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Book of Vice: Very Naughty Things (and How to Do Them)
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Book of Vice: Very Naughty Things (and How to Do Them)

3.2 11
by Peter Sagal

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Somewhere, somebody is having more fun than you are. Or so everyone believes. Peter Sagal, a mild-mannered, Harvard-educated NPR host—the man who put the second "L" in "vanilla"—decided to find out if it's true.

From strip clubs to gambling halls to swingers clubs to porn sets—and then back to the strip clubs, but only because he left his


Somewhere, somebody is having more fun than you are. Or so everyone believes. Peter Sagal, a mild-mannered, Harvard-educated NPR host—the man who put the second "L" in "vanilla"—decided to find out if it's true.

From strip clubs to gambling halls to swingers clubs to porn sets—and then back to the strip clubs, but only because he left his glasses there—Sagal explores exactly what the sinful folk do, how much they pay for the privilege, and exactly how they got those funny red marks. He hosts a dinner for three of the smartest porn stars in the world, asks the floor manager at the oldest casino in Vegas how to beat the house, and indulges in molecular cuisine at the finest restaurant in the country. Meet liars and rich people who don't think consumption is a disease, encounter the most spectacular view ever seen from a urinal, and say hello to Nina Hartley, the only porn star who can discuss Nietzsche while strangers smack her butt.

With a sharp wit, a remarkable eye for detail, and the carefree insouciance that can only come from not having any idea what he's getting into, Sagal proves to be the perfect guide to sinful behavior. What happens in Vegas—and in less glamorous places—is all laid out in these pages, a modern version of Dante's Inferno, except with more jokes.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

NPR host Sagal (Wait, Wait... Don't Tell Me) offers a hilarious, harmlessly prurient look at the banality of regular people's strange and wicked pleasures. In the wake of the late-1990s obsession with other people's fun, notes Sagal, the hoi polloi have pursued their own indulgences, such as sex joints, swinging couples' clubs, gambling and pornography. He describes the three necessary elements of vice that distinguish it from sin and give it that irresistible frisson: social disapprobation, actual pleasure and shame. A buttoned-up journalist and family man, Sagal visits the respective dens of inequity, interviewing the principals in the name of research while preserving his academic irony, e.g., during the shooting of a hardcore porn sequence for Spice TV, he remarks of the actors: "I began to appreciate how very well Evan and Kelly did their work." Indeed, the dedicated hedonists, such as the regular joe habitués of San Francisco's Power Exchange or the normal-seeming couples who frequent the Swinger's Shack, face "the same problems of meeting supplies, logistics, expense versus income, and time management as does any warehouse foreman." Sagal is a terrific, lively writer, and while some of his segments are repetitive and stretched, he is admirable in humanizing the participants. (Oct.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information

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HarperCollins Publishers
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The Book of Vice
Very Naughty Things (and How to Do Them)

Chapter One

Swinging or Dinner Parties Gone Horribly Wrong

It is a truth universally acknowledged that when a couple at a swingers club announce that they are there merely to observe, and not actually to swing, everybody loses interest in that couple pretty quickly.

"Research?" said one young woman, her enthusiasm for further conversation with Beth and me shrinking and disappearing like that little point of light on old vacuum-tube TVs. "Research?"

Well, uh, yeah. Beth and I had been assured by Ross and Rachel, owners of the Swingers' Shack, 1 a private, invitation-only club for participants in what is called the Lifestyle, that it would be just fine if we wanted only to observe, to talk to people. "No pressure," we were told. "It's actually much better than a bar," said Ross, 2 because at a bar, you know, there was anxiety, there were expectations you didn't necessarily want to meet. Here, everything was cool, laid-back . . . we, the merely curious, could happily interface with the avidly active. Except the real difference between the Swingers' Shack and a bar is that at a bar somebody you meet might have come just for a drink or to watch a game on TV. Here, you had to bring your own liquor, on which you wrote your name with a Sharpie, and the only TV in the place was showing hard-core porn, adding a sometimes discomfiting bass note of grunts and moans to the peas-and-carrots babble going on around us. No: with apologies to Ross's nice spread of Hershey kisses and a $29.95chocolate fountain, the only reason people came to the Swingers' Shack was to get it on.

