book review

No, really, surely you ARE joking, Mr Feynman

Surely You're Joking Mr Feynman front cover

Knowing from experience how deflating a poor review can be, I have a rule that if I don’t get along with a book I usually simply put it aside without hurling vitriolic abuse at the poor author on Amazon. I can’t really see the point. Writing a book is damn hard enough without some talentless hater pouring scorn over your labour of love. However, if the author is deceased I figure I probably won’t be hurting their feelings, so I sometimes waive my rule.

Also, like a lot of wannabe novelists struggling to earn a living, it’s often rankled me that publishers who casually toss the manuscripts of unknown writers onto the slush pile with barely a second glance will fall over themselves to publish the floor-sweepings of celebrities. There seems to be one rule for the rich and famous and another one for everybody else.

I read one such book recently, Surely You’re Joking Mr Feynman by, you guessed it, Richard Feynman. To say I read it is a bit of a porky. I actually got about a quarter of the way through, by which time I’d almost lost the will to live.

If you’ve never heard of him, Richard Feynman was a Nobel prize-winning scientist who was part of the team that cooked up the atom bomb in World War Two. Like most people who’d read a bit about him I knew he was a brilliant physicist. He was a maverick who had a knack of explaining really complicated things in simple ways, so he became a pop star of the scientific world. When I saw this book on Amazon I put it straight in my cart and headed to the checkout without even bothering to sample the ‘look inside’ free section at the beginning. I was sure it would be an entertaining read. I won’t make that mistake again.

Sadly, from page one I found this book to be a real slog. It seemed to me little more than a brain dump of dull and self-indulgent anecdotes from Feyman’s life, that were about as entertaining as the instructions on a soup packet. The chapters read like the rambling diary entries of a socially-challenged teenager who’s convinced he’s secretly the most gifted story-teller since Cervantes. The book’s title is a dead giveaway. You could almost hear Feynman laughing aloud at his own jokes as he wrote, but they just weren’t funny. I also found Feynman’s somewhat conceited view of himself a bit surprising for such a great scientist, and quite off-putting. There was hardly a page where he wasn’t telling us how he outsmarted someone, proving some poor sap was an idiot and he was the only one with any brains. “The world is full of this kind of smart-alec who doesn’t understand anything,” he smugly notes, like some pub bore bragging about besting his neighbour. He seemed to spend a fair bit of time perving after women too in his stories, but hey who am I to talk. Anyhow, after fifty pages I tried skipping forward to a few later chapters but they seemed just as irritating, so I gave up.

In doing so I’m sure someone will tell me I’ve missed out on some wonderful scientific insights. That may well be the case but hey, life is short and there’s only so many great books you can read without wasting time on disappointing ones. I think I heard somewhere that Feynman’s book had been based on recordings of conversations someone had taped with him. If that’s so, it would explain the clumsy prose style and awkward sentence constructions. Thank god Feynman had such a brilliant career as a scientist, because he was no writer, based on this title.

If I was rating it out of five, I’d give this book no more than two stars. If it had been written by anyone else I don’t think it would have seen the light of day. That said, I’m sure it may still appeal to any Feynman worshippers or disciples out there, eager to devour the most trivial fact they can find about his life. But if you’re not one of those, and you’re looking for a well-written autobiography by a born story teller, I would check out the free sample on Amazon before parting with your dosh. I may pick up this book again at some point in the future to see if the later chapters yield up some gripping scientific yarns, but for now it is firmly back on the bookshelf. RIP, Dick.

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The book every man should read

The Ultimate Guide to Cunnilingus: How to Go Down on a Woman and Give Her Exquisite Pleasure 

Okay men, listen up. How many of you think the best way to send a girl’s core reactor into meltdown is to skip the starter and go straight to the main course. Penetration, followed by a galloping ejaculation. As lovemaking techniques go, let me tell you, this won’t exactly send her into outer space. You’ll light her blue touch paper then have her fizzle out.

Next question. How many of you believe foreplay involves plunging your ring-finger into her winky and, if you’re feeling especially generous, waggling it around a little? That many, huh.

Final question (I promise). If she’s just spent ten minutes on her knees giving you the acker bilk of blow jobs, do you A) reluctantly return the favour by dutifully salivating at her labia for thirty seconds like a dog eating a bowl of chum, or B) avoid going down altogether, for fear of making a complete butt-plug of yourself?

There’s a great quote near the beginning of Violet Blue’s The Ultimate Guide to Cunnilingus which sums up this sorry state of affairs nicely.

“When I gave guys head, I felt like they were ‘doing me,’ and when they went down on me, I felt like I was the one ‘being done.’”

We feel your pain, Violet.

