Normally we don’t bother covering books that we think are terrible, but every now and then we can’t resist. There’s a book available for sale at a car wash (seriously) in L.A. called WTF? How to Survive 101 of Life’s Worst F-ing Situations. (That’s the name of the book, not the car wash, by the way.) And it turns out that one of life’s “worst f-ing situations” is when your girlfriend wants to be exclusive. Another f-ing disaster is when she wants to get a little kinky in the bedroom. It’s as if the authors are actually trying to piss us off. And it worked.
We’ve been a fan of Kristen Schaal’s since she played super-fan Mel on the awesomely genius show Flight of the Conchords. (If you’ve never seen it, stop reading this post immediately and add it to your Netflix queue. But come back!) She’s now a correspondent on The Daily Show, where her boyfriend Rich Blomquist is a writer, and they’ve written a book together called The Sexy Book of Sexy Sex. As you might have guessed, it pokes (heh) fun at the sex-writing biz. But we can take it. Really, we can. Just to prove it, here’s an excerpt — a 12-step guide to being a bad girl, a.k.a. a toad-licking crazy girl. And yes, for the record, we know that kink and crazy are not the same thing. But that doesn’t mean that they’re not occasional bed partners.
We, Em & Lo, worked with and are friends with (and Lo was apt-mates with) Jessica Baumgardner, who married Irad Eyal, which is our connection to the new book “Sex Degrees of Separation.” Irad has just turned his unhealthy obsession with celebrity hook-ups into an exhaustive encyclopedia that combines the idea of “six degrees of separation” and the game “six degrees of Kevin Bacon” with an emphasis on romantic ties and bodily fluids. Any “Us Weekly” subscriber (that would be Em) will be awed and amazed by the scope of this book, which includes extensively diagrammed connections between everyone from Paris Hilton to Diddy to, yes, Kevin Bacon. The graphic designers must be relaxing in a mental institution after this complicated project, which Irad compares to untangling a thousand iPod headphones that have been in your bag for a week.
Designer Makin Jan Ma It’s time for your summer reading list! Here are a few books, new and old, that will feed your brain on the trains, buses, assorted beaches and backyards where you’ve been escaping to. You wont want to miss this fine selection of stylish summer reading. Find out why (capsule) is the…
She posed in a bee costume for the cover of her new memoir, i know i am, but what are you? And still manages to look kinda hot in it.
She’s a fan of pubic hair. “Our body looks weird without it,” she told The Frisky. “Vaginas don’t look that nice to me without it. Like, little girls have cute vaginas. But lady vaginas, you need a little hair. It makes it look better. I just resent being told I’m supposed to do something with my pubic hair. Fuck off! It’s my thing. If you don’t like it, let’s move on. I don’t like you.”
We really should have some kind of back-stabbing, cat-fighting (or at least pillow-fighting) relationship with Erin Bradley — author of the new book Every Rose Has Its Thorn: The Rock ‘n’ Roll Field Guide to Guys — seeing as she picked up where we left off at Nerve.com. She’s been their advice lady now for five years. But we’re bigger people than that. Okay, we’re not, but she’s really sweet and very funny and gives solid advice — what’s not to like?
The book examines ten different types of guys, based on rock stars you know and love-slash-hate, as a means of giving straight women advice about their dating and sex lives. In other words, there’s a lot to be learned from trying to figure out if Morrissey would make a better boyfriend or booty call. If we were to judge a book by its cover, we’d never have picked this one up. But fortunately we’re not that superficial (and fortunately it’s much cooler-looking inside). Here are some of our favorite quotes about the ten different types covered in the book:
Iconic rocker Neil Young wasted no time in crafting a response to the launch of the war in Iraq, and the larger political and cultural forces he saw motivating it: the concept album Greendale came out in August, 2003, a mere six months after the first attacks were launched. Since then, Young has recrafted the story of Sun Green and her family into a live rock opera, a film (which he directed under the pseudonym Bernard Shakey), and, of course, a website (though, as you might expect, not the usual promotional site).
When we reviewed the book The Husbands and Wives Club: A Year in the Life of a Couples Therapy Group a few weeks back, we wrote: “Here are five couples who reject — albeit under the firm hand of a skilled therapist — the notion that there are only two acceptable narratives when it comes to talking about your own marriage: the long-walks-on-the-beach love story, or what [the author] calls the “resigned farce” — husbands and wives alike joking about their domestically useless/sexually burdensome/nagging spouse.”
On Monday here we introduced the book Uncovered by Jordan Matter, and featured four of the women in the book. Today we feature four more portraits and interviews.
Em & Lo: How did you two end up taking part in this photo shoot?
Mike: I heard about the project somewhat based on my working as a figure model, as a male, I would clearly not qualify but mentioned it to Mary. She agreed to pose and wanted me to pose with her as well.
Mary: And I am always up for a trip to NY.