Except for us, which we made clear as soon as we had to, which was pretty early in any conversation. And then our interlocutor's eyes would go vacant, and soon he or she would wander off to talk to somebody else. Or, once, a man indicated his boredom with us by idly reaching out and palpating his wife's breast.

I don't blame them: this April night was the last party at the Swingers' Shack, maybe for the summer, maybe for the year, maybe forever. There was no time to waste with people like me. But still: in a lifetime in which I've been to all kinds of sexual marketplaces—bars, parties—this was the first time that I was going to get ignored because I wouldn't put out.

I had contacted Ross through his website, asking for permission to come interview him, his friends, and his "guests" because of all the varieties of deviant behavior, the Lifestyle seemed the most wholesome. In it, we are told, consenting adult couples . . . well, consent. The events at the Shack, like at almost every other club within the swinging community, are for the most part couples only, for various obvious and subtle reasons. And these couples have agreed that each partner can have sex with other people, within whatever confines they've set for themselves, and in each other's presence. It offers all the pleasure, security, safety, trust, and stability of monogamy, without the monogamy.

In fact, it sounded perfect, a model of what most men, and many women, would want from their sex lives—not for nothing was Plato's Retreat, the swingers club of the seventies, named after the inventor of the Eternal Ideal. And of course, to my mind, it was utterly impossible. How could stable, happy marriages survive adultery as a hobby?

We are told, via their occasional interviews in the press, that swingers or Lifestylers or whatever are no different from you and me . . . they meet up to socialize, talk, drink, and dance with their good friends, old and new. And then they have sex with them. Which makes me stop, and consider the various good friends my wife and I have, and then consider how it would be if one of our suburban dinner parties ended with us removing our clothes and performing sexual acts, and I have to put my head between my knees and take deep breaths.

Ross told me straight up that he had been the recipient of some bad press, and was a little nervous about opening his club to a writer. We agreed, eventually, that I would first come and interview him and Rachel at the club, which was also their home, and then, if everyone felt good about it, my wife and I (Couples Only!) would attend one of their parties.

I asked him via e-mail: "And it's all right if we're there merely to observe, and not to participate?"

"Absolutely," he replied. "We encourage that. Nobody has to do anything they don't want to. No pressure at all. Although I looked up your picture online. I don't think you've got anything to worry about."

Swinger humor.

Ross is a lawyer with his own private practice; Rachel, his wife and partner in life and avocation, is an accountant. (It is a cliché, of course, but true nonetheless, that the people involved in the Lifestyle are "normal people," lawyers and accountants and teachers and cops. If you're a rock star, model, S&M enthusiast, or sex-crazed porn star, you don't need to go to invitation-only clubs to have sex with lots of other people, do you?)

Childless, in their early forties, Ross and Rachel had stumbled into swinging nine years before, when a young woman of distant acquaintance and bent morals propositioned the both of them, via a letter laying out various scenes and scenarios. (Did it have bullet points? I wonder. Did it end, "Sincerely yours"?) Ross, presumably with his heart racing a bit, showed it to Rachel, prepared, if she reacted negatively, to say something like, "Yeah, isn't that awful? Yeah, I'll rip it up. No, I'll burn it. Have a lighter?"

But she did not, and the idea went from blueprint to actuality. The Instigating Woman went off to other unexpected propositions, and nine years later, not only are Ross and Rachel actively swinging, but they've devoted . . .

The Book of Vice
Very Naughty Things (and How to Do Them)
. Copyright � by Peter Sagal. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Peter Sagal is the host of the Peabody Award-winning NPR™ news quiz Wait Wait . . . Don't Tell Me!™ He is a playwright, a screenwriter, a commentator on NPR's All Things Considered, a onetime extra in a Michael Jackson music video, and a regular contributor to "The Funny Pages" in the New York Times Magazine. Sagal lives near Chicago with his wife and three daughters.

