Tongue First: Adventures in Physical Culture [NOOK Book]


A smart, humorous exploration of bodily thrills and paranoia from aerobics to acupuncture, strip shows to sensory deprivation.

Your perception of your body will change when you read this book. You will be pulling on your boxer shorts or your black lace bra, and suddenly consider why you decorate yourself the way you do. You will shake up your martini, kiss your beloved, read a dirty magazine, go for a jog, and think about what your bodily ...
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Tongue First: Adventures in Physical Culture

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A smart, humorous exploration of bodily thrills and paranoia from aerobics to acupuncture, strip shows to sensory deprivation.

Your perception of your body will change when you read this book. You will be pulling on your boxer shorts or your black lace bra, and suddenly consider why you decorate yourself the way you do. You will shake up your martini, kiss your beloved, read a dirty magazine, go for a jog, and think about what your bodily behavior says about your soul. And what it is doing to your soul. You will notice the defenses you erect for yourself. Perhaps a tube of lipstick. Perhaps an addiction.

Testing the boundaries between fear and temptation, Emily Jenkins takes us on a journey from ordinary physical experiences (going to the dentist, putting on stockings) to extreme ones (snorting heroin, shaving her head). She interviews people whose bodies are radically different from hers and enters communities where people share unusual ideas about physicality. Sometimes you will recognize your own habits. Other times you'll be shocked or repulsed. Always you will find yourself questioning the ordinary things you do, rethinking your relationship to your body.

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Editorial Reviews

Clarissa Cruz
Jenkins' zippy writing style and shrewd eye for sensual detail make for a spirited kiss-and-tell. -- Entertainment Weekly
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
"Adventures" is not a misnomer: trying everything from sleep deprivation to sniffing heroin, Jenkins, a graduate student and author of a children's novel titled The Secret Life of Billy's Uncle Myron, serves as her own lab rat, all in the interest of exploring "how the body is both a prison and a vehicle for adventure." Can it be escaped, or at least briefly transcended? An unpretentious guide who doesn't indulge in fashionable bad-girl posturing or pat herself on the back for her daring, the author explores posh spas and grimy strip joints with sharp wit and a good dose of common sense. She tries to follow sex manuals, gets a tattoo, gets Rolfed, goes to a nude beach--she draws a line, however, at colonic irrigation. Strangely, Jenkins finds one of the simplest experiments--shaving her head--proves to be the most disturbing: it forces her to "look down in shame when an acquaintance passes me on the street, to hesitate going to a party because I feel so ugly, to choose clothes that render me invisible." While the book comes to no conclusions and settles on no single method of self-knowledge ("I am no convert, only a dabbler," the author admits), it closes with a wry--and characteristically ambiguous--vision of everyone's ultimate destiny at a Florida retirement community: "the invisible scarring caused by the sun reminds me of its presence with a persistent itch. Here is a taste of the physical changes that will come with age. My tan is telling me the future." (Aug.)
Etelka Lehoczky
Bodies are so stubborn. No matter how we peer at and probe them, assail their limits and bully them into submission, they ultimately control us, not the other way around. They lock each of us into, and others out of, our own gnarled, prelingual realm of need and sensation. Anyone who proffers a map to this inner world -- or simply agrees to share their adventures there -- compels our attention. In recent decades it's often been women who have taken on the adventurer's role.

Even in the wake of feminism, anti-feminism and post-feminism, women's bodies still seem more mysterious and hazardous than men's -- both to those on the outside and to those within. And so a series of women writers, from Linda Lovelace and Gloria Steinem to Annie Sprinkle and Susie Bright, have descended into embodiment and returned to tell the tale.

The latest bedraggled explorer to come limping out of the jungle is Columbia University Ph.D. student Emily Jenkins. In Tongue First, she describes various bodily experiences, some bizarre, some banal. Like her predecessors, Jenkins has made a point of doing things that don't come naturally, at least not to most people. Unlike them, she's also done things that do -- but done them more attentively, and with a notebook along. In Tongue First she snorts, strips, tattoos and Rolfs; she also sleeps, bathes, barfs and shops.

Jenkins possesses the nuanced attention to her own feelings that's de rigueur for this form. Her descriptions of sensation make the book pleasurable, but it's her nose for sudden clarity that makes it surprising and memorable. It's all too easy, even (or especially) in our era of determined sexual sophistication, to spin tales of physical derring-do. Countless journalists sell lifestyle magazines their stories of tripping, fasting, abstaining and overdoing -- basically, brazening through any experience we'd like to understand without enduring. Jenkins does far more. In a tone that's both precise and swollen with subterranean emotion, she picks her way delicately to the anxious heart of each exploit. And she drops piquant little aphorisms along the way: "Tacit blindness in nudist settings is ... a rule that is constantly being broken."

Unlike some writers on the body, Jenkins husbands her emotions. Deeply aware of the dangers of self-exposure, she sets firm limits on how much she's willing to tell. Though she fearlessly relates her awkwardness at a Madison Avenue spa and her regressive response to heroin, she's surprisingly reticent about other topics. In Sex Lessons, a chapter on unspoken sexual rules and rituals, she hews firmly to the universal, describing feelings rather than evoking them. The same prescription applies when she discusses the physical fitness cult; she relates her years of aerobics, but keeps her own motivations for this regimen, and her thoughts about its role in her life, close to her chest.

Remarkably, this restraint works. Jenkins has seen other self-revelatory authors turn exhibitionism into its own defense, and she offers the reader more than a peeping-Tom's view of her soul. She honestly tells what she can, and when she can't, her reserve is its own kind of revelation. In a world so thoroughly explored as this one, silence may be the only secret left. --Salon Aug. 20, 1998

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781466882409
  • Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/30/2014
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 947,241
  • File size: 322 KB

Meet the Author

Emily Jenkins is earning a Ph.D. in English literature at Columbia University and is co-author of a novel for children, The Secret Life of Billy's Uncle Myron. She lives in New York City and writes for Swing and Feed.

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