Ive just noticed you noticing me reading Richard Rhodes Making Love: An Erotic Odyssey. One of my Goodreads friends noticed my intense admiration for Rhodes The Making of the Atomic Bomb (it won the Pulitzer Prize; and no, atomic bomb is not a euphemism for an orgy in the Yale science department). This friend told me about the existence of Making Love, and we both laughed about the disconnect between sex and a nuclear holocaust. Thus, I naturally feel the need to open this review with a rationalization for not only purchasing Making Love, but also reading it and telling others the same. Im totally ashamed. Its about sex the thing we all spend inordinate amounts of time talking about, thinking about, fantasizing about, and occasionally doing. In typically bombastic, pompous, and self-congratulating style, Rhodes begins his sexual memoir by stating its purpose: There are war stories and tales of survival, there are political memoirs and confessions of faith, but in all of Western literature there are only a very few personal narratives that honestly and frankly explore the intimate experience of making love and hardly any to which an author has been willing to sign his name. First, Making Love was published in 1992, so perhaps the statement very few personal narratives was true when written. Second, comparing the experience of making love to war stories and tales of survival sort of gives you an idea of this books tonality. Rhodes structures Making Love as a partner-by-partner, thrust-by-thrust recounting of his sexual exploits. Somehow, like the American cryptographers of the Second World War, I was able to determine that G-- was actually Rhodes wife, Ginger. To say that Rhodes writes in a graphic style is to undersell the highly-detailed and extremely clinical nature of the sex scenes found herein. At other times, his descriptions can only be described as laughable, such as his depiction of his own glans as being shaped like a Second World War Italian soldiers helmet. I know what youre thinking now: I must have this book. Simply put, people were never as sexually naïve as Rhodes keeps insisting (this book, after all, follows The Joy of Sex and Gay Taleses Thy Neighbors Wife and the Kinsey Report). Rhodes loves the truth or, as he insufferably calls it, verity. Im just not sure its appropriate to include such truths in a book called Making Love with two half-naked consenting adults on the cover. That said, this book could have used a little love. None of Rhodes trysts give you even a whiff of the actual transformative powers of sex and love. I will never be able to revisit The Making of the Atomic Bomb without the vivid reminder that Rhodes often stopped work for marathon masturbation sessions. I will never be able to look at the helmet of an Italian soldier from World War II without thinking about his penis. Of all the books Ive read, Id like to unread this one the most.
In Letters to My Son: A Father's Wisdom on Manhood, Life, and Love, Kent Nerburn speaks of the old adage, we humans are destined to live with our feet on the earth and our heads in the heavens, and we can never be at peace because we are pulled both ways (page 146). At the time Making Love was published I was attempting to write a book somewhat inspired by John Jerome's Stone Work: Reflections on Serious Play and Other Aspects of Country Life. Anyhow, I lived these wonderful and loving experiences with my wife and failed miserably trying to capture them in writing. So here I was, some guy that worked in a factory, trying to depart a sense of beauty and mystery of love between a woman and man and getting lost in a tawdry mess of vague descriptions of methods to connect plumbing. So when I saw Richard Rhodes' Making Love I thought, "hallelujah, I will learn from a master" (not realizing yet what a turd the rest of my book was as well). The man can write no doubt, he is one of my favorite authors, and he left nothing to the imagination in Making Love. Rather than using words to fight words, my wife used the ancient wisdom of women to more than adequately demonstrate that, yes, making love is indeed of the earth, but it is also heaven on earth, that neither I or Richard Rhodes could capture with mere words. I think to re-read Making Love, now would no longer engender a sense of voyeurism, but rather a deep feeling of pity for the lost Divine.
I searched his name using my librarys interlibrary loan system and found this work, Making Love: An Erotic Odyssey. Rhodes was born in 1937 and this book was published in 1992, so it seemed to fit the bill even if Rhodes has continued writing to this day.
"Making Love is a brilliant, illuminating and often shocking exploration of one man's sexual odyssey. Making Love is a stunning departure for Richard Rhodes--a compellingly truthful work of art that marks the first time a major author has written with such complete and unapologetic candor of his most intimate experiences, fantasies and thoughts.