book reviews, dogs

Repost: Review of The Dog Lived (and So Will I)…

I just found two more lumps on Arran. They’re probably mast cell tumors. This has been an ongoing problem with Arran, who got his first one in 2015 and had another one removed in January. Zane also had MCTs before he finally graduated to lymphoma and passed away in 2019. Anyway, I am reminded of a book I read in December 2016 to keep my hopes up. I’m reposting it for those who might find it useful. It appears as/is.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been processing the news that my sweet beagle, Zane, has mast cell cancer.  My other dog, Arran, also had a mast cell tumor removed and there’s been no recurrence so far.  I’m not sure we’ll be as lucky with Zane.  I have a lot of anxiety about my dogs and life in general.  When I’m faced with a problem like this, I usually go hunting for information.  In my quest for information, I ran across a book called The Dog Lived (and So Will I): A Memoir.

Written by twice divorced California lawyer Teresa Rhyne, this is a book about a dog named Seamus who had an aggressive mast cell tumor.  The dog eventually recovered from the tumor.  Then Teresa found a lump in her breast that was cancerous.  Rhyne turned her odyssey into a successful blog and then wrote her book, which was originally published in 2012.  I will admit that I decided to download the book because I was looking for a hopeful story.  In Rhyne’s book, I did find some hope.  

At the beginning of the book, Rhyne is coming back from a trip to Ireland, where she’d gone to see relatives.  She had just been through her second divorce and lost her two dogs within months of each other.  She’s overwhelmed and depressed, but looks amazing.  Rhyne explains that when the chips are down, she ups her personal grooming.  It’s like an armor she wears to help her bring her “A game”.

Rhyne has an irreverent sense of humor and writes about how much she enjoyed her Irish relatives tendency to use the f word liberally.  When she met Seamus, a dog who seemed to need her as much as she needed him, she was reminded of her irreverent relatives.  Although Seamus proves to be a challenge to train, they become a pair.  And then Rhyne starts a new relationship with a man named Chris, twelve years her junior.

This book is part dog story and part love story, with a healthy sprinkling of medical and veterinary drama thrown in.  Rhyne adds her interesting sense of humor and the compelling stories of how she and her dog both battled cancer and annoying doctors, and both survived.  It’s probably just the kind of book I should be reading right now.  Thanks to Rhyne’s way with words, I managed to get through this book quickly and effortlessly.  I related to her story and admire how she’s turned her experiences into a new career.  After the success of her first book, Rhyne wrote another.  She now does public speaking and continues to rescue dogs.

As for us and our situation with Zane, I’m not really sure what’s going to happen.  His tumor was not as aggressive as Seamus’s was.  We live in a different country and Zane is a bit older and grayer.  At this point, I’m more inclined to work hard to give him a great quality of life rather than put him through multiple surgeries and chemotherapy.

I have to admit, though, that reading about Seamus was inspiring.  Rhyne’s story about her breast cancer was also interesting, even if it left me checking my boobs.  I was impressed the most by Rhyne’s loyal and long suffering boyfriend, Chris, who was apparently Teresa’s rock.  To be honest, Rhyne comes across as somewhat self-absorbed, although I figure she’s also pretty genuine.  I’d much rather deal with someone genuine but somewhat unlikable over someone who’s fake.

Anyway… I would recommend The Dog Lived (and So Will I) to interested readers.  I give it four stars out of five.

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book reviews, true crime

Repost: My review of They Always Call Us Ladies by Jean Harris…

This will be the last repost of today, an as/is Epinions book review I wrote of They Always Call Us Ladies, by Jean Harris. It was written in October 2005. The paragraph immediately below is an introduction I wrote when I reposted this review on my original blog, on January 21, 2015.

Here’s yet another interesting review of a book written by a woman who committed murder.  In this case, the perpetrator was Jean Harris, former head of The Madeira School in McClean, Virginia.  She shot her lover, Dr. Herman Turnover, creator of the Scarsdale Diet, dead when she found out he was being unfaithful to her.  Well educated and well employed, Jean Harris was the last person anyone would have ever expected would end up behind bars.  In 1992, Harris was released from prison on compassionate grounds.  She died of natural causes in an assisted living center on December 23, 2012.  She was 89 years old.

