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Toni Bentley's THE SURRENDER - Best Books of 2004 - Publishers Weekly
Toni Bentley in the New York Times Book Review

Published: October 24, 2004

To the Editor:
Is anal sex a literary taboo? In her review of Toni Bentley's book ''The Surrender: An Erotic Memoir'' (Oct. 3), Zoe Heller expresses her doubts, observing that ''no less mainstream a fictional character than Bridget Jones cheerfully engaged in the practice.''

Your reviewer might have found a more impressive literary pedigree for anal sex than that. Shortly after the famous 1960 trial in which Penguin Books was prosecuted in Britain on obscenity charges for publishing ''Lady Chatterley's Lover,'' John Sparrow demonstrated in an article in Encounter magazine that the character Oliver Mellors sodomized Lady Chatterley. This caused some amusement, for during the trial an Anglican bishop had testified for the defense that there was nothing in the book that he had not done to his own wife.
New York

The New Book Review
To the Editor:
I don't generally fear change, but I really dislike several of the recent changes to the Book Review (Oct. 3). Chief among these is moving the bios of the reviewers to the front of the Book Review. It's annoying and inconvenient. (How can I know if I trust this person? Who is he and what has he written? What page is that stupid thing on again?) I'm fully aware many highbrow (and middlebrow) magazines follow this practice; I don't like it in those publications either.

I imagine one argument for it would be that this frees up more space on the page of the review, but instead this space seems to be used for oversize photos of authors, which I find outrageous and sometimes inflammatory. The woman who wrote the memoir about anal sex gets a huge, almost half-page glamour shot? Who are you people? Well, I suppose a cartoon accompanying that review was out of the question.
Geneseo, N.Y.

To the Editor:
The changes made to the Book Review put an end to its wearisome predictability and its formulaic structure. The New Yorker-like contributors' bios all located in one spot made referral easy. ''Paperback Row'' is a snappier title than ''New & Noteworthy Paperbacks,'' and ''Editors' Choice'' is preferable to the schoolmarmish ''And Bear in Mind.''

Even the books under review seemed more interesting than usual, although that may have been the result of the ''better take a lie-down and cool off'' reading of Zoe Heller's review of ''The Surrender.''

Toni Bentley in the New York Times Book Review

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