It’s kind of embarrassing to admit guys, but the vast majority of us haven’t the foggiest idea when it comes to the noble art of cunnilingus. This was no big deal a century ago, when men were men and women stayed at home to knit socks, but today’s girl power generation wont swallow that man shit no more. We need to get our heads down and study.

As luck would have it, salvation is close at hand, thanks to Violet Blue’s handy little guidebook on the art of clit-lick, whose full title is: The Ultimate Guide to Cunnilingus: How to Go Down on a Woman and Give Her Exquisite Pleasure. If you don’t know your inner from your outer labia, or think the clitoral hood is something on the front of your motor car, this humorous, excellently written guide will tell you everything you need to know about a woman’s touchy feely bits, and how to turn your lover into a bowl of gello in an earthquake with a few expert flicks of your sensitive tongue.

Knowledge is power, my friends. As the author reveals in her book, the man who knows where a girl’s pleasure buttons are and how to press them has the power, literally, to give her as many orgasms as she wants. Did you know, for instance, that the female clitoris has more pleasure-giving nerve endings than any other part of the human anatomy? Neither did I. More than the tongue, apparently, and twice as many as the male penis. And we know how good it feels when THAT’S sucked.  Naturally the book has the obligatory must read section on her G spot, and how to find it. (What do you mean, what’s a G spot?) It also has a smattering of handy little diagrams to show you where everything goes. Plus a long list of do’s and don’ts, tips and techniques guaranteed to get her south mouth salivating like a mountain spring in flood.

In the rare event that your girlfriend is one of those girls in a million who feels a little uptight about you going down on her (probably because you never bothered before, which helped condition her to think of cunnilingus as sinful and dirty) help her out a little. You owe her, man. If it helps her separate the purity of her feelings for you from the naughty but nice sensation of being licked to orgasm, offer to do a little role play. Tell her to pick her favourite movie star and imagine it’s him dining out on her heavenly quim. As ever, Violet has some helpful advice here too.

“Don’t worry about being politically correct, faithful, or having sex in your fantasies: that’s why they’re called fantasies. They aren’t real, and your using them to get off doesn’t mean that you want them to come true. Your head is your erotic safe space – don’t worry about what your fantasies mean, or whether or not you are a ‘pervert’. Don’t make yourself guilty about having sex with three strangers.”

To be fair, I’m free-styling a bit here. Violet was talking about masturbation in the above quote. But shit, when I last went down on my girlfriend and told her to imagine I was Brad Pitt, she nearly broke my nose with her pussy. In case you didn’t know, I’m a great believer in sexual fantasy, a subject at the heart of my own Sex on the Brain: Poems and Stories for Men.

Okay, back to the book. As with any how-to guide there are bits you might want to skip. Stuff you know already, or really don’t want to know. The sections on S&M, bondage, anal penetration and rimming I could take or leave, but that’s just me. While the chapter on health, necessary as it was, did kind of work against the main premise of the book, for me. The list of horrible diseases I learned I might contract, from HIV and hepatitis to herpes and STDs, didn’t exactly get me rushing out to dive between the legs of the first stranger I met on the street. To be fair the author has devoted a whole section to safe sex tips. Unfortunately they mostly seemed to involve using various bits of clingfilm and rubber paraphernalia that would make most guys run a mile. Which leads me to my final gripe, if I can call it that. The book seemed written from a slightly lesbian viewpoint. Nothing wrong with that, it’s a free world. But since this is a guide for men as much as women, it would have been nice if the author had balanced out the girl on girl action with a few more hetero descriptions. But hey, I’m splitting hairs. It’s Violet Blue’s book, and I’m just grateful for the brilliant insights she offers.

Any text book will only ever be as good as the person writing it. On that score this author gets a big tick in the box. They don’t come much better than Violet Blue when it comes to penning lines about sex. Described amongst other things as  “the leading sex educator for the internet generation”, “America’s leading (very) public intellectual sexologist”, “Superstar sex writer” and “Oprah (Winfrey’s) porn pundit,” Violet is a multi-published, award-winning author on sex and porn. Her vast experience in this field shines through in the assured conversational style which never patronises the reader or becomes over technical. When Violet describes the female orgasm as “the standing ovation of the clitoral system,” you kinda get the feeling she knows what she’s talking about. You’re in good hands.

This excellent little volume should be essential reading for every self-respecting sex maniac’s bedside table. You wouldn’t dream of driving a car without reading the highway code. And for all you men who think you’re already god’s gift to women, you probably need to read this book most of all. Going down on your lady shouldn’t be a chore.  As Violet explains, if you’re doing it right, “eating pussy is like eating peaches on a really hot day”. If conjuring up that wonderful image doesn’t get you running out to buy this book, nothing will. You’ve run out of excuses, buddy. Lousy lovers are so last century. Saddle up, or move over for a real man who will.

