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Cover of the year?

manhoodthe rise and fall of the penis

Manhood_modest Bookstores that stock the smart academic books from the University of Chicago Press have something racier than usual on their shelves: the book "Manhood" by Mels van Driel. The cover features a copy of Michelangelo's David, from the waist down, naked in vivid, carved detail.

To protect the innocent, we've provided a modest black bar for the stone gentleman. The book, originally published in Amsterdam in 2008, is making its American debut.

Author Mels van Driel is a consultant urologist and sexologist at Groningen University Medica Center in the Netherlands. He brings a light hand to the subject -- the book's subtitle is "The Rise and Fall of the Penis."

But with chapters as plain as "Testosterone and Sperm" and "The Prostate and Seminal Glands," can the book live up to the wit of its title -- or the arty salaciousness of its cover? Here's how chapter two begins:

Modern medicine sees the erection of the penis as based on a euro-vascular reflex, dependent on a correct hormonal balance, a healthy anatomy, an adequate blood supply and an undamaged and efficiently functioning nervous system. If one takes all this on board, one realizes that it's easy for things to go wrong occasionally. Put more strongly, it's a miracle that things go smoothly so often! So this chapter will highlight not only the technical, but also the miraculous aspects.

That's not a laugh riot, but it's fairly easygoing for an academic treatise. Be warned, there are also photographs and diagrams of ailments of men's private parts, literary references, and a long section dedicated to ailments of the penis. There is also a table titled "Penis Length in Normal Men"; perhaps it's for the best that the measurements have been left in centimeters.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

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I realize it might be a joke, but really, a black bar over a photo of a sculpture's penis? That's about as ridiculous as referring to genitals as "private parts." Oh wait, you did that too. Grow up, LA Times writers.

This lovely book is actually published by Reaktion Books, which is distributed in North America by the University of Chicago Press. Smart, academic, and certainly not innocent.

This book should be a real eye-opener for Americans now that it is in English. It covers such exotic topics as non-surgical foreskin restoration. Most Americans will have no idea what a foreskin is (thanks to absurd policies like those dictating the blacking out of a picture of a statue's normal intact genitals) let alone that some of the damage of circumcision can be undone.

Of course readers of all ages are free to view the LA Times. Certainly anyone old enough to have his genitals mutilated is old enough to see a normal penis.


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