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Is Sex Necessary? or, Why You Feel the Way You Do

Overview

The first book of prose published by either James Thurber or E. B. White, Is Sex Necessary? combines the humor and genius of both authors to examine those great mysteries of life — romance, love, and marriage. A masterpiece of drollery, this 75th Anniversary Edition stands the test of time with its sidesplitting spoof of men, women, and psychologists; more than fifty funny illustrations by Thurber; and a new foreword by John Updike.

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Overview

The first book of prose published by either James Thurber or E. B. White, Is Sex Necessary? combines the humor and genius of both authors to examine those great mysteries of life — romance, love, and marriage. A masterpiece of drollery, this 75th Anniversary Edition stands the test of time with its sidesplitting spoof of men, women, and psychologists; more than fifty funny illustrations by Thurber; and a new foreword by John Updike.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060733148
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 11/9/2004
  • Edition description: 75th Anniversay Edition
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 329,032
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.46 (d)

Meet 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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Read an Excerpt

Is Sex Necessary?

Or Why You Feel the Way You Do
By Thurber, James

Perennial

ISBN: 0060733144

Chapter One

The Nature of the American Male A Study of Pedestalism

In no other civilized nation are the biological aspects of love so distorted and transcended by emphasis upon its sacredness as they are in the United States of America. In China it's all biology. In France it's a mixture of biology and humor. In America it's half, or two-thirds, psyche. The Frenchman's idea, by and large, is to get the woman interested in him as a male. The American idea is to point out, first of all, the great and beautiful part which the stars and the infinite generally, play in Man's relationship to women. The French, Dutch, Brazilians, Danes, etc., can proceed in their amours on a basis entirely divorced from the psyche. The Chinese give it no thought at all, and never have given it any thought. The American would be lost without the psyche, lost and a little scared.

As a result of all this there is more confusion about love in America than in all the other countries put together As soon as one gets the psychical mixed up with the physical -- a thing which is likely to happen quite easily in a composing-room, but which should not happen anywhere else at all -- one is almost certain to get appetite mixed up with worship. This is a whole lot like trying to play golf with a basketball, and is bound to lead to maladjustments.

Thephenomenon of the American male's worship of the female, which is not so pronounced now as it was, but is still pretty pronounced, is of fairly recent origin. It developed, in fact, or reached its apex, anyway, in the early years of the present century. There was nothing like it in the preceding century. Throughout the nineteenth century the American man's amatory instincts had been essentially economic. Marriage was basically a patriotic concern, the idea being to have children for the sake of the commonwealth. This was bad enough, but nevertheless it is far less dangerous to get the commonwealth mixed up with love than to get the infinite mixed up with love.

There was not a single case of nervous breakdown, or neurosis, arising from amatory troubles, in the whole cycle from 1800 to 1900, barring a slight flare-up just before the Mexican and Civil wars. This was because love and marriage and children stood for progress, and progress is -- or was -- a calm, routine business. "Mrs. Hopkins," a man would say to the lady of his choice (she was a widow in this case) -- "Mrs. Hopkins, I am thinking, now that George has been dead a year, you and I should get married and have offspring. They are about to build the Union Pacific, you know, and 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. The point is that men and women, husbands and wives, suitors and sweethearts, in the last century lived without much sentiment and without any psycho-physical confusion at all. They missed a certain amount of fun, but they avoided an even greater amount of pother (see Glossary). They did not worry each other with emotional didoes. There was no hint of Pleasure-Principle. Everything was empiric, almost somatic.

This direct evasion of the Love Urge on the part of Americans of the last century was the nuclear complex of the psycho-neurosis as we know it today, and the basis for that remarkable reaction against patriotic sex which was to follow so soon after the Spanish-American war ... Continues...


Excerpted from Is Sex Necessary? by Thurber, James Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Foreword to the perennial edition
I The nature of the American male : a study of pedestalism 25
II How to tell love from passion 52
III A discussion of feminine types 69
IV The sexual revolution : being a rather complete survey of the entire sexual scene 82
V The lilies-and-bluebird delusion 97
VI What should children tell parents? 113
VII Claustrophobia, or what every young wife should know 130
VIII Frigidity in men 150
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First Chapter

Is Sex Necessary?
Or Why You Feel the Way You Do

Chapter One

The Nature of the American Male A Study of Pedestalism

In no other civilized nation are the biological aspects of love so distorted and transcended by emphasis upon its sacredness as they are in the United States of America. In China it's all biology. In France it's a mixture of biology and humor. In America it's half, or two-thirds, psyche. The Frenchman's idea, by and large, is to get the woman interested in him as a male. The American idea is to point out, first of all, the great and beautiful part which the stars and the infinite generally, play in Man's relationship to women. The French, Dutch, Brazilians, Danes, etc., can proceed in their amours on a basis entirely divorced from the psyche. The Chinese give it no thought at all, and never have given it any thought. The American would be lost without the psyche, lost and a little scared.

As a result of all this there is more confusion about love in America than in all the other countries put together As soon as one gets the psychical mixed up with the physical -- a thing which is likely to happen quite easily in a composing-room, but which should not happen anywhere else at all -- one is almost certain to get appetite mixed up with worship. This is a whole lot like trying to play golf with a basketball, and is bound to lead to maladjustments.

The phenomenon of the American male's worship of the female, which is not so pronounced now as it was, but is still pretty pronounced, is of fairly recent origin. It developed, in fact, or reached its apex, anyway, in the early years of the present century. There was nothing like it in the preceding century. Throughout the nineteenth century the American man's amatory instincts had been essentially economic. Marriage was basically a patriotic concern, the idea being to have children for the sake of the commonwealth. This was bad enough, but nevertheless it is far less dangerous to get the commonwealth mixed up with love than to get the infinite mixed up with love.

There was not a single case of nervous breakdown, or neurosis, arising from amatory troubles, in the whole cycle from 1800 to 1900, barring a slight flare-up just before the Mexican and Civil wars. This was because love and marriage and children stood for progress, and progress is -- or was -- a calm, routine business. "Mrs. Hopkins," a man would say to the lady of his choice (she was a widow in this case) -- "Mrs. Hopkins, I am thinking, now that George has been dead a year, you and I should get married and have offspring. They are about to build the Union Pacific, you know, and 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. The point is that men and women, husbands and wives, suitors and sweethearts, in the last century lived without much sentiment and without any psycho-physical confusion at all. They missed a certain amount of fun, but they avoided an even greater amount of pother (see Glossary). They did not worry each other with emotional didoes. There was no hint of Pleasure-Principle. Everything was empiric, almost somatic.

This direct evasion of the Love Urge on the part of Americans of the last century was the nuclear complex of the psycho-neurosis as we know it today, and the basis for that remarkable reaction against patriotic sex which was to follow so soon after the Spanish-American war ...

Is Sex Necessary?
Or Why You Feel the Way You Do
. Copyright © by James Thurber. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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