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THE BATTLE OF ARGINUSAE :
VICTORY AT SEA AND ITS TRAGIC AFTERMATH IN THE FINAL YEARS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
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KILLING ERATOSTHENES:
A TRUE CRIME STORY
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READING HERODOTUS:
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THE MUTILATION OF THE HERMS:
UNPACKING AN ANCIENT MYSTERY
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TRYING NEAIRA:
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PRISONERS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
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SOCRATES AT WAR:
THE MILITARY HEROICS OF AN ICONIC INTELLECTUAL
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ANCIENT GREEKS IN DRAG:
THE LIBERATION OF THEBES AND OTHER ACTS OF HEROIC TRANSVESTISM
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IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY TWEET:
FIVE HUNDRED 1ST LINES IN 140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
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I've decided to stop accepting review copies. The downside of getting buried in free books is that reading increasingly becomes an obligatory act. After some seven years of blogging books, it's time for me to return to the simple pleasure of reading only the books I want to read, when I want to read them.



  
From a random review:

  

« Holland, Barbara: Bingo Night at the Fire Hall | Main | Sansom, Ian: The Case of the Missing Books »

Sagal, Peter: The Book of Vice

  

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HarperCollins © 2007, 254 pages [amazon]
5 stars

Note: I read this book in part during a 24-Hour Read-a-Thon, and blogged about the book in mid-course. Here are the relevant posts: introduction, chapter 1, chapter 2, chapter 3, chapter 4, chapter 5.

Peter Sagal is the whip-smart host of NPR's news quiz show Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me! Fans of the program will be delighted to learn that Sagal is also now the author of a deliciously titled (and even more deliciously subtitled) exploration of iniquity: The Book of Vice: Very Naughty Things (And How to Do Them). The book is as fun as its title suggests.

[INSET TEXT: He describes the logistics of the operation--the uses to which the various rooms of the place were put--while trying to understand the nature of the Lifestyle: becoming emotionally attached to the people you have sex with is not the done thing, for example, yet people who are in it only for the sex are apparently frowned on as well.] Sagal discusses a different vice in each of the book's seven chapters--though sex looms as the dominant theme of three of them--dropping keen observations while describing his research into the subject at hand. For his first chapter, for example, on swinging, Sagal and his wife Beth observed the goings-on at a weekly swinger's party. He describes the logistics of the operation--the uses to which the various rooms of the place were put--while trying to understand the nature of the Lifestyle: becoming emotionally attached to the people you have sex with is not the done thing, for example, yet people who are in it only for the sex are apparently frowned on as well. In the end Sagal finds that he is not cut out for swinging himself:

"We are told, via their occasional interviews in the press, that swingers or Lifestylers or whatever are no different from you and me...they meet up to socialize, talk, drink, and dance with their good friends, old and new. And then they have sex with them. Which makes me stop, and consider the various good friends my wife and I have, and then consider how it would be if one of our suburban dinner parties ended with us removing our clothes and performing sexual acts, and I have to put my head between my knees and take deep breaths."

Elsewhere in the book Sagal writes about strip clubs and pornography. For the latter chapter he visits the set of a live, call-in sex show. (The stars of the show perform whatever acts their caller prescribes while a roomful of camera operators and lighting guys and directors watch, rather bored, from behind a thick glass partition.) Rounding out the book are chapters on gambling, eating, conspicuous consumption, and lying.

Sagal is a charming and funny guide through these particular avenues of sin. Maybe if you've done the things he describes--the $500-a-pull slot machines and 24-course dinners (that leave you hungry for Jack-in-the-Box), lap-dancing and lying and live broadcast sex--you'll find the book humdrum. For the rest of us armchair sinners it's pure pleasure.

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Comments

1.

Sounds like just the thing for a gift for the forthcoming December Festivities (you'll notice I didn't use the C word).

2.

Yes! Commendable restraint!

3.

I liked Dan Savage's version of this in Slouching Towards Gomorrah.

4.

Interesting, King Rat. I hadn't heard of that. (It's "Skipping," by the way. "Slouching Towards Gomorrah" is a Robert Bork book.) From my brief scan of the book on Amazon it looks like his approach is rather different. Sagal turns out to be an outsider looking in and finding, in the end, that his own happily-married life is perfectly satisfying, thank you very much. The reviews of Savage suggest a different spin.

5.

I would guess that Savage's is a bit more political, but it's still an outsider's perspective. But given both of their backgrounds (Sagal on centrist-liberal don't-rock-the-boat-too-much NPR, Savage in tweak-everyone The Stranger), the outsider perspective will be stronger in Sagal's book.




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About the blogger: Debra is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece, including Trying Neaira: The True Story of a Courtesan's Scandalous Life in Ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.

  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  






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