Brash and fun, but the biographical research yields few titillating surprises—not as consistently entertaining as the...




Veteran porn editor and novelist looks at the history of American girlie mags.

Edison (I Have Fun Wherever I Go, 2008, etc.)—former High Times publisher, Hustler and Penthouse correspondent and editor in chief of Screw magazine—takes readers on an enthusiastic romp through the rise and fall of the major porno magazines of the 20th century, while profiling the self-imploding personalities who innovated effective ways of selling sexual fantasies to the average sexually dissatisfied male. Edison credibly insists that it’s these pornographers who have done all the important free-expression dirty work. His loudmouthed prose voice mixes punk attitude with a self-conscious literary style, giving a racy but otherwise conventional biographical account of high-rolling porn peddlers like Hugh Hefner, Bob Guccione, Al Goldstein and Larry Flynt. It’s an interesting study of the ways influence can snowball: Using Esquire as a springboard, Hefner’s Playboy became the innovator of men’s pin-up magazines, with incrementally raunchier improvements made to this publishing model over the years by big guns like Penthouse, Hustler, and Screw. Predictably, Edison trashes Hefner as a woman hater and increasingly clueless antiquarian. Penthouse honcho Guccione and Screw founder Goldstein have the most extreme rags-to-riches-to-rags stories. Guccione made a fortune with his Vaseline-lensed nudie shots but lost it all in a predictable maelstrom of stupidity and greed. Goldstein went on to million-dollar success in New York with his hotheaded porno-political humor but was eventually felled by the Internet and (surprise!) arrogance and greed. Lawsuit-addled wheelchair warrior Flynt comes across as heroic in comparison: two bullets in the back and he’s still running a diversified, expanding porn empire. However, the brunt of the biographical facts on Flynt and Hefner seems more like common knowledge for most readers interested in Edison’s subject. More intriguing are the author’s findings on lesser players in the porn game, such as the extraordinarily hapless Ralph Ginzburg, among others.

Brash and fun, but the biographical research yields few titillating surprises—not as consistently entertaining as the electric I Have Fun Everywhere I Go.

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-59376-284-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Soft Skull Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2011

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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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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