A few months ago, a
thirteen-year-old came to live with me.
He saw all my books and told me reading was for nerds. I bought him a couple of volumes of Harry
Potter. He ignored them. I moved my entire sports section (both books
about basketball, that is) into his room.
He quietly put them back into mine when I wasnt looking. We went to a science fiction reading. No dice.
Then one fateful day, he was looking around under my bed and what should
turn up but . . . Isadora Almans Doing It.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I have a reader.
Alman, a San Franciscan, writes an
advice column for the Bay Guardian.
She is also a marriage and family therapist and a certified
sexologist. This book, published in
2001 and now available in a vivid pink paperback, consists of excerpts from her
column and her web site; that is, of
what other people write to her.
Alman has collected and organized hundreds of comments, confessions,
explanations, instructions, and boasts.
She has also, obviously, edited them.
While this undoubtedly helps to make the contributions clear and
concise, it also eliminates some of the individuality. Everything is spelled right, which is good,
but there is a sameness about the style of all the contributions that makes it
impossible to get a feel for any of the writers. You cannot follow a voice through the book, for example,
discovering what one person thinks of body hair and then later finding out what
sort of sex toys said person likes.
Often, you cant even tell if a man or a woman is speaking, or a gay or
a straight person.
Still, there is plenty here to
interest most people, whether they are thirteen and encountering the ideas for
the first time; a little more experienced and looking for pointers on
technique; or already off and running but harboring concerns about whether
their desires and practices are normal.
The great thing about a book is, you dont have to tell anybody what your
reasons are for reading it. Its your business
whether youre interested in the how-to entries: To do this, youll need a
sable artists brush, about as big around as your pinky finger, and some warm
oil. Almond is especially nice . . .
or the more mundane views into how others think and feel: I am turned off by
women who dont have a good sense of humor.
You can read the chapter on Anal and Vaginal Fisting and skip the one
on Menopause or vice versa.
Not all of the books topics are
racy. There is advice on how to handle
bad breath, information on where others have gone to meet new people, and
expressions of sadness or satisfaction about being single. Nearly all of the subjects, however, affect
and concern real people, usually on a pretty regular basis.
A few years ago, when Spalding Gray
was touring with his show called Interviewing the Audience, he explained (and
then demonstrated, with great skill) that there is nothing more interesting
than ordinary people telling the truth.
Alman brings us more ordinary people, telling us the truth about an
ordinary subjectone about which most of us never quite feel weve heard
© 2001 Heather Liston. First Serial Rights.
Heather C. Liston studied Religion at Princeton University and earned a Masters degree from the NYU Graduate School of Business Administration. She is the Director of Development for The Santa Fe Children's Museum, and writes extensively on a variety of topics. Her book reviews and other work have appeared in Self, Women Outside, The Princeton Alumni Weekly, Appalachia, Your Health and elsewhere.