William Bowers teaches English at Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville, Fla. His most recent work has appeared in The Oxford American and Open City.
Time Out of Mind: The Diaries of Leonard Michaels 1961–1995 by Leonard Michaels (Riverhead Press, $13). Indulge in the guilty pleasure of raiding the thoughts of a writer known for indulging in guilt as if it were pleasure. Wink as he derides the “corrosive spirit of disclosure”; wince when he stops “at a McDonald’s for a psychological hamburger.”
Letters to Wendy’s by Joe Wenderoth (Verse Press, $14). The delicious premise of this novel-in-prose-poems: Using the fast-food chain’s comment cards (“Tell us about your visit! We care!”), a man eats at Wendy’s every day and records his descent into clarity/madness. Anyone doubting that commerce is libidinal will be challenged by the scene in which the hero attempts to mate with a Frosty.
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A Mind of Its Own: A Cultural History of the Penis by David M. Friedman (Penguin, $15). The headiest of its subgenre, this book provides six rise-and-fall readings of the way man has (mis)handled his manhood. A historical, cultural, psychological, and (with the emergence of the “erection industry”) socioeconomic go at the hydraulics of membership.
Castration: An Abbreviated History of Manhood by Gary Taylor (Routledge Press, $20). Not at all procedural, this book deals with castration the way most men would prefer to: abstractly, as an idea and a text. The author flails his hobbyhorse (Elizabethan drama), but his provocative argument, which spans Christ, Frankenstein, and cloning (Dolly being, like Christ, a uniquely conceived lamb), is a thrilling read.
American Crawl by Paul Allen (University of North Texas Press, $13). These stories and dramatic monologues in verse are preachy, fussy, and unforgettable accounts of estrangement, suicide, and salvation, told by characters who stay up late, drive hearses, hitchhike, seek rehab, and—tragicomically—almost drown.
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