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Whenever I review a book about tantra, I have to start by clarifying which tantra I’m talking about. For tantra is one of those concepts that everybody thinks they know the meaning of, but few agree about what it is exactly. There are at least three broad interpretations of tantra. Among old-school Indian Tantrics, tantra involves the use of practices and rituals to elevate one’s consciousness, and at least some of said practices involve activities that mainstream religions (i.e. Hindu, Buddhism and others) consider vices. Two alternatives can be considered in contrast to that baseline view. The first of these is the mainstream religious view of tantra that keeps the unobjectionable practices and dismisses those practices that the fly in the face of religious prohibitions, saying that they are just misunderstandings or misinterpretations and not to be taken literally.
The second view, and the one relevant to his book, is the modern and mostly Western notion of tantra as being all about sex. This isn’t to suggest that these modern Tantrics are just guided by base desire and are only seeking tips to be better in the bedroom. Most of them see tantra as a road to an altered state of consciousness, but that alpha and the omega of that route is in sexual activity. I’d like to read a book dealing in the first view, but either that is dying out or those kind of tantrics don’t write books. This has left me with books on the alternative perspectives. I’ve already reviewed one on the mainstream religious perspective, and so here is one on the modern / Western sex-centric approach. It should be noted that the authors are aware of the differences in strains and refer to the branch they are offering as “Reconstructed Yoga” or “Neo-Tantric Yoga.”
The book that Frost and Frost deliver is designed to be one-stop shopping for those who would like to join or start a “tantric house.” A tantric house is sort of like an ashram, but smaller and focused on the “Neo-Tantric Yoga” (sexually-oriented) practices. Needless to say, there is a great deal of protocol to consider when living under such conditions. The book is logically organized. It starts with sort of philosophical and conceptual background and progresses to delving into the specific details of various practices. The ten chapters are arranged into three parts that deal, respectively, with basic precepts, preparation, and the details of the practices.
I should point out that it’s not just in the emphasis on sexually-based practices that this book differs from the traditional view of tantra. One of the best examples of this can be seen in the first sentence of a preface entitled “How to Use this Book” which says, “Many believe that teaching requires gurus, but that belief became obsolete centuries ago with the invention of printing. This book will be your personal guru…” In the old-school view of tantra, the importance of an actual teacher is considered paramount both because ritual and practice are so central to the activity and because there is so much opportunity to lose oneself in the weeds.
The book includes a great deal of ancillary matter. There are many black-and-white line drawings and diagrams. There are two appendices. The first appendix delves into the logistics of a tantric house from pet ownership to floor plans to issues to consider in considering applicants (needless to say many of these items wouldn’t be appropriate – or legal – to ask about when considering a prospective roommate or employee.) The other appendix is offered for gay participants because the rituals described throughout the book anticipate heterosexual coupling. There is a short bibliography and some brief assorted front matter as well.
This book is well written and organized for delivering what it’s intended to deliver. While it covers a lot of background information, it’s put together in a “how-to” format. This means that there are a lot of step-by-step instructions that could be useful if you intend to carry out the practices, but aren’t the most pleasant reading if one is trying to get a feel for the subject and / or to compare and contrast it to approaches with which one might be more familiar. There is certainly some intriguing food-for-thought peppered throughout, but it’s a how-to manual through-and-through.
I’d recommend this book for anyone who is interested in getting insights about life in a tantric household – particularly if one is interested in the details of ritual as well as the logistics and practical issues of such living. I’m sure there are more entertaining accounts of living in such a house, but which will not provide as much systematic explanation.
Amazon page (note: they have a different edition, I can’t comment on its commentary and art.)
This book was originally entitled “Rati Ratna Pradipika.” It’s an unfinished manuscript penned by a member of the Wadiyar (Wodeyar) Kingdom over 350 years ago. The Wadiyars were a south Indian royal family that ruled out of Mysore from 1399 to 1950. Like the “Kamasutra,” which heavily influenced this text, it’s a sex manual. Readers of the “Kamasutra” will not find anything new herein. This book serves more as a window into sexuality, culture, and their overlap for the place and time written. That said, it’s a quick read to appease one’s curiosity. The edition I read was only slightly more than 100 pages and that includes extensive commentary, artworks, and front and back matter.
