Across the Page: Bisexual Books

 
 


The Bisexual’s Guide to the Universe: Quips, Tips, and Lists for Those who Go Both Ways by Nicole Kristal and Mike Szymanski (Alyson Books)

Though the title of Nicole Kristal and Mike Szymanski’s new book is called The Bisexual’s Guide to the Universe, it is actually, as they write in the preface, for "fence-sitters, chameleons, switch-hitters, pansexuals, omnisexuals, whatevers, and all those who loathe labels."

Nominated for Lambda’s inaugural bisexual book award, The Bisexual’s Guide to the Universe is funny, informative and insightful. Divided into useful categories — Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced — the chapters explore the world of bisexuality from every possible perspective.

Kristal and Szymanski’s lists incorporate the practical "You’re Probably Bisexual If" to the hilarious "Bisexual Myths We Wish Were True" (e.g., "everyone’s bisexual when they’re drunk") and include helpful questionnaires such as "The R-U-Bi?"

The book also contains a history of bisexuality, seduction tips, bi figures ("A 2006 California State University study shows that women are 27 percent more likely than men to be attracted to the same sex") and a catalog of bi animals (add dogs, oysters and flamingos to the list) and cartoon figures (Popeye, of course).

One of the more interesting chapters breaks down how to come out to different people (for example, "radical-right dad" or "hippie mom") in your life. The suggestions range from "do consider not telling him at all" to "do tell her anytime" and combine advice with handy facts: "Do mention that Leviticus, aside from condemning homosexuality, also supports the notion of selling women into slave labor."

The Bisexual’s Guide to the Universe is a sexy, comprehensive and entertaining read regardless of where you rate on the Kinsey scale. (And by the way, most people fall somewhere in the middle.)


Henry and June: From "A Journal of Love" — The Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin (1931–1932) by Anaïs Nin (Harcourt)

"The impetus to grow and live intensely is so powerful in me I cannot resist it." Thus begins Henry and June, Anaïs Nin’s chronicle of the year she met and fell in love with writer Henry Miller and his wife, June.

She begins her diary in Paris. Married to a man named Hugo, their relationship is somewhat open as Nin searches for opportunities to evolve — in her body, mind and art. Henry is aware of Nin’s attraction to his wife, but when June returns to the States, the two begin an intense affair.

Nin’s prose about both lovers is lyrical and exhaustive. "I’ve met Henry Miller," she writes in December. "He’s a man whom life makes drunk, I thought. He is like me."
Later, when she returns from meeting June, she writes: "Her beauty drowned me. As I sat in front of her I felt that I would do anything mad for her, anything she asked of me. Henry faded. She was color, brilliance, strangeness."

In letters to Henry and June as well as inspired diary entries, Nin is candid about her emerging sexuality and examines her lovers and herself with a meticulous eye. She illustrates the beauty and fluidity of her sexuality in several passages, including: "I need two lives. I am two beings"; "How can I deceive myself about the extent of Henry’s love when I understand and share his feelings about June?"; "In a different way, I am devoted to both, a part of me goes out to each of them."

Nin’s analysis of how men and women differ as lovers is also intriguing. "Men need other things besides a sexual recipient. They have to be soothed, lulled, understood, helped, encouraged and listened to." With women, on the other hand, she writes: "I have wanted to possess her as if I were a man, but I have also wanted her to love me with the ways, the hands, the senses that only women have."

Like life, the narrative takes several unexpected turns, and Nin records them all. While striving to understand her identity as a sexual being and an artist, however, she applies one important lesson: "Writers make love to whatever they need."

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