THE BOOK OF THE PENIS by Maggie Paley

THE BOOK OF THE PENIS

KIRKUS REVIEW

Penis. Penis, penis, penis. Say the word penis often enough and not only will you no longer choke on it, but you may even be able to write a report about the male member that gets straight to the point. Novelist Paley (Bad Manners, 1985) is right: Once the subject becomes the male sexual organ, every phrase, every word, is a double entendre. Nevertheless, she plunges ahead (there it is again) with a book that explores physiology (size matters, at least as evidenced by the ruler and the fig leaf on the cover—designed to lift and reveal Michelangelo’s vision of David’s penis), history, penis worship, and penises in art, literature, movies, and fashion. There are also stomach-churning reports on what men in various cultures (including our own) do or allow to be done to their genitals, ranging from circumcision and castration to piercings, inserts, and tattoos. A section called “The Secret Life of Men” reports on masturbation, entertainment, products (including, of course, Viagra), and an epilogue lists men famous for their size and/or skill, including presidents, movie and sports stars, and Gregor Rasputin. A series of “Penis Interviews” offers intimate and sometimes thoughtful observations from transsexuals, a porn star, and a male hustler. There are wonderful bits of esoteric erotica, including a description of the fashionable Japanese penis package, the “Nippon Slip-on,” and activist Eldridge Cleaver’s failed effort to reintroduce the codpiece to American fashion. The author is often shadowed by a male friend, Enrique, who serves as a valuable truth versus baloney meter in evaluating the information she collects. Creative black-and-white illustrations serve as chapter headings. Spirited, filled with fact and some fancy, emphasizing the penis’s power to drive male behavior but designed to make both women and men more comfortable with the dreaded word—and perhaps even the actuality—penis.

Pub Date: June 15th, 1999
ISBN: 0-8021-1648-5
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Grove
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1999




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