This treatise consists of seven chapters. Chapter one is largely about astrology and what sex acts are most auspiciously practiced on which days of the month, but it starts with a brief classification of women with regards sexual promise. There’s not much content in this chapter that has any validity outside of the culture and times of its writing, and one wouldn’t want to consider this information to be a relevant guide to one’s behavior in the present day.
Chapter two delves into greater detail in classifying women and men (by body type, demeanor, and genital size / characteristics.) Women are classified as gazelle, mare, and elephant and men as hare, bull, and horse. There’s a brief discussion of which classes are ideally paired. The influence of dosha (i.e. kapha, pitta, vata)–a three-fold classification scheme broadly referenced in yoga and ayurveda—is also described herein.
Chapter three describes “outer play” which—as the name suggests—consists of acts that don’t involve bodily penetration (at least not beyond the so-called “French kiss.”) There are subsections for embracing, kissing, nail marks, and bite marks. The nexus of pain and pleasure is seen in the discussion.
Chapters four and five both concern the practice of “inner love.” The first of these chapters discusses 27 styles of intercourse. The 27 ways of intercourse are functions of genital size, time to orgasm, and level of passion. Chapter five elaborates on the subject that most people think of when they think of Indian sex manuals, and that is the physical positions. As with the “Kamasutra,” these postures range from simple and straight-forward to contortionistic.
Chapter six describes sixteen varieties of oral sex (i.e. eight female to male, and the same number vice versa.) Perhaps reflective of the misogyny of the times, the male to female varieties reflect different physical approaches, whereas female-on-male oral includes varieties such as “post-quarrel.”
Chapter seven is sort of a miscellany chapter that describes approaches to “love blows,” sounds, and a tour of the traits of women of various regions of India. As with the rest of the book, there are some entries that read comedically. (e.g. “While the woman is either sitting on his knee or on a bed the man lovingly punches her with his fist.”… “In response to this cruel violence she will cry like a goose, cuckoo, or duck.” However, the commentary clarifies and reduces confusion over what is presumably an attempt to translate as literally as possible.
The edition that I read (ed. by Swami Sivapriyananda with art by Raghupati Bhatta) was well done. The commentary did a great job of elaborating on confusing elements in the text as well as clarifying points which are incongruous with what we’ve come to know about sex and sexuality through the lens of modern science.
As mentioned, the edition I read had artworks to help clarify the text. These paintings / drawings are exaggerated (not unlike Japanese erotic artwork) and stylistic, but give one the gist of what the author was trying to convey. Most of the pictures are in chapters five and six where they are most helpful, but a few are placed for aesthetic purposes in other chapters. There’s also a brief bibliography in the edition that I read.
I’d recommend this book for anyone who’s interested in the nexus of sex, culture, and yogic / ayurvedic thought.
This book describes the life-cycle of one woman’s submissive relationship with a dominant man. Her relationship with the man isn’t sexual in the conventional sense–though she participates in lots of sex and he commands her to engage in various sexual activities. It’s a relatively tame and more modern variant of the tale told in the famous “The Story of O” written by another Frenchwoman, Pauline Réage (a.k.a. Anne Desclos.)
While “Submission” is like any number of stories of submissive individuals being dominated by a dominant and / or sadistic partner, it does carve out a unique space. The female lead is a highly regarded lawyer who is married with a family. She isn’t on the weak side of some power dynamic (i.e. it’s not a secretary / boss or employee / employer kind of tale.) That’s not that different from “Story of O” in which the lead is a successful photographer, but it does add complexity to the lead’s motivation.
It also makes the story’s main question a little bit more intriguing. That question being, how long can the relationship go on with the demands on her becoming progressively more intense (re: degrading) while the intimacy of the relationship isn’t increasing as she’d like? This tension builds to a climax at a point where the man momentarily shifts from the cool dominant to an angry abusive.
It goes without saying that the book contains graphic sexual scenes and won’t be the cup of tea of puritans or those with delicate sensibilities. Included among acts described are bisexuality, public nudity, wearing of sex toys in public settings, and mostly mild sadism.