A very unlikely voice from behind bars…

Jean Harris, author of the 1988 book They Always Call Us Ladies is probably the last person anyone would have ever guessed would have ever spent time in prison. Harris, who is a graduate of Smith College, had spent her whole life educating people, even working as the headmistress of the exclusive and very expensive Madeira School for girls in toney Great Falls, Virginia. But in March of 1980, the 15 year relationship she had with Dr. Herman Tarnower, creator of the Scarsdale Diet, came to an end. She fell into despair and decided to visit Dr. Tarnower in New York. Unfortunately, she brought a gun with her, allegedly planning to kill herself that night. She ended up killing her lover instead and wound up sentenced to 15 years to life in prison. 

Much has come to light about Jean Harris’s case. In fact, just last week, my husband Bill and I caught a special on Court TV about Jean Harris. She is now out of prison, having been released in 1993 after thirteen years behind bars. Her book, They Always Call Us Ladies, was written four years prior to her release from behind the walls of Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women in Bedford Hills, New York. As I read this book, I got the feeling that Jean Harris was trying to make the best of her situation, as hard as it was for her. In many ways, They Always Call Us Ladies is an eye-opening book. In other ways, it leaves some questions unanswered.  

I don’t remember exactly when or where it was that I picked up Jean Harris’s book. I do remember that I got it at a second hand bookstore, probably about ten or eleven years ago. I was lured by the subtitle: Stories From Prison. I didn’t even have an idea who Jean Harris was when I purchased this book. I suppose I was looking for lurid details. At the time, I lacked an appreciation for books that weren’t long on action. I remember trying to read They Always Call Us Ladies and setting it aside after only a few pages or so. I was disappointed because I felt like I didn’t get what I had been looking for.  

I picked up Jean Harris’s book again last week after I saw the special about her on television. This time, when I started reading it, I was able to keep going. And now, I have a great deal of respect and admiration for Jean Harris, the convicted murderer.  They Always Call Us Ladies is a remarkable book that goes far beyond just “prison stories”. Jean Harris also tries to educate her audience about the history of her prison and the importance of prison reform. Clearly intelligent and articulate, Harris offers readers some valuable insight into what it’s like to be in prison and puts a human face on the ladies with whom she did time. She points out that no one is ever called a “girl” in her prison; instead, they are all called ladies. But despite the overtures of gentility, prison life is hard and Jean Harris effectively drives home that point. 

At the time Jean Harris wrote They Always Call Us Ladies, she was more than halfway to her first opportunity for parole. She focused a lot of time and energy toward helping the other inmates, especially those with children who were born in prison. The fact that she actively spent much of her time helping and getting to know her fellow inmates is clearly evident as she relates more stories about the “ladies” around her than herself. It’s not surprising that Harris is empathetic to the other ladies. She explains how and why some of the other prisoners ended up in prison and why a few of them came back again and again. They were simply unequipped for life on the outside of the prison’s walls. At the same time, Harris injects her own opinions about what she sees. Although she is sometimes disapproving toward the lifestyles of the ladies with whom she is serving time, she is always supportive of them as human beings. I got the feeling that she took a fond motherly or grandmotherly interest in the other prisoners and they, in return, took a similar interest in her. 

One thing that did strike me about They Always Call Us Ladies was that, although Harris makes it clear that her life was hard, I got the feeling that the prison she was in was very progressive. The prison had a children’s center, where new moms could keep their babies for a year. If the mother was going to be paroled within eighteen months of giving birth, officials would allow the mothers to keep the child until the mom got out. Harris explains that Bedford Hills was the only American prison that was allowing new mothers to keep their babies at all. She then points out that in Europe, prisons are much more accommodating. I got the feeling that she much preferred the European way of doing things. It’s not that I blame her for liking the European way better, but I did notice that Harris doesn’t really explain the differences between the European and American cultures. Just as some people view imprisonment as strictly punishment, other people see it as a chance for rehabilitation. I got the impression that Harris is more for rehabilitation than punishment and evidently that’s the way the Europeans feel about prisons, too. 

