(Has anyone ever gone over to your bookshelf, picked up a book, and said, “What is this doing here?” This series of blog posts explains some of the more curious findings on one Booklister’s home shelves.)
Way over on my lowest, leftmost shelves (right next to the cookbooks, for some unsanitary reason), rests Sex, the coffee table book (??) that pop singer Madonna released in 1992. Try though I might to hide it, it’s pretty unmissable: the thing is freaking huge, has metal covers, and is mercilessly bound in sharp spiral. This big hunk o’ junk was $49.95 when it came out, so it wasn’t exactly something a kid like me bought on a whim.
So why do I have this thing? Was I an incurable Madonna fanatic in high school? Do I like nude photo spreads featuring such guest stars as Isabella Rosselini and Vanilla Ice? As it turns out, no. No, I do not. The story of how I acquired this conversation starter is a wee bit more circuitous. It begins with me having four copies, believe it or not.
Eight years after Sex came out, I was a full-time freelance writer. One of my assignments for the men’s magazine Maxim was to compare the still-new phenomenon of online book stores: Amazon, Borders, Barnes & Noble, and some other one that didn’t survive when the bubble burst. From each of them I had to order a new bestseller (Dean Koontz’s From the Corner of His Eye), an obscure small-print title (you don’t want to know), and a “rare” book. The rare book chosen was Sex. (Then, as now, it goes for well over $100 a copy.)
Suddenly I had all these copies of Sex lying around. Yay? Boo, actually. Each time sunlight hit one of those reflective covers I’d go down, clutching my beautiful, beautiful eyes. It was not a sustainable relationship. So I gave away my copies to friends and/or enemies until I had just one left. I couldn’t bear to part with that one. I mean, it’s evidence of another time in U.S. history. A time when Madonna ruled the land. A time when readers could still be scandalized by the publishing of a mainstream book. A time when Vanilla Ice was cool. It happened, friends. It really happened.