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A Brief History of Nakedness by Philip Carr-Gomm

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icymist Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jun-03-10 12:54 PM
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A Brief History of Nakedness by Philip Carr-Gomm
Writers, luckily, are invisible voices: we can only be grateful that Philip Carr-Gomm is not on television. To judge from the photograph on the jacket of his book, which mercifully stops at the neck, he's a jolly, ruddy, probably burly fellow, with a shock of greying curls. But he has the soul of a sanctimonious flasher, and is convinced that the sight of the rest of him adipose middle-aged belly flab, jiggling genitals, a bum that has doubtless gone south would be good for the world, helping to usher in a new age of spiritual renewal and political revolution.

He begins by recommending that you should stop reading his book which, coming as it does in the very first sentence, is advice to be heeded and start disrobing. I kept my clothes on and, more's the pity, continued to turn his anecdotal, glossily vapid pages. I trained my eye to ignore the grosser exhibits in Carr-Gomm's illustrations: the jungly groins of John Lennon and Yoko Ono on the cover of their first album, or the Blairs stripped bare for an Iraq Triptych drawn by the Royal Academician Michael Sandle; the magus Aleister Crowley showing off a yogic breathing technique that didn't help him to suck in his gut, or the elderly female editor of Naturist Life haranguing Trafalgar Square from the fourth plinth. Queasiest of all are the Australian exhibitionists Puppetry of the Penis, who twist their tubes and sacs into tortuous caricatures.

My mind was at peace before I learned that Elton John shaves his pubes, or read about Annie Sprinkle, who invites strangers to probe her cervix with a speculum and defines the procedure as performance art. Carr-Gomm's book may lack ideas, but it certainly contains too much information. In one case, however, an act of exposure does count as a genuine revelation. Lyndon Johnson, when a liberal journalist asked why he continued to bomb Vietnam, apparently replied by unzipping, and lengthily dragging out a penis whose nickname was Jumbo. Has American foreign policy ever been more succinctly defined?


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