Another thing that stuck out at me as I read They Always Call Us Ladies is that it must have been a HUGE culture shock for Jean Harris to be in prison. She is nothing like the other ladies she writes about and, I suspect, that Jean Harris never had much of a criminal mind. In fact, I think it was a tragic turn of events that led her to prison in the first place. Because she is so much a fish out of water, she gives her readers a rare and different glimpse of life on the inside of a prison. She doesn’t seem like she belongs there.  

Jean Harris does include some examples of dialogs she heard in prison, even writing them in dialect. She explains the racism that she witnessed in prison, mostly directed at her fellow inmates. She comes across as almost detached. I had heard on a few occasions that homosexuality is rampant in prisons and Jean Harris doesn’t dispute this fact; in fact, she offers statistics on homosexuality in prisons. She also doesn’t give any indication as to whether or not she engaged in homosexual conduct. She seems especially detached from this issue as it personally pertains to her, even though she addresses it regarding other prisoners. 

Harris’s memoir does include some foul language, but it’s used in the context of quoting other people. She never uses it herself and doesn’t condone its use in other people. In fact, in one passage, she writes disapprovingly that those who must use the word “sh*t” in place of every noun have a serious deficiency in their vocabularies. As I read They Always Call Us Ladies, I was continually reminded that Jean Harris is first and foremost a teacher, not because she actually wrote those words, but because of her actions and her writing style. I do believe that Harris must have been a great asset to her students, despite the fact that she later wound up in prison. 

My comments on They Always Call Us Ladies so far have been overwhelmingly positive. For the most part, I did really enjoy reading this book, even though it’s been sitting on my shelf unread for years. Despite my positive comments, however, this is not a perfect book. For one thing, Harris writes a lot about legislation circa 1988. For an historical point of view, this is a good thing. I get the feeling, though, that Harris didn’t mean for her book to be read years down the line; she meant for it to be read when it was hot off the presses. Consequently, her references to “now” and 1988 drive home just how dated this book is. For another thing, anyone who is looking for information about what got Harris put in prison will be disappointed.  For that story, you’d have to read one of her other books. 

Because she doesn’t really discuss her crime, I almost got the feeling that she didn’t think she belonged in prison. I got the feeling that even though she was in prison, she wasn’t of it. And while at times her writing drifts very slightly into self pity, she never really gave me the impression that she felt like she deserved to be in prison, even though she did kill a man. Again, I don’t believe that Jean Harris initially set out to kill Tarnower. That doesn’t change the fact that she did kill him. Yet, there are times in this book that she seems to take a detached, almost superior position over the inmates about whom she writes. On the other hand, I have no idea what prison must have been like for Jean Harris. Maybe taking this position offers her a defense mechanism– a way to protect herself from the reality of her situation. The last, but not necessarily negative, comment I want to make is that this book is challenging reading. Even though I enjoyed reading They Always Call Us Ladies, I didn’t find it the kind of book that I could finish in a matter of hours.

They Always Call Us Ladies appears to be out of print. If my review has enticed you to seek it out, be warned that you may have some trouble finding it. Nevertheless, I will recommend it to a wide audience because I think it is an impressive and enlightening book. If you have any interest in prison reform or history and want to read an eloquent, true account from someone who’s seen prison firsthand, I definitely would encourage you to read this book if you get the chance.  

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book reviews, sex

Repost: A review of Men in Love, by Nancy Friday…

Here’s one last as/is reposted book review that I wrote for Epinions in July 2004. This one is of Men in Love, a book about men’s sexual fantasies.

This review is of a book that contains frank, sexual content. If that is a turn off for you, you may want to skip reading this review.

I first picked up Nancy Friday’s book Men in Love (1980) about fourteen years ago, just after I read her breakthrough book about women’s sexual fantasies My Secret Garden and its sequel, Forbidden Flowers. At the time, I was a freshman in college and very interested in sex, although I wasn’t partaking of any at the time. Nancy Friday’s books about women’s sexual fantasies were eyeopeners for me, but Men in Love: Men’s Sexual Fantasies: The Triumph of Love Over Rage was particularly enlightening– or at least it was at the time. Remember, back in 1990, we didn’t have the internet so readily at our disposal!

