Unmentionable Cuisine

Calvin W. Schwabe

First and foremost, this is a cookbook with actual recipes. That it focuses on things that Americans are not accustomed to eating is almost secondary. In the introductory statements the author points out that we will be facing food shortages in the years to come and that a strictly vegetarian diet is not always pragmatic everywhere. (Of course, practicing vegetarians can get a lot of mileage out of this book with pushy carnivore friends by mentioning the broiled puppy recipe (Hawaii) or the stewed cat (Ghana). While some of the offerings can seem shocking, the author truly has a higher purpose and goes to great lengths to provide a cultural context for the ingredients employed in creating these delicacies. (A rat problem in China yielded a new source of dietary protein.) Some of the more interesting ingredients include: rodents, pigeons, small birds, reptiles, insects and sperm. Lest you think that this book is merely a joke, it has won the acclaim of such food experts as Craig Clairborne, James Beard and M.F.K. Fisher. SA

Publisher: Univ. Press of Virginia
Paperback: 476 pages

Women en Large

Laurie Toby Edison and Debbie Notkin

If you’ve ever taken a life drawing class, you probably had the most enjoyable experience with the heaviest models. Fat women tend to offer the most interesting varieties of light and shadow and form to the visual artist. Once you get beyond the merely “Rubenesque,” there are a variety of distributions of the female form that fold and drape in ways that are unique to each individual. The models by turn look happy, coy, sultry, defiant and wistful. They all comport themselves with immense dignity, whether laughing in a group shower, posing in a natural landscape setting or doing a little dance. The book concludes with some text and interviews. The physiology of fat production and fat-related feminist issues are the focus of the essay. Of special interest are the women who speak for themselves about their own medical histories, their relationships with doctors and fashion, and their general interface with the world at large. SA

Publisher: Books in Focus
Paperback: 116 pages

Looking at Death

Barbara P. Norfleet

This is a loving look at the subject of death assembled from the photographic archives of Harvard University. What distinguishes it from a lot of the other death-photo books currently available is the breadth of its field of inquiry and the quality of the photography. These are not merely “scene of the crime” documents, but portraits of the dead and other depictions meant to be actual finished works of art. Among the categories included are: staging death, death by violence, death at medical school, remains of death, death and the family, and mourning and ritual. Dignity is the underlying motif. Despite its potential to tread macabre territory, there is no cheap shock value in this book’s presentation. SA

Publisher: Godine
Paperback: 141 pages

Art and Illusion: A Guide to Crossdressing

JoAnn Roberts

“Information is power and when you have the information you need, you have the power to make informed choices.” What is this? Is it the latest William Burroughs manifesto? Is it a political tract of some sort? Actually it is a quote from the author of a very pragmatic guide to crossdressing. JoAnn Roberts has been lecturing on the college circuit and writing books on the psychology of crossdressing since 1983. What we have at hand is a very well-conceived and utterly complete guide for anybody of the male gender who wishes to have a go at dressing up in female attire, including numerous tips for “passing” as the real thing. Although this volume is deceptively slim, it seems to cover just about every physical aspect of such a transformation. (According to a list of other Roberts-penned books that are available, mannerisms, speech, etc. are covered elsewhere.) Not only does this handy little guide cover the obvious things such as body hair removal, hiding the family jewels, cleavage illusions, makeup tips and size translation, but it also goes the extra mile with loads of little tips about what dress best suits one’s body shape, fabric weights and how they hang and what kind of glasses look best. It even includes a chart for sizing rings. The most amazing thing that this book conveys is a matter-of-factness about the whole subject of men wearing female attire. It has a sort of loopy charm that makes it easy to imagine the local PTA at an upscale elementary school handing this one out to the dads of the stickball team for their spring talent show. SA

Publisher: Creative Design
Pamphlet: 40 pages

Screening History

Gore Vidal

Vidal believes that Americans of his generation either went to church or the movies for spiritual guidance. As a third-generation atheist from a well-placed Washington family, he knows from whence he speaks. Using as his point of departure the dual meanings of the title (to show it on a screen or to see it through a filter) this cranky little memoir of his first 20 years, mixing the impact of the movies with the realities of Washington politics with flights of longing and fancy, is pure vintage Vidal, doing what he does best. Much of this material was delivered originally in lecture form and is by turns caustic, witty, insightful and meandering, and consistently uncategorizable. It is a discourse on a period of American history that by its very structure proves how subjective the concept of history is. SA

