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Is Sex Necessary?: Or Why You Feel the Way You Do Paperback – November 9, 2004


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; 75 Anv edition (November 9, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060733144
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060733148
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.8 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #79,786 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

The classic send-up of sex manuals and how-to books--and one of the funniest books ever written. "One of the silliest books in years, and perfectly lovely."--Saturday Review --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

James Thurber was born in Columbus, Ohio, in 1894. Famous for his humorous writings and illustrations, he was a staff member of The New Yorker for more than thirty years. He died in 1961.



E. B. White, the author of such beloved classics as Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little, and The Trumpet of the Swan, was born in Mount Vernon, New York. He graduated from Cornell University in 1921 and, five or six years later, joined the staff of The New Yorker magazine, then in its infancy. He died on October 1, 1985, and was survived by his son and three grandchildren.

Mr. White's essays have appeared in Harper's magazine, and some of his other books are: One Man's Meat, The Second Tree from the Corner, Letters of E. B. White, Essays of E. B. White, and Poems and Sketches of E. B. White. He won countless awards, including the 1971 National Medal for Literature and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, which commended him for making a "substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children."

During his lifetime, many young readers asked Mr. White if his stories were true. In a letter written to be sent to his fans, he answered, "No, they are imaginary tales . . . But real life is only one kind of life—there is also the life of the imagination."


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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

58 of 61 people found the following review helpful By Bob Manson on July 5, 2004
Format: Paperback
You've probably heard of E.B. White--he wrote "Charlotte's Web" after all, quite possibly still required reading in many middle schools (as a lead-in to 2pac Shakur's poetry, I'm sure). James Thurber may be a bit more obscure to some of you, but he was an Ohio State alumnus (go Buckeyes! *cough*), an awesome cartoonist/artist, and an author possessed of a wonderfully ascerbic wit.
The combination of the two in this book is a rather uniquely bizarre experience that I found joyously uplifting.
The subject under discussion is indeed, in a rather obscure and indirect sense, sex. But we never *quite* seem to get there; non sequiturs abound, blank pages, discussions of how to avoid sex, bluebirds, flowers, a section on how children should explain sex to adults, and even a "letters from readers" chapter--but no actual sex. Lots of drawings, but nothing that anyone might find helpful for improving their sex life. (Bowling, yes. Bicycling, definitely. Obscure interpretations of unconscious artwork, absolutely. Sex, no.)
This book wasn't so much a reaction to Freud per se as it was to the wacky influx of psychologists and "sexologists", and their (unfortunately for us, entirely successful) attempts to complexify and obfuscate human behavior. This particular brand of snake oil started in the 20s and hasn't stopped flowing, and we're covered in an ever-growing deluge of how-to relationship manuals, self-help books, and other ludicrous efforts at explaining "the human condition".
White and Thurber's work explains, in the main, nothing. It asks more questions than it answers. The humor is dry and obscure, there are a ton of rather dated references, and if you're under 30 you'll probably need a dictionary. But...
if you need a laugh without a laugh track...
Read more ›
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41 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Marla Perkins on September 26, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Thurber's and White's text satirizing the hullabaloo that our dearest lunatic, Mr. Sigmund Freud, began takes whatever cake is being handed out for satirical writing. It's universally funny, lucid, and did I mention funny? It's hilarious. One should pull out one's thesaurus at this point to find other such words, and all will be a propos. The book should have been a trilogy.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Michael F. Herrmann on January 8, 2009
Format: Paperback
A parody in classic vaudevillian style of the (then) newly emergent do-it-yourself psychology books. Thurber's drawing on p. 52 (Queen's House edition, 1978) with its accompanying text "This peculiar posture was discovered by Dr. Titbridge in a patient who for thirty years, boy and man, had been unable to tell love from passion and who allowed it to prey on his mind. Drawing from the Titbridge collection of American male postures." is, by itself, worth the price.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Don Reed on July 7, 2011
Format: Paperback
Is Sex Necessary, Or Why You Feel The Way You Do, James Thurber & E.B. White; Harper & Row Publishers (1st 1929...last 1990)

"From 1800 to 1900...love & marriage & children stood for progress, & progress is - or was - a calm, routine business. `Mrs. Hopkins,' a man would say to the lady of his choice...'Mrs. Hopkins, I am thinking...you & I should get married & have offspring. They are about to build the Union Pacific [railroad], you know, & they will need men.' Because parents can't always have men-children when they want them, this led to almost as many women as men working on the Union Pacific, which in turn led to the greater stature of women in the present Northwest than in any other part of the nation. But that is somewhat beside the point."

"Paranoia: The last stages of what was once a bridegroom."

ISN produced laughter of a sort never experienced before. Having already read a great deal of what E.B. White & James Thurber had written, this was almost unimaginable. But it is true.

The humor is so ethereal, the puns are so subtle, & the writing touch - satiric as it is - is so light, it's almost as if Harper had produced a fragile literary crème brûlée. To react too abruptly to its "flavor" is to endanger the very spell woven by these "quiet" but very creative authors. Skate lightly.

It's been eighty-two years since first publication & the humor still holds up. Given that the "shelf life" of written humor is so notoriously fragile, this places ISN in the ranks of the classics at the same time that you're just having fun reading it. Can't beat that.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Franklin the Mouse on December 28, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Mr. Thurber and Mr. White wrote a very amusing and rich satire on this basic of human conditions. In John Updike's foreword, he is correct in stating that this little gem of a book is quite phallocratic in its assumptions and has misogynistic tendencies. It was created all in good fun by two men in their early thirties and should be viewed as a product of its times (1929). This is very tame stuff in relation to present-day material, but still worth your time if you enjoy witty, nonsensical compositions. There's a good reason this baby is still kicking around eight decades after its initial publication. The book is a quick, light read by two pros.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Hyacinth on April 22, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Nothing belongs to its own time as much as humor, and this odd book, considered wildly witty in its day, is now more a curiosity than a laugh-out-loud blockbuster. Nevertheless, the patient reader can uncover many gems, such as the droll comment that women who think they're being worshipped from afar are more often being ignored from afar. :)
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