We have to admit, when we first heard about Jordan Matter’s book Uncovered — topless portraits of more than 80 normal women (i.e. not models), all shot in public in NYC — we were cynical. First of all, it’s hard to get past the fact that Jordan Matter is a dude, who spent six years photographing topless women. Sure, some of the women are old enough to be his grandmother and there is an impressive range of body types featured. Still, we found it hard to get excited by the whole “embrace your body” message coming from a guy. Plus, while some of the jokes in the photos work, like the woman standing topless in front of a street stall selling knock-off bras, some — like the woman walking home from the office, topless with pearls from the waist up, corporate from the waist down — gave us second-hand embarrassment.
But then we started interviewing the women who participated in this project, and reading their personal statements that accompany their portraits in the book, as well as the awesome forward by Susan Seligson, author of the memoir Stacked: A 32DDD Reports from the Front (who, to her surprise, ended up posing as well). And our cynicism started to crumble. Also, turns out it’s legal to be topless in the city — who knew?! Seligson writes in the foreward:
“For all the lusting, leering and hooting my breasts have attracted, exposing them of my own volition seemed to shift the power base. When I remove my top and bra on a city street, if anyone is the aggressor it’s me alone. How can I be the victim if I stage a pre-emptive strike? The experience left me feeling upbeat and somehow victorious, and the effect lingered for days.”
Ryan Iverson has been casting a shadow over the Internet’s collective warm memories of books from our childhood with his droll parodies of Werner Herzog reading “Curious George” and “Madeline.” Most recently, he explicates “Waldo” or rather “Voldo,” as Herzog ponders the dilemma of “a man unstuck from place and time…his only lifeline to his…
The Examiner lists the “50 best author vs. author put-downs of all time” where opinionated and cranky famous authors apply their gift of words and gab to criticize their fellow writers. Here are some of my favorite put downs: 4. Edgar Allan Poe, according to Henry James (1876) An enthusiasm for Poe is the mark…
Before we started reading The Husbands and Wives Club: A Year in the Life of a Couples Therapy Group by Laurie Abraham (based on this NYT mag cover story), we had a number of preconceived notions. (1) Okay, so other people’s therapy might be interesting when Gabriel Byrne plays the therapist on HBO, but real-life couples and real-therapy therapy? It’s a miserable thing to say about other people’s marital troubles, but they can be so boring. (2) Group couples therapy? Isn’t that a little ’70s? (3) Wouldn’t you want to throw yourself off a bridge after a year of being embedded in five couples’ marital misery? Would you ever be able to have happy thoughts about the institution of marriage again?
The downside of an analog reading experience is that books don’t give you definitions of words you don’t know nor does it provide the proper pronunciation for author names. Here’s a handy cheat sheet for the latter issue. The only author I intentionally mispronounce is Ayn Rand’s name. I’ve known the correct way for a…
Oh, isn’t it fun to talk about how men are from Mars and women are from Venus? It’s like we’re practically two different species! And once almighty “Science” comes down from on high and explains these differences as natural, well then you better suit up because the inter-galactic, inter-species war of the sexes is going to be fought for a loooong time. And so it is with neuropsychiatrist Louann Brizendine’s new book “The Male Brian: A Breakthrough Understanding of How Men and Boys Think,” her follow-up to her 2006 “The Female Brain.” It’s already on it’s way to best seller status (it’s number #150 on Amazon) — for this is the stuff talk shows are made of! Why, men are practically born to cheat!
The New Yorker’s blog “The Book Bench” has recently been poetically analyzing their readers’ bookshelves from the photographs they submit. Here, they interpret Italian reader Maria Sepa’s: From the celestial sphere, knowledge, immaterial at first, rains gently into the minds of men; from there it falls onto the pages of books; and from there it…
Neither one of us ever read Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestselling memoir Eat, Pray, Love (soon to be a movie starring Julia Roberts) — we were both faintly annoyed by the idea of being along for the ride while some over-analytical divorcee worked through her problems on paper. But then Curtis Sittenfeld’s review of Gilbert’s Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peach with Marriage convinced us that Gilbert was a smarter, funnier, more insightful, and less annoying writer than we’d assumed. She was right: Committed — a sequel of sorts to Eat, Pray, Love — is a compelling take on marriage and its discontents. Sure, at times it feels like being along for the ride while some over-analytical affianced woman works through her issues on paper. In fact, it feels like this a lot of the time — but it is only very occasional annoying. The memoir is likeable for multiple reasons, but here are five of our favorite relationship tips that we took away from it (whether or not Gilbert intended them that way):
Photography duo Paulie & Pauline are coming out with a new book in April called “Off the Set” which features porn stars and their partners in intimate, non-porn moments. Paired with the images of the ten couples are essays by the photographers and some of their subjects, actual love letters, and stories that humanize people often thought of as sex machines. We asked Paulie and Pauline to give us some background on a few of the images from the book (which you can pre-order from Amazon):
“This cover photo is of Digital Playground contract star Jesse Jane and her husband Rich. Her given name is Cindy, which is just perfect because she reminds us of sweet little Cindy Loo Hoo from How The Grinch Stole Christmas! She’s a tiny slip of a thing, especially when she’s standing next to her husband, who could easily be mistaken for a Na’vi from Pandora if you painted him blue. We photographed them one hot summer morning at their home outside Oklahoma City earlier this year.
