So What Are You Reading?

Reviews of Books.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Rembrandt's Mother: Myth and Reality

Rembrandt's Mother: Myth and Reality by Christiaan Vogelaar & Gerbrand Korevaar is a book published in conjunction with a 2006 exhibit of the same name. It is in two parts with the first half being four scholarly articles, and the second half a catalog of art works. The articles talk about Rembrandt in his home town, the history of the identification of the old woman in his work as his mother, and the symbolism of old age in his paintings. They are scholarly, full of historic detail, and not written for a popular audience.

The second half of the book is a catalog of works by Rembrandt and other Leiden artists that feature his mother, father, sister and brother. Each is described with a history of its ownership, and a bibliography is included. There are about 60 pages each devoted to paintings of his mother and father, about 10 pages to works portraying his brother, and 5 pages to works of his sister.

The book succeeds at what it aims to be. I was drawn to it because I have developed a fondness for the way he paints his mother. She is most often portrayed reading books.

One of the articles, written by Anouk Janssen, that I particularly enjoyed has to do with how artists of the time portrayed old age, which for them was 40-60 years old. Old people were praiseworthy if they read the Bible or engaged in domestic chores; they were portrayed as blameworthy if they were miserly, lazy, or sensual. So while I see a woman who enjoyed reading a lot, Rembrandt was trying to show his mother as a pious person getting her spiritual life in order at the end of her life.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Painful Questions by Eric Hufschmid

Painful Questions by Eric Hufschmid

Painful Questions was one of the first of the 9/11 conspiracy books. While it asks questions rather than provide answers, it is well illustrated and outlines the main themes of the conspiracy. These are that the collapse of World Trade Center buildings 1, 2 and 7 were controlled demolitions and that the Pentagon was hit with a missile rather than a jet liner. The book goes on to say that the only people who could have done this is the government itself and places the blame on the CIA and FBI, what he calls "The Axis Of Good" in opposition to President Bush's "Axis of Evil" representation of North Korea, Iraq and Iran.

After 110 pages of text and illustrations on the events of 9/11, the author spends the last third of the book rehashing the John F. Kennedy murder conspiracy and a few other events he claims are government cover-ups. While he may do this to show that the government is capable of such actions, it makes him look even more untrustworthy and paranoid.

This is not a good book for information on the conspiracy theories surrounding the 9/11 attacks. Published only a year after, it's main value is in showing the early development of the conspiracy ideas. It also is highly illustrated providing many photographs and illustrations to support his beliefs.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

She Comes First by Ian Kerner

She Comes First: The Thinking Man's Guide to Pleasuring a Woman by Ian Kerner

She Comes First is a manual for men on how to provide sexual pleasure to a woman. The premise of the book is the fact that female orgasms are clitoral orgasms. He goes on to say that the best clitoral orgasms are achieved with cunnilingus and that, because of differences in male and female sexual response, it is best for heterosexual couples if the female orgasm precedes the male orgasm.

The author has a Ph.D. from the American Academy of Clinical Sexologists. Being an English major from Brandeis University, he has chosen to use the structure of Strunk and White's The Elements of Style to organize the information presented. The first section, "The Elements of Sexual Style," outlines female sexual anatomy and response. To make his case for the clitoral orgasm, he argues that the clitoris is much more than the glans, or love button, and that it has 18 parts, most of which are internal and not visible. Line dawings by Naomi Pitcairn are helpful throughout the text in illustrating anatomy and positions.

In the second section, "Rules of Usage," Kerner outlines the basic steps of cunnilingus from foreplay, through "coreplay" to "moreplay." This is basically an instruction manual on how to perform cunnilingus, broken into short chapters with a Let's Review section at the end of each.

The third and last section is called "Putting It All Together" and it provides routines, from beginner to advanced that the student can use. There is even a blank Routine Template you can photocopy and fill in with your own variations. The image of a young playboy keeping completed templates with women's names at the top, filed alphabetically in a ring binder came to mind when I saw this.

While I liked this book I felt that the format actually detracted from the presentation. Strunk and White's book may have been a revelation to some young college freshmen learning to write, but their methodology, does not always translate well to other disciplines. what saves the book is the author's enthusiasm for his subject and the knowledge he brings to it. If you have a clueless man in your life, this book may help him discover one of the greatest joys in life.