THE BEACH by Lena Lencek

THE BEACH

The History of Paradise on Earth
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KIRKUS REVIEW

A husband-and-wife team of popular-culture experts provides a lively celebration of the beach, “nature’s most potent antidepressant.” Len—ek (The Antic Alphabet, 1994) and Bosker, professors of Russian and medicine, respectively, who live in Oregon, are clearly in love with beaches. In this, their latest in a series of popular-culture studies (including one on bathing suits), they have transformed their unabashed passion for sun and sand (or rocks, as it may be) into a romp through the history of beaches, from their ancient geological formation to the environmental and commercial dangers that threaten them today. Along the way, they explore sexuality, sport, architecture, and fashion at the beach. At the heart of their historical narrative is the premise that the beach as we know it today is a recent phenomenon. Here we witness the beach’s gradual transformation from a hostile wilderness’site of conquest, commerce, and tribal practices—to a civilized recreation site. Throughout, the historical narrative is limited to Western cultures, primarily American and European. Chapters often begin with fictional tableaus that lend an intimate feel to the narrative. Throughout, The Beach is filled with fascinating illustrations and photographs of the once-popular bathing machine, assorted swimsuit styles of the past (including the first adhesive brassiere!), and the “Tan-O-Meter,” a gas-pump-shaped tanning-oil dispenser. But for all their mirth, Len—ek and Bosker are serious about the beach’s role in history and its appeal to the human imagination. In the end, they argue, “it is to the beach . . . that we go to reinvent ourselves.” For those readers unable to resist the beach’s appeal, the authors include a highly select list of the world’s hottest and fanciest beach hotels and resorts. Those who ordinarily bike or walk to the local beach will find pleasure and novelty in The Beach, but they’d better look elsewhere for seashore recommendations.

Pub Date: May 25th, 1998
ISBN: 0-670-88095-7
Page count: 302pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1998