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Book of Vice: Very Naughty Things (and How to Do Them) 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sit back in your easy chair and prepare to follow Peter Sagal as he and his wife explore the spice of vice. Sagal's unique perspective, insightful vision and keen wit make this a delightful read. Loosen your Puritanical side and enjoy the journey.
Titus_Pullo More than 1 year ago
The book was funny and insightful. It basically goes through a laundry list of things you'd like to do, only to show the reality behind it and why a little is enough.
CozyLittleBookJournal More than 1 year ago
I was introduced to this book by my partner Mike and, while I didn't love it as much as he did, it is pretty cute. The author is an NPR host (and he writes like one...he's very academic and square, but in a nice way) who has decided to see how "the other half" lives, if the other half is comprised of sex addicts, gluttons and gamblers. He visits sex clubs, swingers clubs, high stakes casinos, ultra gourmet restaurants, usually with his wife in tow (including to the sex clubs). The result is an oddly quaint account of the world of naughtiness in which Sagal and his wife come off less as prudes and more as just very nice people who have no idea how they came to find themselves being propositioned by swingers or asked to sample food made entirely out of flavoured air. The conclusion is equally sweet, that all of us are really just looking for the same thing: a happy life. But for most of us, Sagal concludes, it's perfectly okay if our quest for happiness involves more movies on the couch with a loved one than kinky wife-swapping leather clubs. For more reviews, please visit my blog, CozyLittleBookJournal.
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harstan More than 1 year ago
NPR radio host Peter Sagal provides an amusing look at the behavior of people when they indulge in vice vs. virtue. He makes a point that vice is not sin, but actually socially accepted as long as one follows the military practice of don¿t tell. For instance the porn industry rakes in billions, but has no customers (try surveying their tastes with a questionnaire). Gambling is illegal in much of the country, but how much is bet on Superbowls and World Series. Whether it is Chicago, San Francisco or New York, Mr. Sagal insists vice is the perfect supply and demand model that should be used to explain economics as the demand goes up the supply increases, etc.------------------ Well written and irreverent yet relevant with Congressmen finding their supply of vice in workhouses and bathrooms while pushing virtue legislation on the rest of us hedonistic pleasure seekers, readers will appreciate this witty look at vice. Although some of the anecdotal seem padded with reiteration (for instance Mr. Bennett¿s gambling vice vs. his family values virtue goes on and on and on) this is a fun look at America¿s pleasure domes with the people the author interviews coming across as you and me.------------ Harriet Klausner
DTS More than 1 year ago
With that title, you would expect a book about vice, and doing naughty things, right? Well it turns out, not really. It is by a guy from NPR, who decided to write a book on vice. He first defines vice, then says he's going to go into more depth on certain types of it. The problem is, he has a supercilious attitude throughout the whole book, and doesn't actually explore vice. He picks them one at a time, then tells a lame anecdote about it. For example, he talks about sex clubs. He went to two, stood around, and talks about it. He did not participate, and pretty much slyly makes fun of anyone who is there except for him. There is a chapter on gluttony/eating - except all he does is go to a very fancy restaurant($300 a plate or something) makes some wry comments, and essentially says he didn't like it. How is that a vice? How does it demonstrate anything, except that sometimes the rich may go overboard? A chapter on strip clubs - and all throughout it feels like A) he is a judgmental jerk who thinks he is better than anyone else there, or B) he would totally be one of those creepy dudes at the strip club, if he hadn't gotten married. The chapter on gambling is all - "Oh, how could anyone ever waste money at a casino? I wouldn't do that, so obviously it is a stupid thing to do". I cannot adequately express how this book failed to live up to its promise. It pisses me off that I wasted $15 on this, when I would have gotten more fun wasting that money on actual vice instead.
The outward package of the book was compelling enough to buy it, and it seemed like it would be an interesting outtake on vice from the early pages. Unfortunately, I would never recommend this book, and I will try to return it as soon as possible. Mr. Sagal's writing style is hard to follow; he tries to come up with witty prose as he blabbers pointlessly in excruciating detail. To no one's surprise (this guy is the host of an NPR show), some of the substance has a tinge of the political left criticizing the political right (he uses many of the same examples of conservatives to make no points). Overall, I am extremely disappointed with the purchase.