“Submission” is interesting both as a work of erotica and as a psychological sketch. There seem to be many books out there that tell similar stories, so it’s hard to place this one. I wouldn’t call it exceptional in any way, and I found “The Story of O” to be more intriguing and intense. That said, while I haven’t read the “50 Shades…” books, from what I heard about them, this one likely surpasses them in terms of writing and the building of characters of verisimilitude. [That said, the “50 Shades…” books have obviously been immensely popular for a reason, and that reason—near as I can tell—is they tap into a fantasy in which a man who is extraordinary in every way (genius-billionaire-playboy-philanthropist-with-six-pack-abs) falls for a woman who is mediocre in every way because she submits to his will. “Submission” won’t scratch that itch.]
The book is short, clocking in at a less than 220 pages. It does have a discernible plot, though it’s more character-centric. A little more depth with the lead character and her dominant could be interesting. As it is the reader is left to draw many conclusions about the characters’ motivations—which, admittedly, has its advantages.
If you know what you are getting into, I’d recommend this book.
“Perv” is an examination of human sexuality outside the norm. As one might expect from the back blurb mention of a woman who was aroused by the Eiffel Tower, the book provides many a revelatory “things-that-make-one-go-HUH?” moment. The author’s humor–and willingness to offer cringe-worthy personal confessions–makes the book all the more readable. (e.g. As an example of the author’s humor: “As an adolescent male, you’re basically an ambulant sperm factory with an incompetent foreman…”) The book is in the vein of Mary Roach’s “Bonk” (something about sexuality triggers the urge to go monosyllabic), but Bering carves out his niche in deviant territory, while Roach’s book provides a more balanced look at the subject (although both books exploit anomalies to make for interesting reading.)
There are two ways in which this book wasn’t the one I expected, one of which is entirely my fault for reading too much into some words in the book blurb while ignoring others. I think the author and/or publisher must take some responsibility for the other as the subtitle itself leads one to expect a different emphasis in the book beyond the first chapter. First, I expected more insight into why people engage in these behaviors. Are there explanations rooted in our evolution? Does a given act result from some cross-wiring in the brain? There’s a cursory mention of science in the book’s description which led me to expect it to go much further beyond a cataloging of anomalous sexual behavior. To be fair, the author does back load an interesting discussion on the role of theory of the mind into the last chapter and there is some of this discussion throughout. However, the book spends much more time on history and semantics than I expected. Semantics sounds boring, but there are some fascinating insights into how words came to be used, and how usages have changed over time. (Also, the reader may be surprised at the huge vocabulary of “-philias” [objects of love / attraction] that’s not unlike the more well-known one for “-phobias” [fears.])
The second way this wasn’t the book I expected was that—owing to the subtitle “the sexual deviant in all of us”—I expected much more discussion of widespread but unconventional sexual proclivities (e.g. exhibitionism, voyeurism, dominance / submission, role-play.) Instead, Bering spends a lot of time discussing rare fetishes for materials, animals, objects, etc, and also extremely high-profile (but also rare) proclivities such as pedophilia and vovarephilia (cannibalistic arousal.) One can see the appeal from the book selling perspective. Said emphasis provides a lot of WTF and giggle-inducing moments to keep up the reader’s interest. However, if you’re expecting drilling down into [no double entendre intended] why people engage in these activities, mostly you’ll get playful variants on “the heart wants what the heart wants” and not so much insight into whether there are unseen Darwinian mechanisms at work or whether there’s some synaptic cross-wiring. I doubt this is a conscious attempt to avoid dealing with the un-PC ramifications of finding some deviant behaviors to be explicable in terms of brains that are operating within expected parameters while others may only be explained in terms of something not working as usual. I doubt this because Bering seems quite willing to take the book in uncomfortable directions. I’m not certain that there’s not an unconscious bias away from considering the “why” questions because it risks putting one in the cross-hairs even if one reports in an objective and non-judgmental way. (Perhaps there’s a lack of scientific findings to report for the same reason.)