In Men in Love: Men’s Sexual Fantasies: The Triumph of Love Over Rage, I got to find out what turns men on in their own words. I should mention that I once had a pocket paperback version of this book, but somehow it disappeared. I ended up replacing it with a nicer version of the paperback- one that was published in 1998 with bigger print for my aging eyes.

The first sentence of Chapter One reads “This is a book about men who love women.” (1). Reading through some of these sexual fantasies may not leave the average woman with the belief that all of the men who contributed their fantasies to this book “love women”. In fact, when I read one of the fantasies aloud to a friend of mine, she said “My God! That man is a misogynist! Look at how much hatred of women that fantasy reveals!” I will agree with her that some of the fantasies included in Men in Love are violent, disgusting, and even disturbing. However, it’s important to remember when reading this book is that these are fantasies and as such, they don’t generally have any basis in reality. As Friday writes,

“a fantasy is a map of desire, mastery, escape, and obscuration; the navigational path we invent to steer ourselves between the reefs and shoals of anxiety, guilt, and inhibition. It is a work of consciousness, but in reaction to unconscious pressures” (1).

And yes, some of the fantasies are pretty bizarre, but again, fantasies don’t have to be garden variety or “normal”. I daresay that if Friday had included a bunch of “normal” fantasies about missionary position sex, her book would not have sold very well at all. People don’t want to read about run of the mill stuff– they are attracted to the weird. Friday further writes,

“While the sexual fantasies of many men were a pleasure and easily available to my emotions right from the start, others disgusted and frightened me. Many seemed outpourings from macho braggarts out to shock or trap me in filth. I was like the Victorian husband who encourages his wife to tell all. When she does, he leaves her.” (3).

Nancy Friday enlisted the aid of Dr. Robert Robertiello, a psychoanalyst, in reading the sexual fantasies. Robertiello apparently helped Friday interpret the entries, lent his professional opinions, and challenged her to question his own opinions. She also consulted Dr. Leah Schaefer and Dr. Sirgay Sanger, two other psychoanalysts. There’s no doubt in my mind that their help was invaluable in this endeavor. There are fantasies about every imaginable thing. However, Friday reports that bar none, the most popular theme was that of a “weak” woman being intimidated and forced by a man into doing something naughty and delicious, being raped repeatedly, but then losing her guilt and taking pleasure in the acts that had once seemed so forbidden to her (6). Interestingly enough, Friday reports that “rape” was also the most popular theme among women, although she hastens to add “I’ve yet to meet a woman who wouldn’t run a mile from a real rapist” (6). She adds that men’s fantasies about women truly being overpowered are actually not so common. More often, if one reads carefully, he or she will find that the woman offered consent at some point.

Anyway, I’m sure at least some of you who are reading this review are interested in the fantasies– as in, what’s included in this book. Men in Love consists of twenty-two chapters on different themes, the vast majority of which contain fantasies. Topics included in this book vary from relatively tame– ie; masturbation and virgins to slightly wilder– ie; oral sex, anal sex, homosexuals, bisexuals, semen, and sharing and living out fantasies, to wilder still– ie; fetishism, women with women, groups, straight men, gay fantasies, women making men have sex, voyeurs and exhibitionists, sharing the woman with another man, to pretty far out and raunchy– ie; water sports, animals, transvestites, breast and vagina envy, and the ever popular sadomasochism.

Friday identifies each of the owners of the fantasies with a first name and then the fantasy is written out in first person voice, so that it’s if the man himself is telling the story of what makes him hot. In each fantasy, the subject includes information about his educational and religious background as well as a few other personal details. Friday has included fantasies from men of all walks of life, including men in prison and very professional men. The personal details are helpful in allowing the reader to determine from where the fantasies originate in the subject’s psyche. In each chapter and generally between some of the fantasies, Friday offers her own psychoanalysis and comments about the fantasy and what it means. Some of what she writes is interesting, although her comments are generally not terribly in-depth, and I give Friday credit for writing well and providing a fairly intelligent analysis of her subject matter. But of course, her commentary is really secondary to what’s fascinating about this book.