How I wish this book had existed when I began my carnal journey as a hormone-fuelled adolescent all those years ago.  It would have saved me half a lifetime’s worth of sexual hang-ups, not a little embarrassment, and most likely a rap sheet of frustrated lovers and broken relationships as long as a porn star’s pork sword with a pommel on the end.

Guys, if you’re really serious about being an awesome lover, go out and buy this book today. It will be the best fiver you ever spend. In fact, I’m thinking of buying my girlfriend the author’s companion volume, The Ultimate Guide to Fellatio, next Christmas. Not that she needs it, you understand.

PS. I enjoyed this book so much, I tossed off a quick poem about it, called Don’t be a Prick. You’ll find it below. Happy reading, suckers. Remember those peaches.

Don’t be a prick

Hey vagina, said the penis, wassup

Whoa tiger, said the vagina
You cain’t hang out here man

Uh, said the penis
What’s your problem?

I’m not ready, is all

Well shit, like I give a shit

It’s always about you, ain’t it
What kind of vagina you think I am
You think I’m the loose kind
Gives it up for any old penis?

Don’t shit me pussy, I know you dig it

That may be, but a vagina
Likes to be wooed a lil too


Caressed, you know
Made to feel all loved and sexy

As in, kissed?

The vagina smiled

You expect my man to put his mout down here?


Shit, he ain’t gon eat no squid
From no grizzly bear’s armpit

You looked in the mirror lately, Kojak?
You ain’t exactly George Clooney
And for the record, your stuff tastes like bleach

Woh, chill out, bitch

A sly grin formed on the penis’s mouth
Well, if you ain’t gonna hug me none
How about you send your lady down
She knows how to give a brother a good time

You mean, a blow job?

You the expert, said the penis, grinning wide

And kiss your big bald head, with her lips?

Uh-hu, mebbees suck a lil
She’s reeeeal nice at that
Makes a penis feel kinda appreciated

Like, all loved up an’ sexy?

Bring it on, sister

You know what, you’re right, said the vagina
Wait right here

The penis sighed and stretched out
As the woman shifted position
It leaned back, closing its eye
Awaiting the warm hug from her mouth
With a triumphant smile

OWWW! The penis yelled
As her incisors bit into its neck
What the FFFFF!
Ya’ll early took my goddam head off, crazy bitch!

It glanced up at the glistening red lips
Which formed a sexy oval as she spoke
Getting his attention real good

I’m here to teach you some manners, you prick
You want to hang out with my vagina?

Well yeah, shit

Well here are the rules
Numero uno, this lady has two sets of lips
And they both like being kissed, kapeesh?


Rule number two
Selfish pricks ain’t welcome round my hood
You don’t bring pleasure, you don’t come in

And if I do what you want?

Then we’ll ALL have a party, Kojak

Her lips softened into a friendly smile
As she bent to plant a sloppy kiss
On the penis’s shiny head
It sent a warm glow along its entire length
Causing it to flush with pleasure

You like that, big boy?

Mmm, yeah, lady

Okay, now you have to comply
With rule number three

I do?

Uh-hu, said the woman
Tell your man to get his big fat face down here
And kiss me… gently, she added
Pressing her glistening pink vulva
To his man’s lips
GENTLY, I said, softly, that’s better
You ain’t licking a stamp down there
Caress them lips slow, baby
Nibble ‘em, suck on ‘em, that’s it
Tickle that clit with your tongue
Left to right, right to left, up and down
Round and round in little circles
Lightly as a mouse’s nose
Til you hit that sweet spot
Now suck it in, eat that candy floss baby
That’s right, slide that tongue in real good
All the way, mmmm, yeahhhhhh

Mmmm, damn, that taste good
He said, as her salty sweetness
Exploded on his taste buds

It taste damn good, don’t it

The penis’s owner moaned with pleasure
As he drank in her honeyed juices

Up north, the woman’s tongue
Darted from its kennel
To lap eagerly at the cock’s face

Her pelvis was rocking urgently now
As the man’s mouth went walkabout
Sucking on her clit like a succulent morsel
Which rang like a bell in her head
Under each flick of his snake-like tongue

After half an hour of mutual bliss
The penis felt like he’d been through a car wash

Drunk from all her sucking
He scarcely noticed her change position
Until a dark shadow loomed overhead
Causing him to look up
As the woman began lowering her hot quim onto him

Would you like to come in and play now, big boy?

Her labia smiled as they slipped around his sides
Giving him an affectionate hug

Fuck yeah, lady



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