Thursday, March 29, 2012

Booknote: The New Bedside Playboy

I found this book to be an interesting and curious item to pick up and read. I guess at one point, when people said, "I read it for the articles," they did read it for the articles. As I say in my review, do not let the fact it is a Playboy book turn you away. There is some good writing here. I will say as a final comment that I have read the magazine here and there, but not in any regular fashion. You do get the feeling that it was a lot more in its heyday, and yet, it keeps rolling along.

Here is the review then as I posted it to my GoodReads profile:

The New Bedside PlayboyThe New Bedside Playboy by Hugh Hefner

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Though I labeled this book for my "erotica and sensual" bookshelf, do not let that dissuade you from reading it if erotica and sexuality materials are not your cup of tea. There is very little actual erotic content in this anthology. The book focuses more on 50 years of literary content in Playboy magazine. Yes, people could indeed really be reading it for the articles. The anthology features a pretty broad selection of commentary, opinion pieces, essays, some celebrity interviews, pieces of short fiction, plus some of the features many do expect from the magazine such as a sampling on pin-ups and cartoons and "Playboy jokes."

I think you can read this anthology in a few ways. You can read it as a piece of nostalgia, as a look back at how the magazine was great, and not just for the pictorials. They did feature some of the great writers of the late part of the 20th century. Some of the pieces were better than others, and that is the only reason I gave it three stars. I liked it, but I did not "really like it." There were some misses, but I am sure for other readers, the pieces I did not like others might like. So give it a try anyways. You can also read this book as a sort of small literary history or time capsule. As I mentioned, some great writers and thinkers are featured here. I think you can also read it as a piece of popular culture, as a reflection of its time. I did find interesting some of the things the writers addressed and were concerned about. Some things were curious little details, for example, William Buckley writing about reading and defining what makes someone smart mentioned that, in 1983 or so, he had not really heard of Michael Jackson. Reading that detail today is an interesting experience.

There may be a few pieces that show age, but there are also a few that are pretty timeless, some even relevant still today. The best part of this book is that you can browse through it, find items of interest, and read those. Leaf through it, read a little bit now, a little bit later. It does lend itself to be a bedside reader (may also work for bathroom reading, and I do mean that in a good way).

The only other small nitpicks I had with the book were the way the table of contents was organized and a lack of some small note of information to preface the pieces. The table of contents is organized by major topics, instead of in the order that the pieces appear in the book. Personally, I would have preferred to know what came in what order. Two, in anthologies like this I tend to like a small preface to the pieces, something like, "this piece was published in the X year issue of Playboy" and maybe a bit about an author or something like that. Only way I could tell when a piece was written was either by references the authors made in their piece or by looking at the copyright page if I got curious. Most of the time I could guess ok (on classical things, like that piece by Boccaccio I obviously had an idea when it was originally written). Anyhow, those are the small things.

Overall, this is a pretty good book to pass the time. If you need some reading material, and you need something that you can read with ease, something you can pick up and drop and pick up again, then this is the book for you. And if you have never read the magazine, it may give you an appreciation for it, especially for what it used to be.

View all my reviews

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