I have to be honest here; it seems that Friday almost had these men write her book for her. She’s in somewhat of a secondary role, because I suspect that most people who read this book aren’t so concerned with what Friday has to say– they’re interested in what turns these men on and, more than likely, what turns them on is also titillating to the readers. Friday’s comments, then, might be considered filler by some people. It wouldn’t surprise me if some readers of this book have a favorite section that they re-visit over and over again because they too are excited by the subject matter, and the other sections, after a first reading, go neglected because they aren’t as personally thrilling.

To some people, this book will be no more than whacking material. To others, it will be a valuable psychology textbook that provides fascinating insight into the act of sex. Those of you who are turned off by frank, graphically detailed sexual content, foul language (including nasty euphemisms for male and female genitalia), and content about sexual situations that are frankly, quite unorthodox, should probably steer clear of Men in Love. Those of you who can handle the explicit content and language and are genuinely interested in the subject matter will probably really enjoy this book and may learn something as well.

I think that ultimately, women can learn a lot from this book about members of the opposite gender… and men can learn that they’re not necessarily freaks for having sexual fantasies. Men in Love is a generous accounting of men’s sexual fantasies. I appreciate the fact that Friday has covered a broad range of topics and she has included so many fantasies by so many different types of men. Personally, I’ve found this book to be fascinating reading, especially now that I’m more mature and can look beyond the obvious titillation factor. But again, this book is not for the easily offended or the squeamish. Some of the fantasies are literally filthy and may disgust even the most hardened reader. And no, there are no pictures included in this book. Everything is left up to your imagination. This may be a good or bad feature of this book, depending on your viewpoint.

I almost forgot to add… Nancy Friday invites men and women to contribute to her research. She also welcomes comments about her books. An address and link to her website are included in the back of this book, along with a guarantee of anonymity. (Edited to add: Nancy Friday died in November 2017, so this part is probably no longer true.)

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book reviews, sex

Repost: A review of Forbidden Flowers, by Nancy Friday…

Here’s another reposted Epinions review. This one is of Forbidden Flowers, the sequel to My Secret Garden, by Nancy Friday. It appears as/is, and was originally written in May 2005.

The following review is likely to contain frank sexual content. If that sort of thing bothers you, please skip reading this review!

The year was 1973. I was a baby, having just been born in June of 1972. Author Nancy Friday was making waves with her best selling book, My Secret Garden: Women’s Sexual Fantasies. All around the world, men and women alike were reading and identifying with the women who had bared their souls writing about their favorite sexual fantasies. All around the world, many of those same people were saying to themselves, “Thank God I’m not alone.” My Secret Garden related the sexual fantasies of dozens of women and included an array of erotic subjects, from what might be considered an everyday rape fantasy to more exotic fantasies involving incest, young boys, and animals… just to name a few. One might think that with subject matter so explicit during the dark ages before the Internet, a lot of potential readers might be blushing too much to consider buying the book, let alone reading it. But My Secret Garden was a huge success, so much so that in 1975, Nancy Friday came out with a sequel: Forbidden Flowers: More Women’s Sexual Fantasies.

My first contact with both My Secret Garden and Forbidden Flowers was when I was a 17 year old senior in high school. It was 1990 and at the time, I was just starting to awaken to sex and being a woman. I have to confess that I practically devoured My Secret Garden and I was left hungry for more tales of women’s sexual fantasies. I had already purchased My Secret Garden twice– I lost the first copy, no doubt making some other teenager’s day– and somehow summoned up the courage to buy it a second time. And of course, when I later saw Forbidden Flowers on the shelf, I felt compelled to buy it. So I brought the book up to the cashier, trying to act naturally. I paid for it without incident. And now, almost sixteen years later, I still own my original copy of that book. The pages are yellowed, the cover is missing, and Forbidden Flowers is still a very intriguing book. But I have to admit that I didn’t enjoy it as much as I enjoyed My Secret Garden.

Forbidden Flowers is divided into two parts. The first part, which comes after an introduction written by Nancy Friday herself, is entitled Where Do Sexual Fantasies Come From?. The second part is entitled The Uses of Sexual Fantasy. Both parts are followed by several chapters with somewhat vague subjects. Friday includes the first names of each fantasy writer’s name. Nancy Friday introduces each chapter before she presents the fantasies, writing in a candid, matter-of-fact style. She succinctly explains her point of view, liberally citing studies done by well-known psychiatrists and psychologists.

