43 of 45 people found the following review helpful
More great prose from a top-notch journalist,
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This review is from: Other Side of Desire, The (Hardcover)
Journalist Daniel Bergner has a knack for getting inside his subject matter, which often focuses on the edgy extremes where most of us will never venture in real life, and about which little has been written. In the Land of Magic Soldiers: A Story of White and Black in West Africa gave us a glimpse of Africa's poorest and most violence-ravaged nation, Sierra Leone. In God of the Rodeo: The Quest for Redemption in Louisiana's Angola Prison, Bergner introduced us to the rodeo champions of Angola Penitentiary in Louisiana, "the last slave plantation." Here, Bergner give us a glimpse of another forbidden zone, that of extreme sexual practices.
Bergner's status as a skillful writer for the New York Times Magazine shows in his ability to bring both insight and compassion to bear on characters that might otherwise come off as mere freaks. The narrative is woven around four stories, involving a dominatrix, a foot fetishist, an amputee fetishist and -- of interest to those of us who work with sex offenders -- an incestuous stepfather. Describing that case of "Roy," Bergner introduces competing theories of sex offending and describes the time he spent with Roy's pedophilia therapy group as well as with well-known experts in the field.
If you are undecided about whether to buy this book, you can start with a little taste from the Internet: Bergner's New York Times article of January 22, 2009, "What Do Women Want?" illustrates his knack for translating dry science into accessible prose. Salon's January 27 interview with Bergner, "Sexual perversity in America," briefly describes all four cases featured in the book. Finally, you can check out Bergner's web site, danielbergner.com, which features some of his other writing. There, under the "articles" tab, I especially recommend his 2005 article, "The Making of a Molester." Perhaps that cutting-edge character study (which was influential back when he wrote it) sparked his interest in doing this book, which he has spent the past several years researching.
At any rate, I highly recommend the book.