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The Art of Arousal

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The inimitable sex therapist Dr. Ruth has concocted yet another approach to spark romantic liaisons. Dr. Ruth and an art historian friend ``spent days giggling and choosing the illustrations'' for this inane publication, which contains over 100 images of erotic artworks. Spanning the centuries from ancient Greek times to the present and representing a multitude of cultures, the illustrations include sexual depictions by such artists as Botticelli, Fragonard, Titian, Rodin, Goya, and Magritte. ``Pictures in which everyone was having a good time'' are paired with biographical and historical comments spiced with Dr. Ruth's special expertise. In keeping with its intent, the chapters are organized by ``the progression of an erotic relationship, from the first glance to postcoital bliss.'' Art and sex deserve better than this gimmicky book. Not recommended.-- Joan Levin, Chicago

Well-known sex therapist Westheimer here presents a provocative, richly eclectic, inspirational collection of erotic art. Chapters proceed methodically from flirtation and seduction to foreplay, the embrace, solitary and group pleasures and conclude with blissful exhaustion--a loose framework for organizing more than 100 color reproductions of works by Georgia O'Keeffe, Titian, Watteau, Durer, Manet, Courbet, Egon Schiele, David Hockney and others. The scope is multicultural, embracing Persian miniatures, a Cambodian sandstone female torso, a Dogon primordial couple from west Africa and Hopi carver Fred Koruh's interlocking male and female kachina dolls. Westheimer's exhortatory interjections on foreplay, lovemaking positions and so forth seem intrusive amidst the shrewd art-historical commentaries of her anonymous, albeit acknowledged cultural adviser. Overall, this is a delightful bedside companion. (May)

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