A biography of the world’s most famous sex manual

Michael Dirda reviews The Book of Love: The Story of the Kamasutra by James McConnachie, in the Washington Post:

Ph2008053001337_2Years ago, a bunch of us were sitting around drinking when I heard a friend murmur two sentences I have never forgotten. “You know, guys, sex is the greatest thing in the world.” He paused and we were all about to nod in agreement. He was, after all, a noted and knowledgeable ladies’ man. Unexpectedly, though, he then added, with infinite wistfulness: “But it’s just not that great.”

There, in that gulf between the reality and the dream, lies the domain of pornography, the sex industry and the masturbatory fantasy — of Viagra and the midlife crisis. Our Western myths of love are seldom about fulfillment; they are all about yearning. In Plato‘s Symposium we are told that the gods divided the original ball-like human beings in two, and that we consequently spend our lives searching for the other half who will complete us. So-called romantic love, which first blossomed in 12th-century France, revels in passion delayed, forbidden or otherwise thwarted. Its real theme is desire.

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