The Bookworm Sez: Curiosity will bring you back to this book

The Bookworm Sez: Curiosity will bring you back to this book

There’s never enough space in your closet.

So maybe it’s time to purge, to donate things that don’t fit anymore. That’d make a lot of room, although there’s one suit you’ll never be able to throw out.

You’ve had it so long you can’t even remember where you got it. No matter how much weight you lose or gain, it always fits – though it’s rumpled now, and impossible to iron. And in the new book “Naked at Lunch” by Mark Haskell Smith (c.2015, Grove Atlantic, $25, 320 pages), you’ll see what it’s like to wear that Birthday Suit in public.

It’s one of those recurring dreams-bordering-on-nightmare: being naked in public. It happens… sometimes on purpose, which made Mark Haskell Smith wonder: why do everyday people take their clothes off to hang out socially with other bare-skinned people — some of them, strangers?

He needed the naked truth.

Some fifteen centuries ago, the Priscillianists believed that God’s power came from the sun, so they abandoned their clothing. In the 1890s, social nudism came to England; by 1907, Germany allowed nudism; the French said Oooh-la-la in 1927, and the first official nudist gathering was held in the U.S. shortly thereafter.

Not everyone was happy about that, naturally. Yes, participants were consenting adults but groups consisted of both genders, which was scandalous. Police were summoned, arrests were made (a California woman served time for nudity in the 1940s), and laws were drafted (in Montana, public nudity can get you six months in jail).

And yet, there’s no denying that some people still get nekkid for social reasons, and Smith had to know why. Interviewing a nudist didn’t offer enough answers — so he shed clothes and inhibitions and visited nude resorts in California and France, sunbathed on a free beach in Florida, and took a cruise ship “nakation.” Smith went nude grocery shopping, talked with the mayor of San Francisco, and learned how nudist magazines in the ‘50s helped Playboy magazine. He was surprised that he liked nude hiking. And he discovered this: when naked, we’re really all the same. The disparity lies in time.

Go ahead. Admit it: you’re curious. That’s why you’re still reading here, and it’s why I think a lot of people will enjoy “Naked at Lunch.”

On the best side, author Mark Haskell Smith’s escapades and his observances are hilarious. They made me laugh out loud more than once; the problem is that I can’t tell you about them, since most aren’t fit to repeat in a family newspaper. That leads me to one of the negatives: this book’s profaneness can sometimes descend into juvenility. That goes double in the repetition that often occurs as Smith seems to marvel at his unusual surroundings. Funny, but giggly: it’s a fine line, but less of the latter would have suited me better.

And yet, I come back to curiosity. I had it, and that kept me reading this slice-of-life book. If you wonder, if you’re experienced, or if you just need a laugh, missing “Naked at Lunch” is a raw deal.

■ ■ ■

Want to uncover more about being uncovered?“Naked: A Cultural History of American Nudism” by Brian Hoffman is a comprehensive, illustrated look at taking off your clothes in a social situation. It’s more in-depth and definitely more serious, but if you’re looking for information you won’t find in the Smith book, you’ll likely find it here.

 

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Email her at bookwormsez@yahoo.com.

The Bookworm Sez: Curiosity will bring you back to this book

More in Life

Homer writer Richard Chiappone. (Photo by Joshua Veldstra)
‘Hunger of Crows’ perfect for winter reading

Chiappone’s first novel is set in Homer, Anchor Point.

Fresh dinner rolls made without the addition of dairy. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
Baking for everyone

Dinner rolls skip the dairy, but not the flavor

Virginia Walters (Courtesy photo)
Life in the Pedestrian Lane: ‘Tis the Season

The Kenai Community Library has always been one of the stars in the crown of the community.

Homer News Ben Mitchell, left, serves spaghetti to helper Pat Wells in the kitchen at a past Share the Spirit spaghetti feed. (Michael Armstrong/Homer News file)
Looking to share some holiday spirit? Here’s how

Share the Spirit serves the Homer community by donating food, essential needs and Christmas presents.

Appease your child’s picky palate with these tasty Tater Tots. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: Tots to be thankful for

Two years ago, I spent the entirety of Thanksgiving Day in my green rocking chair, cradling my newborn son.

File
Minister’s Message: Keep in step

Sometimes it takes going half way around the world to learn how to “keep in step” as I journey.

Shelli and Mike Gordon pose in October 2011 at their Halibut Cove, Alaska, home in an Alaska Gothic version of Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” painting. (Photo courtesy of Mike Gordon)
‘Dagnabit’ features tales of ’80s wild Alaska

Gordon’s second book also tells of Ruben Gaines, creator of Chilkoot Charlie.

Before boiling, this handmade pasta is rolled, cut and tossed in flour to keep from sticking. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: Pasta by hand

Learning one of the most important task of the Italian kitchen: making the pasta.

Will Morrow (courtesy)
The Great Thanksgiving dessert debate

Our holiday gathering is going to be smaller than it sometimes is, and it was argued that we didn’t need two desserts.

Dianne Spence-Chorman’s “Fig Study” is one of the works showing in the Homer Council on the Arts “Fun wtih 5x7” show through Dec. 22, 2021, at the gallery in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
‘Fun with 5×7’ offers affordable art

HCOA annual art show presents art in a variety of media, all in 5x7 format.

Make pumpkin chocolate chip with cinnamon buttercream cupcakes for a decadent fall treat. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: In honor of ‘Cupcake Mondays’

Pumpkin chocolate chip with cinnamon buttercream cupcakes brighten up the dreariest of work.

Nick Varney
Nick Varney
Unhinged Alaska: Back off, Zeus

If this wet-n-warm, freeze, then start again, continues much longer, Kachemak Drive will need a complete redo.