Personally, I found Nancy Friday’s analysis quite perceptive; thirty years ago, I’m sure that to some people Friday’s thoughts might have even seemed revolutionary… or just merely repugnant. Consider this. On page 15, Friday briefly writes of a study done by Dr. Arnold Gesell, who was observing infant behavior. As paraphrased fron the book, Dr. Gesell placed a naked fifty-six week old boy in front of a mirror and found that the boy was excited by the sight of his own body. Dr. Gesell took a photograph of the naked boy, whose penis was erect. Friday concludes that since this little boy, who was barely a year old, could have an erotic experience, it’s only natural that little girls, who are supposedly more precocious than little boys are, can also have sexual experiences. Friday writes,

And yet the idead is still unacceptable to most people. Childhood is pictured as a time of ribbons, fairy tales, and lemonade. Adults notoriously forget that they were once children too; they close off their minds to early sexual memories– those embarrassing or shameful events connected perhaps with anxieties about masturbation. I am not suggesting that the sugar and spice of little girls’ childhoods are only a false facade. That aspect is real. But so is our sexuality (15-16).

I think Friday is right about adults being uncomfortable with the prospect that children might think about sex. After all, our society loathes the idea that a child’s innocence might be warped by a subject that as supposed to be as “adult” as sex is. Just reading that passage led me to think about the ugliness of pedophilia, even though what Friday wrote had nothing to do with child sexual abuse and everything to do with how natural the acts of sex and masturbation are– or should be, anyway. Plain and simple, the message that I got from Nancy Friday is that thinking about sex is healthy and natural, even for kids. But I still couldn’t help but be somewhat uncomfortable reading that passage.

Friday further explains that after she wrote My Secret Garden, she received over 2000 letters from other women who had sent her their sexual fantasies. She explains that the women who had written to her came from all walks of life– there were letters from educated and less educated women. As a result of reading the letters, Friday was left with the impression that sexual fantasies usually come from childhood memories.

Part One includes four chapters of fantasies written by women whose stories related specifically to their childhoods. The fantasies are presented simply with the original authors’ name and they are written in their original authors’ voices, complete with “colorful” language. I will offer a warning to those who have delicate sensibilities that the fantasies appear to have been included unedited for anything beyond punctuation and grammar. Most of the fantasies are quite explicit and provocative.

In My Secret Garden, Nancy Friday grouped the fantasies by subject matter, which made it easier for readers to skip sections that they might find objectionable. For example, if a reader didn’t want to read about women who had fantasized about having sex with virgins the person could easily skip that section because Friday had clearly marked it. Friday did not group the fantasies the same way in Forbidden Flowers, so it might be harder for readers to pick and choose what they read in her book.

When I was 17, I was more interested in reading the sexual fantasies. Now that I’m almost twice that age, I find Friday’s analysis more interesting than the fantasies. Friday seems genuinely interested in presenting an intellectual commentary on why women have certain fantasies. I suspect that some folks who read Forbidden Flowers will be reading it just for sake of titillation. For those readers who want to dig deeper, I would urge that they read Nancy Friday’s sections and consider what she has to say. Even if they don’t agree with the author’s point of view, the ideas that Friday presents are certainly food for thought.

Forbidden Flowers is definitely not a book that will appeal to everyone. I think that those who are interested in psychology, particularly if they are interested in pop psychology will enjoy Forbidden Flowers. Of course, I believe that this book will also appeal to many men… especially those who want to understand women better. Women who need reassurance that having sexual fantasies are normal may be comforted by Forbidden Flowers. I would not recommend this book if the subject of sex is an uncomfortable one for you. Also, understand that some of the subject matter within this book is not about your garden variety sex. Friday presents sexual fantasies of every flavor, no matter how distasteful they might be to the average reader. Read at your own risk!

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book reviews, sex

Partial repost: A review of My Secret Garden, by Nancy Friday

Here’s a book I originally wrote for Epinions and later reposted on my original blog. I have to do some editing on this post, since it also included some time sensitive and now irrelevant information. Other than that, it’s “as/is”.

