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October 04, 2004

Revisiting the Butt of Beatrice's Longest-Running Gag

by Ron Hogan

Longtime readers of this blog know that I frequently criticize the Page Six column of the New York Post for hyping HarperCollins books without disclosing the corporate ties that bind newspaper and publishing house, an ethical lapse they engage in over and over. But this weekend's online column (no idea if the item made its way into print) adds a new twist, promoting Toni Bentley's The Surrender by attacking it with a comparison to "an intellectualized letter to Penthouse magazine." Not to mention lewdly giggling at Judith Regan's original cover idea, "a photo of a woman's posterior barely covered in sheer panties," which was apparently naysayed by timid booksellers (or rather, we've since been told, hidden behind a wraparound).

bentley.jpgGood timing on their part, though, to run this little item the same weekend as Zoe Heller's mixed NYTBR review of The Surrender. It strikes me as a little padded--frankly, I'm never impressed with the reviewer's technique of dipping into the press packet for things to mock--and Heller's flat out wrong when she claims "no woman before Bentley has felt quite zealous enough about what she calls 'emancipation through the back door' to write an entire book in its praise." A little research would have disproven that, though I suppose we could split the difference and say no woman's written a memoir extolling the virtues of sodomy before. But it's always good to give a shoutout to Tristan Taormino, and while I'm here, let me give props to her sisters-in-pages Susie Bright and Lisa Palac, two other writers who have helped establish the receptive atmosphere that enabled Bentley to get a book celebrating anal sex published by a major house.

I'm also not sure what to make of Heller's attempt to psychoanalyze the author and her sexual choices rather than review the book in the last three paragraphs, even if we concede the possibility that memoir writers open themselves up for this kind of probing. Still, the review--and the NY Observer profile from a few days back--make the book (and the author) sound like it will be more substantial than, for example, ReganBook's other big sex offering of the season.


I don't think they do open themselves up to this kind of probing. Well, not more than 300 or 400 times...

Posted by: Jimmy Beck at October 4, 2004 11:44 AM

I am so glad that you pointed out that Tristan Taormino and others have already covered this territory. Heller's review of this book is the first time I've heard of this Toni Bentley, and the NYTBR running such a huge photograph of Bentley kind of bothered me -- like, "Look! This woman loves anal sex!" I don't know, it just seemed very sensational and the book sounds really lame and outdated.

Posted by: Gigi Montage at October 5, 2004 08:49 PM
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