Book Supplement

Deconstruc-tion for the Masses

Celebrity Is Never an Art

The Anatomy of Difficulty

Reviewers Who Love Too Much

New Pornographers' Manifesto

Record Label Turns to publishing

What Poetry is For

THE THRILL OF GRIEF

Charles Mudede on His Sister-In-Law

Plastiques

A Moment in the Park with Galaxy Craze

Poetry That Pushes

NO END TO TRYING

The World From Inside a Tiny Writing Group

Sex: Fiction's Hamburger Helper

Fame! I'm Going to live Forever!

What You Might at First Hate

MEET THE NARRATEMES

Bruce à la Bruce

Gary Lutz, Anaesthete

To Get Famous, Punch Somebody

Rifficult Deading

LIGHTNING ON PAPER

J'Accuse!: An Argument About the Value of Conflict of Interest in Books Criticism

Scandinavian Sex

Bret Easton Ellis

The Year of Reading about Proust

THE JIMINY CRICKET INSIDE ME

Reviews

The Ether Sex

While we can only count ourselves the luckier for the neglected but enduring radiance of the Bible's "Song of Solomon," we are still plagued by the unfortunate popularity of another erotic text that would have been best left moldering in antiquity. The Kama Sutra, since its first prudishly edited translation from Sanskrit by Victorian gentleman, scholar, and explorer Sir Richard Burton, has gained a sensational reputation fueled by those who have never been exposed to its rather pedantic pages.

A tome from fourth-century India explaining erotic practices of various kinds, the Kama Sutra was intended primarily as an etiquette handbook, its emphasis being in form over content. It provides inventive instruction on minding your manners and doing your best on all sexual fronts, all no doubt relevant to a fourth-century Indian Brahmin, but not as practical in these times as we in the West might wish.

Granted, the book is surprisingly generous in its emphasis on women's pleasure and its humorously euphemistic instruction on homosexual pastimes, subjects now utterly unspeakable in most modern South Asian societies. However, out of its historical and cultural contexts, the Kama Sutra is not the holy erotic grail you are hungering for. All those rumors of acrobatic sexual poses and paroxysms of spiritual unity with the divine are intriguing, but once the exoticism wears off, there's not much to get excited about.

In fact, it is disappointingly unpornographic in its matter-of-fact treatment of even the most arousing subjects, and it is filled with mind-numbingly detailed catalogs regarding scratching, biting, and concubines. It is as systematic and dully explicit as a 1,000-year-old How to Do It for Dummies. Best to return this old canard to history. If you want Tantric sex, sign up at a monastery. If you want some fancy moves, go out with a gymnast. If you need literary stimulation, well, you can start with our book supplement.