Still, while I didn’t get the book that I expected, there were some surprising bonuses to weigh into the mix. Bering provides interesting food-for-thought on a few topics. One of these is what he calls the “naturalistic fallacy,” which is the idea that whether an activity can be considered acceptable depends upon whether one sees it elsewhere in nature (i.e. besides humanity.) This has been used over the years to divide acceptable from unacceptable “perversions”—often by people who had little to no idea what activities are or aren’t seen across the animal kingdom. (We do, after all, see monkeys literally throwing their poop.) Another challenging area of consideration is whether society’s extreme distaste for pedophilia leads us to write laws that actually exacerbate child abuse and exploitation (e.g. completely CGI [computer generated imagery] pornographic material is illegal, and—according to the author—there is reason to believe that–were it not—exploitation of children would decline.)
The book consists of seven chapters. An introductory chapter sets up the idea of sexual deviance and its changing definitions. Chapter 2 is about the many ways in which people manage to overcome their instincts toward disgust in order to engage in sexual activities. Chapter 3 looks at various forms of hypersexuality (e.g. nymphomania) and the changing definitions over time—and the biases contained therein (i.e. it was once thought to be a condition only females could experience.) Chapter 4 considers various paraphilias—i.e. unconventional sources of arousal. Chapter 5 deals with the subjective experience of many of these sexual behaviors and how that brushes up against societal norms. Chapter 6 delves into the topic of age and attraction discussing pedophilia, hebephilia, ephebophilia, teleiophilia, and gerontophilia. Of these, the vast majority of people are teleiophilics (attracted to full-grown adults) with hebephilic and ephebophilic tendencies not being uncommon (i.e. attraction to pubescent or post-pubescent youths.) Much of the discussion is about pedophilia and the legal entanglement of pedophilia and ephebophilia. Chapter 7 delves into the science and psychology in a way that I wished the rest of the book had.
There are no graphics in the book. It does have both chapter end-notes and bibliographic notes (the former being more foot-note like elaborations and the latter being mostly sources.)
I found this book interesting. It was more historical and semantic (dealing in the terminology of deviant sexuality and its changing nature over time) and less scientific and psychological than I expected, but it was still loaded with interesting information and insights. I’d recommend this book with the provisos mentioned, i.e. that it might not be the book you expect and may deal much more in rare proclivities than one expects.
Scootley-Wootleys are not of this world.
They don’t come in 2 types–a boy and a girl.
There are 16 sexes, 64 ways to mate,
and 3,000 rules on who and whom may date.
Pop-too can’t date Wah-toh, and Wah-toh can’t date Plarks,
but Wah-toh can take Pop-too for Sunday in the park.
Blang-doos and Moracks can only date each other.
Unless a Plark and a Blang-doo have a common grandmother.
The Siskay and the For-noo can only date but once.
But that’s plenty enough, cause it takes the whole of 4 months.
Planning an orgy necessitates a complex algorithm,
plus: blocks, straps, and a composite pulley system.
Just keeping track of it all was making me witless,
til I struck on a policy of minding my own business.
“Touch” is a neuroscientist’s perspective on the human sense of touch, and the profound impact it has on life in our species.
It’s a short book, only about 200 pages of substantive text, arranged into eight chapters. The first chapter considers the role that our sense of touch plays in our lives as social animals. There are a number of studies described in this chapter, but I’ll cite only two that I think give an idea of what the chapter is all about. The first considers why a person holding a cold coffee is likely to be viewed more negatively than if that same person was holding a hot coffee after a handshake. The second reports that survey takers in a mall were more likely to gain compliance if they engaged in gentle, casual, and non-creepy touch—e.g. fingers to forearm.
The second chapter explores the combination of sensors we have in our skin—particularly in our fingers–that allow us to conduct feats of dexterity that (while we take them for granted) are phenomenally difficult. For all the billions put into robotics research, robots are nowhere close to being able to complete tasks that any five-year old can do. The third chapter examines how humans are uniquely geared to be able to give and recognize a particular type of touch sensation, the caress. Throughout the book there are a number of interesting stories, some of them are scientific case studies and others… not so much. This chapter begins with the story of a man on trial for flying into a rage because his girlfriend couldn’t get the pressure right when engaging in manual stimulation. (The author was actually on the jury.)