Julie Klausner’s new memoir, I Don’t Care About Your Band, is one of the funniest books about dating we’ve ever read. And this is coming from two women who are kind of sick of (a) memoirs and (b) books about dating. Her book will remind you that dating can always get worse — but fortunately, the worse the date, the better the story it’ll eventually make. (If nothing else, you’ll be comforted by the fact that your blind date was never arrested for kidnapping.) Here’s an excerpt in which she compares Kermit the Frog to skinny hipster bad boys/bad boyfriends:
One blogger collected over 20 different covers to recently deceased author J.D. Salinger’s influential book “Catcher in the Rye.” It’s interesting to see the wide ranging approach designer took in coming up with covers in re-issues of this seminal book. In addition, The New Yorker opened their archives, typically available only to paying subscribers, so…
Got a favorite book on sustainability? One that changed your view of our relationship to the environment? In my case, Paul Hawken’s The Ecology of Commerce, Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael series, and Ray Anderson’s Mid-Course Correction all opened my eyes to ideas of more sustainable relationships between the economy and the environment.
We recently spoke with Hannah Seligson about her new book “A Little Bit Married: How to Know When It’s Time to Walk Down the Aisle or Out the Door”:
Why did you write this book? Personal experience?
Of course! I’m my own guinea pig. After my first round of being A Little Bit Married, I became intrigued by this new dating pattern that I saw practically every 20-something friend of mine ebb in and out of. Here were these relationship that fifty or sixty years ago would have most likely culminated in marriage, but today often do not. So the book is an attempt to understand why that’s the case.
Last Sunday, in a big NYTimes think piece, sexual mores writer Katie Roiphe accused Dave Eggers and his fellow male American literary contemporaries of being too into cuddling (like that’s a bad thing):
The younger writers are so self-conscious, so steeped in a certain kind of liberal education, that their characters can’t condone even their own sexual impulses; they are, in short, too cool for sex. Even the mildest display of male aggression is a sign of being overly hopeful, overly earnest or politically untoward. For a character to feel himself, even fleetingly, a conquering hero is somehow passé. More precisely, for a character to attach too much importance to sex, or aspiration to it, to believe that it might be a force that could change things, and possibly for the better, would be hopelessly retrograde. Passivity, a paralyzed sweetness, a deep ambivalence about sexual appetite, are somehow taken as signs of a complex and admirable inner life. These are writers in love with irony, with the literary possibility of self-consciousness so extreme it almost precludes the minimal abandon necessary for the sexual act itself, and in direct rebellion against the Roth, Updike and Bellow their college girlfriends denounced. (Recounting one such denunciation, David Foster Wallace says a friend called Updike “just a penis with a thesaurus”).
photo via Foxtongue
Did you know that fairy tales used to be pretty X-rated? But then the Brothers Grimm et al deleted all the dirty parts — the party poopers! — to make them more family-friendly. Not unlike Anne Rice’s late ’80′s Sleeping Beauty trilogy, the new book In Sleeping Beauty’s Bed: Erotic Fairy Tales retells 15 stories with all the missing naughty bits filled in by author Mitzi Szereto’s imagination (and yes, Cinderella is about foot fetishism, natch). Each of the tales is prefaced with an introduction detailing its history and the sexual culture in which it was first written. (Now we just want to know which scholar is going to take it upon him- or herself to dig up the dirty originals…) It’s the perfect holiday gift for someone who’s been naughty and nice this year. Here’s an excerpt from Szereto’s retelling of “The Turnip” tale — we guarantee you’ll never look at this root vegetable in the same way again…
Thanks to The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor on NPR today, we learned it was James Thurber’s birthday (12/8/1894-11/2/1961). He was a celebrated American writer and wit, best known for his short stories and cartoons in The New Yorker. While on staff there, he shared a small office and became great friends with E.B. White (hey, just like we became great friends when we worked and shared a desk at the online mag Nerve). Together the two wrote “Is Sex Necessary?: Or Why You Feel the Way You Do” (1929), the first prose book either of them had published (hey, just like we wrote our first book together, “The Big Bang”!). Of course, ours was a true-blue sex manual and theirs was a parody of sex manuals — a hilarious send-up of the new “sexologists” on the scene back then, like Freud and his compatriots. And while ours goes into shameless detail (there’s a chapter on fisting, fer chrisakes), their’s never really gets to the sex at all — and that’s its genius.