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On the basis of his earlier Notes of an Anatomist, Gonzalez-Crussi has been called an elegant essayist; a natural writer. That same elegance is displayed here, a kind of stately march of words reflecting on human behavior both universal and provocative--but also elusive. Gonzalez-Crussi never quite defines ""erotic,"" however, and by commingling it with ""love"" these essays present a confusion of views. A biological essay, to begin with, discusses the role of sexuality in evolution and ends up ridiculing some of the more extreme feminist notions that deny sexual differences. Next is a quite lovely essay on male jealousy as revealed in Shakespeare, but particularly in the Spanish literature the author knows so well. The astute point is made that jealousy is a ""surreal"" emotion, a ""self-feeding"" monster with no need of real experience to be born, thrive, or die. ""Remedies of Love"" looks at the literary and historical tradition of love as sickness, a madness of spirit in need of cure--and the more painful, the better. Gonzalez-Crussi remarks on the prescience of an 18th-century Spanish Benedictine friar who proposed a Pavlovian cure (associate the act of love with some monstrous pain), a line of thought that leads to the pain-ecstacymasochism-sadism connection and to an excellent essay on de Sade, seen as embodying the cruelty and violence mankind is capable of but dares not think about. The remaining essays deal with historical views of women, a Chinese text on how to carry out a seduction, views of the erotic, and, finally, secrecy in love, in which we get a glimpse of Gonzalez-C tussles own initiations. While generally sympathetic to women's historic plight, Gonzalez-Crussi does not endear with his description of today's professional female as an idol who would not dare ""to display a wan, unpainted face in the world where millions of her properly made-up sisters flaunt their beauticians' know-how."" It would seem, then, that the author is not immune to the misogynous, schizoid views he describes so well. In sum: controversial and incomplete, but worth attention, both for its style and its illumination of historical details.

Pub Date: April 22nd, 1988
ISBN: 1607141140
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich