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"Is the notion of the East as a zone of special erotic possibilities purely a matter of Western fantasy and wishful thinking...?" This question is at the center of Bernstein's wide-ranging, critically astute history of the complicated relationship between Western male sexuality and the East. The book opens in 2006 Shanghai and concludes in contemporary Bangkok; in between, we are led through a sweeping yet focused, male-centered history of sexuality, spanning a broadly defined East and West, from antiquity to the 21st century. Bernstein examines Flaubert's sexual exploits in Egypt, where he vividly recorded "a sensual intensity, impossible in the West"; British explorer Richard Burton's travels through the Middle East, India and Africa, all exemplified by a sexual artistry uncultivated in Christian Europe; the fascinating case of the secretive Henry de Montherlant, a pederast who spent years in North Africa "greedy for flesh" and eventually took his own life. Former New York Times correspondent Bernstein (Fragile Glory) writes lucidly and with verve. This probing, absorbing and eclectic study critically challenges morally and politically correct interpretations of the Western sexual exploitation of the East. 12 illus. (June 2)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.