The fourth chapter delves more deeply and explicitly into sexual contact. Whereas chapter 3, dealt largely with hand against random skin, this chapter deals in genitals and erogenous zones more specifically. There are also a number of fascinating cases / stories herein. A lot of the chapter deals in how we experience and interpret pleasure.
Chapter five explains a specific type of sensation, that of temperature. It considers why crushed chili feels hot but crushed mint feels cool to the skin. While the focus of the book is on human anatomy, physiology, and social interaction, there are many cases from other species throughout the book. This chapter offers a prime example. It explains how Vampire Bats have a unique ability to sense infrared. This is of benefit to them, since they only take blood meals and, therefore, need to be able to sense where the blood is flowing and has the least insulation (fur) over it.
Continuing the examination of specific kinds of sensation, chapter six is about pain. This is where the neuroscientific perspective offers some interesting insight. In particular, because it considers why soldiers who had multiple gun wounds could do their job on the battlefield with nary a peep of complaint, but then would raise holy hell about a bad blood stick a few days later in the hospital. The case of a medic who was badly shot up but not cognizant of it until later is discussed in some detail.
Chapter 7 deals in the itchy, and asks and answers the question of whether or not itchiness is a particular case of low-intensity pain. By low intensity, I’m not speaking of the compulsive behavior sometimes spurred by such sensations.
Chapter 8 is also highly neuroscience influenced. It deals with various illusions of sensation, and how these illusions come about through the interaction of sense and the brain. While the most famous example of such an illusion is phantom limb pain experienced by amputees, Linden addresses less traumatic and more work-a-day tactile illusions for most of the chapter. (This may be because there are a number of popular works of neuroscience that deal in phantom limbs—most notably V.S. Ramachandran’s books.)
I enjoyed this book. It conveys significant technical detail, but does so in a fashion that is easy for a non-expert to follow both because of readable writing and the use of stories. The author uses frequent graphics to help clarify points, and the graphics (mostly line drawings and graphs) do their job by being easy to follow and interpret.
In short, the book was highly readable, concise, and informative. I’d recommend it for anyone interested in the sense of touch.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Paul Bloom’s book is about why we take pleasure in peculiar actions, proclivities, and objects. These are the pleasures that aren’t readily or directly explained by our evolutionary hardwiring. Evolution has programmed us to experience pleasure with sex and eating to encourage procreation and nourishment. In other words, those who experienced pleasure with sex had sex more often, and passed on their genes more successfully. Those who had a healthy appetite, ate more, became stronger, survived, and passed on their genes.
However, just because the pleasure of sex is readily understood through biology, doesn’t give us insight into the panoply of activities that people find pleasurable in a sexual way that have no value for procreation whatsoever. Bloom uses the example of masochism, but there are all sorts of kinky fetishes out there that one might also consider. It’s the peculiar pleasures that Bloom tries to explain. This is not to suggest that Bloom’s book is entirely about food or sex. He addresses each of those subjects with a chapter of its own, but they aren’t the sum total of the book. Both he and I, no doubt, rely heavily on food and sex because they are such fundamental pleasures and ones whose domains have blossomed far beyond the dictates of biology.
So what does the book address besides food and sex? It examines why people collect things that were once owned by famous people? Bloom sites a study showing that Joshua Bell anonymously playing violin in the subway in street clothes can barely garner a collective $32 in an afternoon, even having been passed by people who will pay $200 each to hear him later that evening as he wears a tuxedo in a concert hall, though playing the same songs on the same $3.5million violin. Why do we sit around watching television and movies? If any of these pleasures seem self-evident, I would encourage you to ask yourself why they should be? It’s by no means clear that we should value something more highly because of who previously owned it, and it’s certainly not clear why we should get value by watching others play act lives that seem more interesting than our own.