My Secret Garden by Nancy Friday, written August 20, 2003

Nice girls think about sex too.

I remember the first time I read Nancy Friday’s 1973 book My Secret Garden. I was seventeen years old and a senior in high school, still quite virginal, and full of questions about sex. As the youngest daughter of two quite conservative (but tired) parents, I suppose I could have talked to one of my three sisters about sexuality. But they are a lot older than I am and none of them were living close by. Besides, it’s not the kind of topic that comes up easily, no matter how brazen and brash a person you might be.

How does one bring up sexual fantasies in a casual conversation anyway? It’s the type of thing one talks about at a slumber party or in a game of truth or dare, maybe. I wasn’t the kind of teenager who went to parties. So it was lucky that I happened upon My Secret Garden at Waldenbooks one day. Swallowing my embarrassment, I picked it up and took it to the counter, trying very hard not to look at the cashier as she rung up my purchase. Then I rushed out of the store and went home to read it. A few weeks later, I misplaced the book, but I was so engrossed by it, that I went out and bought another copy. I still own that copy and I’ve supplemented it with many of Friday’s other books. I’d have to say that of the five I’ve read, I enjoy this one and Men in Love, Friday’s book about men’s sexual fantasies the most.

The foreword is written by someone who calls herself “J”, who is the author of Sensuous Woman (whatever that is). The style is of her prose is matter-of-fact, complete with the “F-word”, as she describes how sexually liberated women feel about the act of having sex in the 70s and their reaction to Friday’s book about women’s sexual fantasies. She writes:

I suspect that women generally will be fascinated by the revelations in this book, but not surprised. Nor will these readers have trouble in acknowledging that they too fantasize. Those women, however, who consider sexual intercourse unpleasant and/or unsatisfying will be revolted by the explicit and enthusiastically carnal sexual daydreams of the women in this book and will reject and deny their own fantasies both to the world and to themselves. And how will the male react? The first man I gave My Secret Garden to was so turned on by the book that he went on a lovemaking marathon. (xiii).

In my experience “J” was right. I was fascinated by this book, but I wasn’t surprised by what I read. However, I found Friday’s 1981 book Men in Love, which contains men’s sexual fantasies, a huge turn on. I suppose we humans all like to know what makes the opposite gender tick sexually. Reading My Secret Garden was kind of like attending a big confessional full of horny women where everyone shared their deepest fantasies of what fanned their flames.

Friday’s writing style is like a documentary, but she only writes at the beginning of each chapter. The rest of the writing is done by the many, many women who sent her letters, detailing the gamut of their sexual fantasies. This book is divided into seven chapters. Within the seven chapters are subchapters that address certain themes.

The afterword is entitled “In Defense of Nancy Friday”, by Martin Shepard, M.D., Psychiatrist. Since this book obviously covers a controversial subject that is disturbing to some conservative people, not to mention sub-topics that will most definitely upset more liberal folks, Nancy Friday probably did need to be defended back in 1973. She might even need it now, thirty years later, for including a subchapter on young boys (even if it is just fantasy, including this section probably concerned a few people).

Even though some of the topics were not my cup of tea, I did find it interesting to read about what turns other women on just from a purely psychological standpoint, which is the way Friday endeavors to tackle the subject. I have to admit, though, that some of the reading was pretty entertaining and quite sexy. Besides, if people were really disgusted by this book, it wouldn’t still be around after thirty years.

If you compared this book to say, Kink: The Shocking Hidden Sex Lives of Americans, by Susan Crain Bakos, a ridiculous read if I ever met one, you’d immediately notice that My Secret Garden is a far superior book. You will also notice, however, that this book is quite dated. The slang used is 70s slang. If you’re in your 30s or 40s or older, you’ll recognize 70s pop cultural references sprinkled within the letters. Some might say that makes this book a classic, and some might say that makes this book dated.

Friday has come out with 1992’s Women on Top, another book about sexual fantasies and 1975’s Forbidden Flowers, her sequel to My Secret Garden to partially address the dated quality of her books. I don’t think either is as good as My Secret Garden. Read this book if you’re curious about what makes women tick and you have an open mind. If you’re easily offended, you might want to skip this book and keep wondering

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