Greetings from the Omnigraphic Blogopticon. On view are vile sticky things dragged from the attic, snarky commentary on the world at large, and all-encompassing ennui. All that and a weird rubbery smell. A horrible time will be had by all.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Sev's Book Club, part the second

Continuing my foray into suspect literature I have here two fine new specimens: Plain Facts For Old and Young, by J. Harvey Kellogg, 1884, and The Science of Eugenics and Sex Life, with Sex-Life, Love, Marriage, Maternity, 1904.

I've had my copy of Plain Facts for over 15 years. I picked it up quite by accident at a flea market for like five bucks and didn't even open the thing for several weeks. Imagine my horror at finding that the Corn Flakes guy was obsessed with masturbation! The guy just wouldn't shut up about it. He claimed it was introduced in children by everything from spicy foods and walking funny to itchy clothes and sleazy classmates. Said it caused stuff like bad posture and death. He even gives helpful hints on catching the little beasts hot at it. "If the suspected one is observed to become very quickly quiet after retiring, and when looked at appears to be asleep, the bedclothes should be quickly thrown off under some pretense." Gotcha!

He suggests really bland food (most likely cornflakes), lots of enemas, not sleeping on the stomach or the back, cold baths, the application of electricity, and more enemas.

One hopes those enemas don't somehow involve cornflakes in any way, shape, or form.

He's also another one of those dreadfully dull men who got quite het up about waltzing and corsets, like the authors of Social Abominations, except with more graphic detail. He makes waltzing sound like sex standing up. Good sex standing up, not the crap kind where your bits don't line up exactly right so you give up and go home.

J. H. Kellogg's top three topics of conversation must have been masturbation, enemas, and cornflakes. Did I mention enemas?

Where Plain Facts was graphic, sticky and made me want to wash my hands, The Science of Eugenics dances so carefully around things it takes a scientist to even realize they're talking about sex at all. They start out with the usual eugenics rubbish about who should be allowed to breed and they throw in a bunch of church crap so they can say God told them that was the right way to do it. One of their excuses for not letting stupid people have kids is that the Spartans dumped defective babies out in the wilderness. Or something.

The first third of the book is the eugenics bit and it's all fairly dull going. There are dozens of illustrations, mostly sappy paintings of perfect white mothers with perfect white children and perfect white religious rubbish quoted underneath, inexplicably mixed in with scientific cross-sections of organs and innards, just to make it all official and important. Somehow they include a Bible verse or two at least every two pages, all slapped together with some dodgy science.

The last part is meant for ladies. Whole chapters on what to eat and do to be healthy and gorgeous. Most of this part makes sense--at least until they get to the whole Gift of Motherhood business. A lot of guff about how a woman is never truly beautiful unless she has a babe at her breast.

I'm not making that part up.

They also skip around the issue of exactly what happens on a honeymoon, or what a husband is supposed to do (except "woo" her) in the bedroom, or even how eggs and sperm get together in the first place. They get quite boringly scientific about ovum and spermatozoa and the fertilization of eggs but the author seems to be afraid of offending the sensibilities of her tender readers with how the two get together so one gets the impression that fairies bring the Gift of Motherhood and leave it on the bedtable sometime during the night or else the sperm crawl across the bedclothes of their own accord like in Eraserhead.

One of the more inane ideas put about by this charming volume is The Power of Impression at Conception. A-yup. You can give your kids all kinds of smarts by merely attending lectures or enjoying a wonderful concert before you have your bi-monthly boink which you'd best not even pretend to enjoy.

This can also work the other way, they say. So, suppose a frivolous young woman goes out with her girlfriends in a night on the town and they have a couple too many bottles of wine. They go crashing through the streets, flashing their garters at unsuspecting young men, chucking cobbles at shop windows, and playing Doorbell Ditch. When this capricious young woman finally makes it back home, by hansom cab since she's wrapped her phaeton around a gaslamp downtown, she surprises her naive husband with perhaps ten whole minutes of sexual abandon. She even enjoys it for once. You can rest assured that the children of this union will become complete mouth-breathers--at least according to the authors of this book.

But I saved the best for last. Of course there's several chapters on self-pollution and how to stop your children from doing it.

"Many have been taught that the sexual organs themselves are impure. This is not true. God made them, and they are part of the body most sacred of all, for to them is given the honor and privilege, under right conditions, after marriage, of creating life. But certain it is that they must be left alone until that time, except to keep them clean, if they are ever to fulfill this high mission in a way to bring happiness. Let them alone even with your thoughts. It is not wrong to know about them; but I have told you why it is a mistake to keep thinking about them. Let them alone, to grow strong and mature and beautiful in the way that God has planned, and by and by you will be very glad and thankful that you did."

See, now I can't stop thinking about them.


Scott said...

OK, next do a post about the wonderfully insane Ideal Marriage. (And, yes, you do have a copy because I gave it to you.) I did a couple of posts on this loopy tome a few years back.

Jane said...

How glad I am to see you've returned to this plane of existence, particularly with your book reviews! Oprah doesn't have the intestinal fortitude to read books like these.

Scott said...

Yes, but she's not really back. I think she was just teasing us and now she's gone back to whatever it is she does offline. I imagine it's something involving cats. Or yarn.

BlackCrow said...

yeah for being involved with cats and yarn!!!
Atleast she is not tedious.

But I don't like being teased.

Maybe she is working on those cursed french knickers I've only knitted 3/4 of the first leg too!
Anyway happy 2008 its gotta be better than the last one!

Jane said...

She's teasing us like god teased moses in the desert.

BlackCrow said...

hmpf..its deafening here will someone please shut those crickets up!