The theory that Bloom presents is called essentialism. It’s the idea that each of these things that give us pleasure represents the essence of something or someone in our minds. So a person who pay’s 500 times the going rate for a used guitar solely based on the fact (x-factor) that it once belonged to John Lennon is, according to Bloom, imagining that there’s some sort of essence of Lennon that rubbed off onto the guitar. Yes, the guy buying the guitar could be buying it entirely based on economic considerations, but the only reason there’s an economic benefit (economic rents in economist terminology) to be made is that there are people out there (many of them) who desire to possess a famous artist’s instrument even though it costs them far more than an equivalent guitar not owned by a famous person. Things become even clearer when one looks at an item like JFK’s tape measure—i.e. a mundane item that is not tied to the man’s fame. (Said tape measure sold for an absurd amount.)
Bloom discusses art forgeries to elaborate this concept of “essence” versus the intrinsic value (i.e. the beauty of the art.) There are many cases of paintings being sold for millions because they were believed to be painted by a certain “artistic genius” and then they become trash when it’s discovered that they were painted by a nobody—a nobody who’s genius was clearly sufficient to convince all the experts that he was some other genius for a while, mind you. If what we cared about was the beauty of the painting, its value would have nothing to do with its origins. In this example, it might seem to be all about rarity (a dead artist paints no more, and, thus, has a limited stock of paintings), but there is reason to believe that’s not the whole story.
We can see the value of these essences ubiquitously. There have been a number of blind taste test experiments that show that oenophiles (wine lovers/experts) can’t tell nearly as much about a wine’s delicate intricacies when they don’t have its label on hand. Famously, there was the CEO of Perrier who couldn’t pick his own company’s water out of a blind line up of waters, though insisting it was a superior product. (It took him five tries out of seven waters.) Even after that event there were people willing to spend twice as much for Perrier because it gave them some pleasure that was completely delinked from its taste or nutritional characteristics.
Bloom’s thesis is interesting, and he presents a lot of fascinating examples in this book. What the book doesn’t really explain is how come certain essences act heavily on some people and not at all on others. It also seems like a theory that begs for another level of explanation. Why should such essences exist, i.e. what is their root cause? The latter may prove difficult given the degree to which individuals vary in their peculiar pleasures from one to the next.
I found this book to be intriguing, and would recommend if for people with interests in the oddities of human behavior.
I know what you’re going to say. Why would I want to murder a cereal killer, a taco belle, a holy cow, a pig in a blanket, a deviled egg, or any of the other bearers of bad Halloween punnery? First, you want to kill someone. You don’t have to admit it to me and I’d advise against admitting it to the District Attorney, but at least admit it to yourself. Second, if you kill the person you really want to kill (e.g. your boss, the tax man, your personal trainer, or your hairdresser—sorry, low blow) you’ll be the lead suspect. Therefore, you need to find a way to vent your homicidal rage into productive outlets, and I’d argue that the killing of punsters is community service. You shouldn’t even think of it as murder. It’s more like culling the Halloween herd. Forest fires kill, but the next year the forest is more lush and beautiful than ever before.
Now let’s get down to the real reason to conduct your own Halloween killing spree. Because it’s the perfect time for the perfect crime. Think about it.
- Anonymity: Except for the lazy people who wear a T-shirt with “Halloween Costume” printed in unimaginative block letters, everybody is in makeup or has their head stuffed in some stinking mask that five people have thrown up in within the last three years. This makes it almost impossible to identify suspects. The lazy bastards would be eliminated immediately anyway because it takes commitment to be a homicidal maniac.
- Relative Inconspicuousness: You won’t be the only one who’s apparently blood spattered. Besides Marti Gras and full moons, what other nights can one say that. There will be large numbers of people wielding weapons and looking creepy. What better time to blend in?
- Distraction: If I might be granted a brief diatribe. Halloween used to be the holiday of terror, but no more. Valentine’s Day may be the holiday of romance (or florists), but Halloween is the holiday of sex. However, you can use this trend to your advantage. There’s a great deal of distraction to be garnered from the proliferation of sexy nurses, sexy waitresses, and sexy actuarials. When the girl whose costume is painted on rather than worn walks through the room to get a single potato chip, that’s a good time to jab the hypodermic into the neck of the nearest drunk pun and get the hell out of dodge.
