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Monday, September 23, 2013

And The Winner Is...

I've been pawing through a book I found hidden in the stacks a few days ago. The title makes it sound like the most lascivious and licentious book ever written - Simon's Book of World Sexual Records - but it's actually filled with fascinating facts. Here are a few!

Inverbervie Graveyard
Simon bestowed the award of Most Bizarre Love Charm to an old Irish legend. In order to make this fetching amulet, a young girl was to visit a graveyard and find a corpse buried for nine days. Then, this crafty lady needed to "cut from the body a narrow strip of skin extending from the top of the head down to the extremity of one foot." Have you ever seen someone peel a peach or an apple in one continuous strip? It's kind of hard to do! "They then tried to knot the length of dead skin round the arm or leg of a sleeping lover and to remove it before he awoke" (86). So in ancient Ireland, your choices were a dead skin strip or flirting. You know, whichever you found to be an easier, more appealing task.

Symbol for The New York Society
for the Suppression of Vice
The Most Vigorous Prude Award went to Anthony Comstock.
His group, the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, helped usher in (between 1873 and 1882) "700 arrests, 333 sentences of imprisonment totalling 155 years and 13 days, fines totalling $65,256, and the seizure of 27,856 lb. of obscene books and 64,836 articles for immoral use, of rubber, etc" (180). I just wonder how many books would equal the weight of 27,856 pounds.

Fanny Hill
by John Cleland
Simon judged that The Most Famous Erotic Novel (before Shades of Grey, of course) was
Fanny Hill or Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure. The author, Henry Cleland sold it for 20 guineas in 1749. The bookseller who bought it is said to have made £ 10,000 for the story of a young, innocent girl who falls into a life of prostitution. The book has been censored and banned worldwide (357).

Last, but certainly not least, is The Society in Which the Human Kiss is Least Practiced. The Thonga people (aka Tsonga) in extreme southeast Africa do not practice mouth-to-mouth kissing. Apparently, upon seeing this type of kiss for the first time, someone remarked, "Look at them-they eat each other's saliva and dirt" (107).

A book can hold so much more than its title or subject matter promises to its reader. Take a chance--open a book!

Simons, G. L. Simon's Book of World Sexual Records. New York: Bell Publishing Company, 1975. Print.

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