Book Shorts

George Bush, The Kama Sutra, Lust and more.

Beating around the Bush George Bush, Dark Prince of Love

by Lydia Millet

(Scribner Paperback, $10) How much can you satirize before what you're writing isn't satire anymore? Lydia Millet's George Bush, Dark Prince of Love, raises this question. In this "presidential romance" the narrator, just out of prison and living in a trailer park, plots to substitute for Barbara Bush as First Lady: "I'd sit there [watching Bush] dreamily, a deer in the headlights of his transformation . . . G.B. was a man of action, a G.I. Joe fresh off the assembly line with special-edition gray hair." The plan backfires, of course, though it would probably have been funnier had it actually come to pass. But an absurd plot isn't enough in Millet's hands: She has to hit you over the head with one cluster bomb of absurdist detail after another, and the book loses steam before it's a quarter over. For instance, the narrator can't just be obsessive—she has to be an obese ex-con with an elderly boyfriend who snorts cocaine, and while he's in rehab she has to have an affair with an illegal alien. As in her previous contributions to The Baffler, a cultural-criticism 'zine, Millet's Dark Prince overflows with fascinating facts about its subject (plenty of damning Bush Administration stuff here), but it's so condescending that it leaves a bitter aftertaste. After a while, it reads like it's doing you a favor by exposing all this bad stuff—so you'd better appreciate it, you idiot. For effective Bush satire, you'd be better off watching the rerun of The Simpsons where George and Babs move in next door—now that's comedy. —MICHAELANGELO MATOS Cupid on the cover The Kama Sutra

by Anne Hooper

(Dorling Kindersley, $14.95) Filled with snippets from the ancient principles of Tantric sex as well as numerous pictures of joyless naked couples putting various positions into practice, this hand-held version of the classic erotic text runs the gamut. Where else can you find instructions on Scratching, Biting, the Twining of a Creeper, and a three-day Tantric odyssey, all in one? With whole chapters devoted to kissing and safe sex, this is a how-to that leaves little to the imagination. All About Us

by Philipp Keel

(Broadway Books, $12.95) It's a near-genius concept: couples' therapy in a book in which the book is actually a giant questionnaire. Read and learn (or weep) as you indelibly pen the history of your relationship, from your first meeting to the frequency of your sexual encounters, in the blank spaces provided. Unfortunately, Keel is optimistic if he expects couples already in trouble to wade through the 100-plus-page, 20-chapter quiz; many a happy couple will find their patience tried when asked on page 3 to look at each other for one whole minute. If that's a problem, writes the good doctor, then "put this book away." So someone else will have to reveal how it ends. Lust

by Eileen Morgan

(Red Rock Press, $24.95) Volume II of the so-called Sin Series (with a predecessor concerned with Gluttony, and one on Greed forthcoming) tackles all aspects of desire, from a host of exemplary ancient gods to aphrodisiacs to world-champion lovers. Yes, even that tawdry dialogue between Camilla Parker Bowles and her Highness, Charles, is reprinted, Tampax and all. A thorough romp through centuries of voracious sexual appetites, personalities, factoids, and dangerous affections. Worth its corner of the coffee table. Love

by Sister Wendy Beckett

(DK Publishing, $9.95) The bespectacled nun contemplates the many forms of human love through her formidable knowledge of art. In this series of paintings, Sister Wendy sees trust, forgiveness, passion, loss of love, parental love, and committed love. Safely anchored in the realm of master artists, it's perhaps predictable that these contemplative exercises read like sermonettes. And there's nothing like a good nude portrait to get this nun going! —Emily Baillargeon Russin

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