Editor's Choice

Editor's Choice

October 19, 2003|By Michael Pakenham

Art -- A Sex Book, by John Waters and Bruce Hainley. Thames & Hudson. 208 pages. $29.95.

Beginning with its cover, which is not presentable in a family newspaper, this remarkable book is not for the prudish or squeamish. Hainley is a curator, writer and scholar. John Waters is Baltimore's indefatigable archangel of the outrageous. This is a serious and seriously unorthodox work of art scholarship and criticism. The text is presented throughout as a conversation between the two authors, talking of the works --175 reproductions of art works, 147 of them in color -- and of aesthetic concepts, both concrete and abstract. "Of course," Waters says in a key conversation, "everything we've picked for the book is as much about ideas as it's about sex. The usual art and artists most people might think of in relation to 'sex' aren't what we've chosen, just as nudity and the obvious acts concerning sex aren't represented in the book in a traditional way." If you're not put off by the consummate burlesque of sensuality in Waters' movies, this book will not offend -- and it's an impressively learned, unflinchingly intellectually provocative romp. A delightful celebration of healthy, brainy shamelessness.

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