So how will you choose your target? First, as indicated, it’s best to pick someone who’s inebriated because no one will realize they’re dead–and not just passed out–until they begin to stink. Don’t worry, finding a drunk won’t be hard. At a given Halloween party there will be four designated drivers for the 150 people in attendance—so 148 people will be completely hammered. [No, my math is not that bad. Two of those designated drivers are cheating bastards. If you kill a pun who’s a cheating designated driver you’ve hit the trifecta—OK, maybe my math is that bad. At any rate, you get bonus points. ]
Next comes the question of determining whether the costume is a pun or not. This can be harder than it seems. Sure there are the easy ones I mentioned above (and others like Kevin “Bacon” [Kevin nametag on a meat vest], “Bat” Man [w/ Louisville Slugger], Down for the Count [Dracula with a blowup doll orally affixed to his crotch region], Spice Girl, Dust Bunny, Formal Apology [tuxedo-clad man with “sorry” written on his tie], etc.) that will be immediately obvious.
However, what if one sees a guy in a Grim Reaper costume with a bag of pot. Perhaps this is just someone who likes to imbibe. However, if the pot is dayglow green, then you may have a “the grass is greener on the other side” who desperately needs killing. The key is that one must pay attention to the details. Sometimes the costume will be poorly done. Imagine a fine “Tom the Cat” costume with three misshaped spheres feebly stapled to the crotch region. This is a “horny as a three-balled tom cat” who must die.
On the other hand, you should avoid reading too much into costumes. Say you see a girl who looks like a stripper. You shouldn’t engage in some Rube Goldberg-esque thought process in which you conclude that she is saying, “All that glitters is not gold–because sometimes it’s a stripper.” Said woman may merely be costumed as a stripper, or might be a stripper who just got off stage and didn’t have time to go out looking for a costume.
When in doubt, if the costume doesn’t seem to make a lick of sense, it’s probably someone’s sense of clever gone awry and you shouldn’t feel bad about friendly fire against a non-pun.
Finally, some general rules of thumb (BTW: feel free to kill anyone dressed in a giant mitten with a page of the tax code taped to the thumb):
- Only kill one pun per party. Being a killer of puns is like being a Marine Sniper—except that it’s completely illegal and involves no honor whatsoever—my point is that if you loiter in place you’ll get pinned down by the Vietcong. It doesn’t matter whether the party in question has the best pigs in a blanket (i.e. the hors doeuvres, not the cutesy couple costume), the best DJ, or the sluttiest witches, maids, librarians, or geologists in town. Don’t get greedy. Get in and get out—well, you can grab a handful of those delectable pigs in a blanket on the way out, but then get out of the house!
- Never wear the same costume to more than one party. The police call that a clue. You have to be like Kathrine Heigl in that 27 Dresses movie—which I never saw. Do the quick change like Clark Kent between parties. That brings me to an alternative killing scheme whereby you can kill anyone who’s dressed as a character from a romantic comedy.
- Don’t consume a lot of legumes, high fiber foods, beer, or Taco Bell before your outing. Just because no one will see your face inside that barf-splotched mask doesn’t mean they won’t be able to smell you. Plus the zippers in costumes are unreliable, and you don’t want a case of Taco Trots to hamper your evening’s fun.
- Don’t wear a costume that’s too menacing. You want to be able to point to someone who is nearby, completely innocent, and who looks like a killer and say, “she did it.” Also, don’t wear the “Identity Thief” costume in which one has name tags all over one’s outfit with different names. First, it plants the seed of criminality in the mind of those around you. Second, it’s a bad pun and may result in your being stabbed. Which brings me to the ultimate rule:
- Don’t wear a pun costume yourself, it may result in your being stabbed. I’m not saying that I once stabbed a prostitute with a Seeing Eye dog who turned out to be just another good-hearted Halloween killer because “love is blind,” but…
I hope this guide to perpetrating a Halloween massacre has been helpful. I think we’d all like to bring the fear back to Halloween like all the Saints who partied down on All Saints’ Day Eve intended. So, whether you’re a first time killer or you’ve been around the block (another potential costume cliché to kill), a few simple steps will keep you out of the hands of the slutty cops—or regular cops.
