Saturday, May 9, 2009
Nick's Picks: An Ecclectic Quartet
BY NICHOLAS BASBANES
Masters of Sex: The Life and Times of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the Couple Who Taught America How to Love, by Thomas Maier; Basic Books, 411 pages, $27.50
If the subject is about how a single book has the power to impact the way people think and comport themselves in intimate relationships, then you have to include the release in 1966 of Human Sexual Response by William Masters and Virginia Johnson, a blockbuster with international consequences that was followed four years later by a powerful followup, Human Sexual Inadequacy. Prior to these books, what people knew about the mechanics of sexual relationships came from text books. Their first-hand reports of human sexuality, reported clinically in their books--Masters and Johnson observed 10,000 sexual acts in pursuit of their data--changed the entire paradigm. Thomas Maier--the biographer previously of another inhabitant of this exclusive group of attitude-changing authors, the baby doctor Dr. Benjamin Spock--has written a compelling profile of the two pioneers that concentrates on their own relationship and working patterns. Altogether a fascinating book.
Here's an interview with Don Marsh, host of St, Louis on the Air, produced by a local NPR station.
KSDK -- The author of "Masters of Sex; The Life and Times of Williams Master and Virginia Johnson, the Couple who Taught America How to Love" will be in the Central West End to sign copies of his book.
Thomas Maier will be at Left Bank Books at 399 North Euclid on Thursday at 7:00 p.m.
Maier joined NewsChannel 5's Jennifer Blome to discuss his book. Click on the video link to watch the interview.
By J.R. Nelson
Author: Thomas Maier
Publisher: Basic Books
Number of Pages: 432 Pages
Cover Type: Hard Cover
If it's hard to imagine a truly adequate sex-ed class before William Masters and Virginia Johnson, it’s probably because there wasn’t one. Masters and Johnson literally wrote the book on how we get it on. Pioneers in the physiological study of human sexuality and the treatment of sexual dysfunction, their bestselling 1966 classic Human Sexual Response and its follow up, Human Sexual Inadequacy, were sparks that helped ignite the sexual revolution.
As Thomas Maier reports in his new biography of the duo, Masters of Sex, the journey of Masters and Johnson after that initial success was a hard one. Some of their work, including research on homosexuality and converting/reverting gays and lesbians and a later book on AIDS, have been justifiably controversial. In addition, the duo’s 40-year relationship was complicated; their marriage and professional partnership ended in bitterness. As Maier reveals in delicate detail, mysteries of the heart are not as easily solvable as those of the loins, even for the experts.
Famous as caricatures for their “white lab coat” exactitude and clinical prose, Masters and Johnson deftly informed and comforted millions. Maier offers an intimate, engaging look at a couple who helped free lovers from repression, suppression and Freudian myth and helped bring what was most human about us into the light.