The Best of Sexology: The Illustrated Magazine of Sex Science
Edited By Craig Yoe | Running Press | 480 Pages | $14.95

Some of us have grandparents who we’re certain screwed only as many times as they procreated. The rest of us bring our own turkey basters to Thanksgiving dinner. Anyone who suspects that Granny got dirty in the ’30s, whory in the ’40s, or frisky in the ’50s, might want to horrify the rest of his or her family by giving The Best of Sexology this holiday season.

Founded in 1933 by print impresario and science fiction godfather Hugo Gernsback, Sexology was not simply America’s first dirty magazine. It was America’s first dirty magazine that was dressed up as something else. With fascinating observations on everything from bestiality and gay chickens to sex-stimulating drugs and Hitler’s love life — most of which were written by medical professionals — the 50-year enterprise physically and intellectually aroused at least two famously prudent generations. Hornballs ultimately traded up Sexology for Penthouse and Hustler’s not-so-surreptitious penetration. But these “Kinky and Kooky Excerpts,” which are taken from the magazine’s first 30 years, are good reminders that your nana might have been curious about sexual vampirism decades before her granddaughter masturbated to the kid from Twilight.

—Chris Faraone

The Complete Ripley Novels
By Patricia Highsmith | W.W. Norton | 5 Volumes, 1520 pages | $100

Patricia Highsmith, a royal figure in the world of noir, was spawn of Hollywood’s glory days. Her first novel, Strangers on a Train (you kill mine and I’ll kill yours), was published precociously upon her graduation from Barnard. There was nothing girlie or girlish about her casually homicidal vision. Alfred Hitchcock made Strangers on a Train into a film of the same name.

The masterwork of Highsmith’s imagination was, of course, Thomas Ripley, the antihero of a quintet of eponymous novels set largely in Europe. Ripley was cursed to be born with exquisite taste and no money. But armed with only his charm and a taste for mayhem as sure as Casanova’s penchant for seduction, Ripley crafts his way into a cultivated life of (mostly) ease. Of the public familiar with Ripley, most made his acquaintance via film. Matt Damon and John Malkovich both registered savvy performances of the eminently likeable psychopath as (respectively) a young man on his way to achievement and a middle-aged householder in possession of a Palladian villa and a beautiful harpsichord-playing wife. As satisfying as those two performances were, they still do not live up to the Ripley Highsmith presents on the page. W.W. Norton, in what can only be recognized as a mordant public service (Tom would appreciate it), has reissued Highsmith’s Ripley oeuvre in a handsome box set. Buy it for fans of international novels and connoisseurs of deviant behavior. Upon reading, they’ll be sure to die.

—Peter Kadzis

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