There’s more sex than art in this elaborate, spicy, period piece tell-all.



The painter and sculptor as Svengali.

London-based cultural historian and novelist Brandon explores how and why a large group of sophisticated, talented people fell under the spell of the mysterious, enigmatic artist Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968), a “singular mix of wit, fun, nihilism, and…indifference.” The author shifts back and forth between Paris and America, making the cast of characters particularly helpful in keeping track of the players—artists, writers, collectors, musicians, journalists, husbands, wives, and lovers—and their sexual proclivities over some 15 years. Drawing on revealing letters, diaries, and memoirs, Brandon’s buoyant, meticulous story begins in 1913 with New York’s Armory Show of new European art, including Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase. Walter and Mary Louise Arensberg, a wealthy couple, attended, and Walter, much impressed, decided to become a supporter of avant-garde art and the people who made it. Consequently, their New York City home became an influential salon. After Duchamp visited and became a close friend, their home transformed into an “international hot spot.” Duchamp enjoyed the attention of his new friends, the wealthy, married Louise Norton and actor and artist Beatrice Wood, a key player in this libidinous tale. At the same time, Henri-Pierre Roché, future author of Jules et Jim and a “voracious connoisseur” of sex, found himself under Duchamp’s spell. Also in town was Duchamp’s married friend Francis Picabia, who was smitten with Mary Louise. The plot thickens as Brandon pauses to discuss Duchamp’s Fountain, a groundbreaking “readymade” piece in the form of an upside-down urinal with puzzling “R. Mutt 1917” lettering. But the author quickly returns to the world of parties, alcohol, jazz, and free-wheeling sex as she chronicles the various relationships, with Duchamp, the instigator, lurking in the background along with new player in town photographer Man Ray. Overwhelming at times, in the end, this is really the ladies’ story.

There’s more sex than art in this elaborate, spicy, period piece tell-all.

Pub Date: March 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-64313-861-9

Page Count: 282

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

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A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.


A former New York City dancer reflects on her zesty heyday in the 1970s.

Discovered on a Manhattan street in 2020 and introduced on Stanton’s Humans of New York Instagram page, Johnson, then 76, shares her dynamic history as a “fiercely independent” Black burlesque dancer who used the stage name Tanqueray and became a celebrated fixture in midtown adult theaters. “I was the only black girl making white girl money,” she boasts, telling a vibrant story about sex and struggle in a bygone era. Frank and unapologetic, Johnson vividly captures aspects of her former life as a stage seductress shimmying to blues tracks during 18-minute sets or sewing lingerie for plus-sized dancers. Though her work was far from the Broadway shows she dreamed about, it eventually became all about the nightly hustle to simply survive. Her anecdotes are humorous, heartfelt, and supremely captivating, recounted with the passion of a true survivor and the acerbic wit of a weathered, street-wise New Yorker. She shares stories of growing up in an abusive household in Albany in the 1940s, a teenage pregnancy, and prison time for robbery as nonchalantly as she recalls selling rhinestone G-strings to prostitutes to make them sparkle in the headlights of passing cars. Complemented by an array of revealing personal photographs, the narrative alternates between heartfelt nostalgia about the seedier side of Manhattan’s go-go scene and funny quips about her unconventional stage performances. Encounters with a variety of hardworking dancers, drag queens, and pimps, plus an account of the complexities of a first love with a drug-addled hustler, fill out the memoir with personality and candor. With a narrative assist from Stanton, the result is a consistently titillating and often moving story of human struggle as well as an insider glimpse into the days when Times Square was considered the Big Apple’s gloriously unpolished underbelly. The book also includes Yee’s lush watercolor illustrations.

A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

Pub Date: July 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-27827-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2022

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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