Titillating, if a tad overheated. (15 black-and-white photos throughout)




An engaging, provocative and sometimes creepy sexposé from prolific novelist Nicholson (The Hollywood Dodo, 2004, etc.).

While it was obvious that his girlfriend Dian, a former pictorial editor for a men’s magazine, stockpiled sexual accoutrements, it took Nicholson some time to admit to having a sex collection of his own. In revealing the psychological origins behind collecting, the author ushers in a procession of eccentric accumulators of unique ephemera. While at ease touring some of the country’s most distinctive sex museums, Nicholson seems poignantly affected by the strangely bittersweet worlds of a 69-year-old Jewish widow whose erotically charged condo was recently opened to public viewing, and of Dixie Evans, 70, the outspoken curator of the Exotic World Museum of Burlesque, hidden away in the California desert. Items and conduct that seem deviant at first become commonplace throughout this read. Communications with a man who has his own homemade glory hole, the website of a fearless female exhibitionist and meet-and-greets with a rather nonchalant Catherine Millet, author of The Sexual Life of Catherine M., filmmaker Richard Kern and the compulsive manager of Third Eye Blind all result in humdrum outcomes, begging the question of whether it’s not the collectors and connoisseurs who are obsessed, but the voyeur. The strength here lies in the sex-centrics’ direct associations with their fetishistic behaviors. Nicholson scrutinizes more than a few specific items in delicious detail: Chinese lotus shoes, finger guards, plaster penis castings, graphic automata and the Holy Grail of possessions: the human foreskin. Though the author’s regular considerations of the historical relevance of his topic grow tiresome, his comprehensive, well-rendered approach puts an authentic spin on what could be trivialized as mere sideshow oddity. Nicholson failed to score an interview with Paul Reubens, but he gets points for an enchanting dinner date with the late sex-kitten Linda “Deep Throat” Lovelace.

Titillating, if a tad overheated. (15 black-and-white photos throughout)

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-7432-6587-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2006

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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