Publisher: Harvard University
Paperback: 97 pages

Sodomy and the Pirate Tradition: English Sea Rovers in the Seventeenth-Century Caribbean

B.R. Burg

This book actually started out to be a way of offering history students a wider view of British expansion into the New World. It was almost by accident that the author noticed certain patterns in the settlement of the West Indies that caused him to address the “gay history” that became the focus of the finished book. Unlike America, where settlers from England came to begin whole new lives, the attitude toward the Caribbean Islands was to get in, make money and to get back to “civilization” in England. Women were less likely to be included in the patterns of what was considered to be a temporary situation.
The author begins the book with an overview of British attitudes towards homosexual behavior in the 17th century, paints a vivid picture of life in England at the time and especially the prospects of the less wealthy, and provides a brief history of the British Navy with special attention to whom they recruited and how they did it. We are treated to an exhaustive look at the Caribe Isles, the evolution of pirate communities in that part of the world and ultimately to the probability that homosexual behavior was business as usual in this context. An impressive chronological bibliography allows the reader to follow the author’s development of the various conclusions and theories. Of special interest to gay historians is the section on Matelotage, a legally recognized form of gay marriage that had its roots in indentured servitude. SA

Publisher: NYU
Paperback: 215 pages

Oswald Talked: The New Evidence in the JFK Assassination

Ray and Mary La Fontaine

This is actually a new spin on the JFK-assassination-theory material. The La Fontaines are respected journalists with a good track record for accuracy in reporting and no preconceived agenda on the subject. The really big revelation of this book is that after Oswald was initially arrested, he had a cellmate to whom he spilled his guts. Using a lot of previously unreleased materials from the Dallas Police Department and re-interpreting other information, the writers have pieced together a compelling narrative. This is the book that lured Marina Oswald back into the open in hopes of clearing her husband’s name. Even though an avid follower of conspiracy theories might not find a pirate’s hoard of new information here, aside from the cellmate’s revelations, it is the presentation, lacking the usual sense of hysteria, that ultimately makes the case airtight. SA

Publisher: Pelican
Hardback: 456 pages

Freemasonry and the Vatican: A Struggle for Recognition

Vicomte Leon de Poncins

The key to this is the subtitle. While the concept of Freemasonry and the Vatican can evoke some wondrous conspiracy scenarios, the whole point of this book is that there are none and that it would be awfully nice if the Vatican would be friends with the Freemasons. It reads like a protracted court case, full of mind-numbing details. This is not to say that it’s badly written or ill conceived. To the very specialized niche of people who really care about a reconciliation between these two entities this book is loaded with useful chunks of testimonial (some dating back a few centuries). SA

Publisher: A&B
Paperback: 225 pages

Inventions, Researches and Writings of Nikola Tesla

Thomas Commerford Martin

This book was originally printed in 1894 by Electrical Engineer Magazine of New York. It is reprinted in its exact original form without a new preface or any comment on the “cult of Tesla” that has blossomed in recent years. It is very technical and concerns itself primarily with the nature of electricity and its applications to lighting and motors. A good source for anybody who is setting out to study the greater body of Tesla's work, it shows how he was perceived by his peers and just how much of what he achieved is now taken for granted. Anybody seeking biographical detail or the “classified stuff” is advised to look elsewhere. This is a very specific (and thorough) look at a focused area of endeavor. SA

Publisher: Lindsay
Paperback: 496 pages

The Arrival: A Video Drama

A primitive human encounters a UFO in 160,000 B.C. An alien astronaut beams into the mind of an Earth dweller, provoking visions of the Earth dweller’s past life. On a distant planet the human had been a sort of emperor. Having a warlike disposition, he pushes the button which destroys a civilization of over a billion inhabitants. The alien explains that in this life he must work out and heal the wrongs from previous lives. The alien is one of 11 astronauts headed by Uriel on a mission to deliver their message of knowledge in a flying saucer that is a masterpiece of early-’60s Italian-style design. The dialogue between the alien and the primitive provides a forum in which to present the Unarius ideology as a full overview. This provides a partial exposure to the beauty of the Unarian vision, but not the most astonishing visually. SA

Publisher: Unarius