparked by Raja’s fear of thunderstorms, drops the sensitive horse into obscurity and worse. What follows is a colorful succession of owners and riders (good and bad), a brush with horse drugging and the ugly reality of “kill buyers,” who purchase former racehorses for their meat. Friends and enemies, both human and equine, appear and reappear in Raja’s life as fate takes him far from his pampered youth. Along the way, the elegant horse learns dressage, Cossack trick riding, the exhilarating art of steeplechase—and the depth of his own courage. Hambleton’s compelling prose—deftly interwoven with technical realities and the emotional investment inherent in horse training, racing, care and ridership—is accompanied by a glossary of horse-world terms and evocative pencil drawings by Margaret Kauffman, a professional sculptor and horsewoman.
Lifelong equestrian Hambleton makes an impressive outing as a first-time author of juvenile fiction, weaving her knowledge and love of horses, horsemanship and the world of competitive racing into a moving narrative that will keep fellow horse-loving readers of any age enthralled.
In addressing both man against nature and the nature of man, Ness’s novel raises challenging questions about the balance between hunting for sport and hunting for survival.
Survival of the fittest plays out with personalities and past regrets in sharp relief, as hunter and hunted confront unforgiving nature in the remote Yukon. The story skillfully weaves together the lives of seemingly disparate individuals into a conflict-ridden tapestry of self-discovery. The principal storyline centers on high-profile eco-warrior Hannah Weinberg. Her mission: to confront and raise public awareness of the wealthy trophy hunters who scour the remote Yukon Mountains in search of grizzly bears. The titular figurehead of a save-the-bears group called Grizzly Watch, Hannah meets her perceived nemesis in Dan MacKay, an unemployed, half-Indian moose hunter who lives in a small First Nation community. Dan runs into a lost Hannah while hunting moose on the Macmillan River. Elsewhere, Dan’s attorney, Susan Field, is driven by conscience rather than cash to uncover the truth about Dan’s ex-wife, Tara, and her suspicious pedophile boyfriend, Gary. Seems Gary has taken an interest in Dan’s preteen daughter, Starla. Another intersecting storyline revolves around Hannah’s husband, David Hellman. Rich and powerful, he cheats on Hannah, but when she’s reported missing, David swings into action and hires Yukon mountain experts to accompany him on the search. At times, details in the supporting storylines run too deep and risk overwhelming the central story. Thinning them a bit in favor of the Dan–Hannah relationship, and how their initially opposing views slowly begin to dovetail, could improve the novel’s focus. Adding an extra dimension to the narrative are the internal dialogues of several animals. Raz, Dan’s loyal, well-trained hunting dog, expresses his own feelings and insight about “his Dan” and the new girl, Hannah. Raz eventually becomes indispensable to both the hunt and Dan’s survival. There’s also a “talkative” raven who provides some whimsical observations about human “bobbleheads” and their strange habits, and several moose express their feelings and various sexual pangs. Finally, there’s the heartbreaking struggle of a gut-shot bear, lumbering through the forest to find relief from the pain that accompanies his every step. Richly detailed and generously storied with characters both sympathetic and loathsome, this is the action-adventure novel for wilderness enthusiasts.
An uplifting read that informs, enlightens and satisfies.
Mercadante, a librarian and animal lover, recounts the life lessons she and her family learned after she adopted a pit bull.
Rumer—named after novelist Rumer Godden—was a puppy “the size of a sausage.” She was an ordinary dog who nonetheless touched the lives of everyone who knew her. With her sideways glance and mascara eyes, she shattered the myths attached to this unfairly maligned, naturally loving dog breed. Whether carrying out her self-appointed task of corralling the horses, participating in daily visits to nearby family members, riding the No. 8 golf cart, playing hockey with her “uncle” or wearing crazy glasses for Halloween, Rumer demonstrated the keys to a life well lived: guilelessly give and receive and seize the moment. Mercadante follows Rumer from her carefree, funny puppy days through a rebellious adolescence, to her physical peak of adulthood and finally to her heartbreaking but courageous end. She evocatively brings to life not only the boundless, inspiring spirit of a dog who “smells like fresh-cut grass, baked pork, and a hint of unmentionables,” but also the beauty of the Southampton, Mass., landscape and the sacredness of a moment. Even more importantly, she sheds light on the importance of understanding the pit bull for its admirably loyal nature—not for its unfortunate stereotype forged by cruel, inhumane owners intent on turning these promising animals into violent attack dogs. Rumer, on the other hand, proved herself to be a joyous, loving and good-natured soul who wholeheartedly embraced life and eagerly became a grounded center for each family member. Also included here is a delightful centerfold featuring photos of Rumer and her family.
A great city is a tiny organism writ large, according to Vitale’s debut multimedia e-book.
Vitale is taken with the idea that the form and function of a metropolis look uncannily similar, from a distance, to those of biological entities. He elaborates the analogy in a series of remarkable photos and embedded video sequences that compare aerial and satellite views of cities with studies of microscopic life-forms. The juxtapositions are striking: a Slovakian town sprawling over the landscape is pictorially paired with an amoeba; twisty, suburban cul-de-sacs are set against a cellular endoplasmic reticulum; the flow of street traffic becomes a “corpuscular circulation system” for the automobiles (blood cells) coursing through it; a video montage of satellite pictures shows Las Vegas swelling through the decades like a burgeoning culture in a desert petri dish. The text also insists that the notion of a city as an organism is literal truth rather than metaphor. Humans, Vitale contends, should give up their anthropocentric belief that they are creators of the urban realm. Instead, humans should adopt the objective viewpoint of a “Scientific Observer” looking down from on high, for whom people would appear as just one of many “unremarkable organelle[s]” servicing the urban superorganism. Visually, Vitale’s CD-ROM e-book is a triumph chock-full of stunning images, on scales both intimate and grand: pretty suburban streetscapes; the awesome high-rise fortress of Kowloon, China’s Walled City; and the wispy Norwegian town of Baerum Akershus, “lacy and fragile, cling[ing] to the earth like a delicate slime net.” Raptly evocative prose crackling with ideas makes a stimulating accompaniment to the visual content. Philosophically, his treatise can be a bit muddled and overstated: Readers know for a scientific certainty that cities are intentionally planned and built by humans; cities aren’t autonomous life-forms that have simply “germinated,” as Vitale would have it. Still, his conceit is a fruitful, fascinating one that yields rich insights into the urban ecology.
A superb pictorial and video meditation on the life of cities.