Biko biography a labour of love
Short, sharp guidance and observations from a journalist with attitude. All books available from Exclusives
IF YOU READ ONE BOOK THIS WEEK
A Wanted Man, by Lee Child (Bantam Press) R215
Lone wolf Jack Reacher hitches a lift across rural Nebraska and is plunged head-long into another road trip to hell. It's not Proust or Lawrence, but then Child does sell a book every four seconds.
There is great excitement about Xolela Mangcu's forthcoming Biko: A Biography,the first comprehensive account of an exceptional life. The book's editor, Erika Oosthuysen, tells me it has been something of a labour of love for her and Mangcu.
"Both Xolela and I grew up in King William's Town," she says.
"We both met Steve Biko when we were young - Steve used to come to our house for Afrikaans lessons with my mom - and we were 13 when he was killed. I remember the white schools closing for the day. [Xolela] remembers the funeral, the enormous sadness and disbelief, the outrage and shock."
Biko is both deeply personal and analytical.
On to Naomi Wolf's orgasms. Her Vagina: A New Biography has been attracting a great deal of sniggers on Twitter and elsewhere.
The problem, perhaps, is that Wolf, as the Economist put it, is never content to "simply" write a book. "Her metier is the call-to-arms, laying bare the injustices of womanhood and contemporary life."
Her latest adventure began with the discovery that her orgasms were somewhat disappointing. They were okay, sort of, but somehow, Wolf admits, she saw less colours, felt fewer things.
It turned out she needed spinal surgery; the female pelvic neural network, she discovered, was surprisingly complex and that each woman's neural pathways connecting all the bits were practically unique - what floats one boat may well sink another, and so on. Hence, Wolf argues, a widespread sexual malaise among Western women, who complain of fading libido and an inability to reach orgasm, despite a surfeit of opportunities.
Wolf has been praised by the critics for the way in which she has handled the cultural history of the vagina. But her enthusiasm for "fashionable" neurosurgery has left others cold. With such assertions as the "well-treated vagina is a medium that releases, in the female brain, what can be called without exaggeration the chemical components of the meaning of life itself" one can see why.
Writing in The Guardian recently, Wolf asked: "Rather than asking 'why the vagina? Why now?', I am now more inclined to ask: why the repressive patriarchal silence about such important information? And why tolerate it any longer?"
THE BOTTOM LINE
"There is no honour in sending people to die for something you won't even fight for yourself." - No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama bin Laden, by Mark Owen with Kevin Maurer (Dutton).