Monday, January 2, 2012

Book: The Book of Vice by Peter Sagal

Sagal, Peter. 2007. The Book of Vice: Very Naughty Things (and How to Do Them). HarperCollins.

I got this book for some pretty modest amount of money during the final days of Borders, which is good as I did not like really like it very much. The author runs some sort of show on NPR that I had not heard of, and writes essays as well. This book is a collection of reworked pieces originally published separately on topics such as swinging, strip clubs, pornography, lying and gambling. The striking thing about most of the essays is that Sagal has remarkably little empathy for the people who enjoy the activity under discussion. I can see going to a swing party and not participating, but going to a swing party and being bored strikes me as a signal of a remarkable lack of curiosity. Swing parties (one might imagine) could be fascinating on many levels, from their seeming defiance of evolutionary biology to the sorting of people with people to the selection into being there at all. How could you be bored? And yet he is. Sagal seems similarly puzzled by gamblers and by those who frequent strip clubs. Again, the lack of imagination and empathy, at least for me, was the main takeaway. On a different note, in the chapter on porn, Sagal learns that (surprise!) porn actors are real people with real lives. And, hey, did you know that Nina Hartley is really smart?  Maybe some people didn't but this chapter struck me as pretty old news.

Bottom line: while this is not a bad book, and while it will give you a chuckle or two, you can likely find better ways to spend your reading time.

1 comment:

Claudia Sahm said...

When I have read a job market paper next year on swing parties or strip clubs, I will blame you. Your post cracked me up and reminded me how an education in economics has ruined me...but curiosity about human behavior is the name of the game.