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
This book was listed in one of those “500 Books One Must Read” lists. Maybe it was “1,001 Must-Read Books.” However large the number, I think it was wrongly included. But it was free in e-book form (or nearly so) and so I figured: “I love free and I like edgy, so what’s not to enjoy.” Besides, this book has been banned many places around the world and there’s nothing that makes me want to read a book like it being banned. Plus, how many authors have such profound impact on the language as to have their names raised from that status of proper noun to common noun (the Marquis de Sade being from whence the word sadism, or “delight in cruelty,” is derived.)
Now the natural inclination of people seeing the uncomplimentary fashion in which I present this novel will be to think that I’m just a vanilla guy who found the work morally objectionable and that tarnished my view. It’s true that the scat, pedophilia, rape, and—in the latter chapters—homicidal mania rampant throughout the book are not my cup of tea. I, therefore, may not be able to convince you that I could have found the book appealing if it presented the same content in a more skillful manner. [I can’t imagine such a book being “enjoyable,” but I can imagine one that would be “engrossing.”]
However, I intend to convince you that there is a great deal that is unappealing about this book that has nothing to do with the subject matter. I firmly believe that, regardless of one’s ability to stomach the substantive content, one will still find the book to be an utter disappointment. [It should be noted that many people will find the book is more effective in the horror genre than the erotica genre—which isn’t to say that it succeeds in either.]
The synopsis is that four wealthy and prominent men take a harem of 46 individuals (boys, girls, men, and women) to a remote retreat to both have their way with them and, ultimately, snuff most of them out. The four men spend their time listening to tales of debauchery and sadism as told by a couple of prostitutes and then emulating the acts in the aforementioned stories.
Now, you may say, “What would keep 46 people from overwhelming four men—rich and powerful as they may be—and regaining their freedom?” Well, that’s the first problem with the book. It’s true that many of the victims aren’t adults, but enough are to make a rebellion workable. We are never told why this should work, and in this way the book is just a bunch of crude juvenile fantasies that fail the credulity test. A Bishop or President tells someone to drink acid or kill their own kin, and we are just supposed to accept that they would do it without question. The book sets up no tension. It really is the fantasy realm of an impotent man with delusions of grandeur.
The organization of the book is in five parts corresponding to the months / partial months that make up the 120 days mentioned in the title, and the storytellers tell progressively more vicious tales as the book progresses. The first couple parts don’t involve much violence and the acts described aren’t much different from what one might find in a book like The Story of O, except for the tonnage of poo in the Marquis’ stories. Having compared this to Réage’s work, let me say that it’s not just the poo that makes Sade’s work inferior, it’s also the lack of insight into the mind of the characters. (Part of the problem is that there is a vast cast of victims that have no dimensionality to them.) We see O’s reluctance, anger, pain, and transformation, but get none of this in The 120 Days of Sodom.
As the book progresses, it degrades further into lists of acts of debauchery and cruelty that all seem to blend together into a tepid bowl of poo. The Marquis de Sade wrote this work in prison and it really comes off as an outline of acts of violence he dreamt up out of the frustration of impotence. A well-written work that wanted to explore this situation would pick a few particularly evocative acts from the list and would form them into a coherent story with multi-dimensional characters and a narrative arc. This book is just a list of cringe-worthy acts written out tersely, but they don’t induce a cringe because none of it feels real because we get no insight into characters and the four leads are just supermen who get to do whatever they please without any realistic opposition.
If you read this book, read it out of interest in the historical persona of the Marquis de Sade. If you’re reading it as erotic literature, you’ll probably find it to be a disappointing series of premature ejaculations that just tries too hard to list the most disgusting and objectionable acts imaginable. If you read it as horror, you’ll have to read through a couple of chapters of stuff that’s just disgusting–but not particularly scary, and then when you get to the horrifying part it’ll just be a machine gun blast of little tales with inadequate description to be truly gripping.
Needless, I think the greatest act of cruelty ever committed by the Marquis de Sade was getting people to read this horrible book—maybe that was what he was after.