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the Complete Review
the complete review - non-fiction

Sex Collectors

Geoff Nicholson

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To purchase Sex Collectors

Title: Sex Collectors
Author: Geoff Nicholson
Genre: Non-fiction
Written: 2006
Length: 267 pages
Availability: Sex Collectors - US
Sex Collectors - UK
Sex Collectors - Canada
  • The Secret World of Consumers, Connoisseurs, Curators, Creators, Dealers, Bibliographers, and Accumulators of "Erotica"

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Our Assessment:

B : good and sometimes bizarre fun, but not nearly titillating or comprehensive enough

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Bookforum . 4-5/2006 Albert Mobilio
The LA Times . 18/6/2006 Dan Savage
The NY Times Book Rev. . 18/6/2006 Emily Nussbaum
The New Yorker . 4/9/2006 .
The Washington Post . 25/6/2006 Jonathan Yardley

  From the Reviews:
  • "Set against the depths of mania Nicholson elucidates, my own assemblage of naughty bits appears paltry; not being young, I'll take that as a good sign." - Albert Mobilio, Bookforum

  • "Instead of profiling the collectors, Nicholson devotes entirely too much time to rummaging through their collections. At times, he is also too respectful. He's treading on delicate territory, since these people are opening their homes and, in some instances, the most intimate aspects of their psyches. Still, by constantly reassuring us of their basic decency, he presumes a degree of prudishness on his readers' part that seems unlikely. This is a book that will be read by people who derive a certain pervy pleasure from the limitless capacity of humans to be, well, pervy, and he needn't make excuses for his subjects' interests." - Dan Savage, The Los Angeles Times

  • "Nicholson tries his best to find the nugget of humanity, the passion within the obsessiveness, in each of his subjects. He's such an appealing writer that you want him to succeed. Sadly, Nicholson's chosen territory turns out to be surprisingly unsexy. (...) It's perhaps unkind, but also true, that I found myself thinking wistfully that I'd prefer to have talked to Nicholson about his book at a dinner party than to have actually read it. However many puckish asides he serves up (...) even the liveliest account of someone else's collection finally shrivels to a list of lists of lists." - Emily Nussbaum, The New York Times Book Review

  • "The book is fun but lacks both the cohesion and rigor of history or social science, and the depth and insight of true portraiture." - The New Yorker

  • "In any case, collecting matters of a sexual nature certainly dovetails with his favorite themes, so you won't be surprised to learn that he has risen to the task. Sex Collectors is mainly a lark, irreverent and amusing, but it's thoughtful, too, on matters such as sexual obsession, the urge to collect, art versus pornography." - Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       More than a few of Geoff Nicholson's works of fiction feature characters with an obsessive collecting streak, and so he seems just the man to tackle a subject like sex collectors (though it is always something of a disappointment to see an author of any talent waste their time with non-fiction of this sort -- which, no matter how you cut it, really isn't much more than padded journalism). Surprisingly, he doesn't tackle it entirely with gusto -- perhaps not wanting to appear overeager (or overexcited ?). He's clearly attracted to that obsessive quality of collectors, but he also has his concerns.
       Nicholson figures fairly prominently in the book. It follows his search for collections and collectors, and his reactions, and there are numerous personal anecdotes interspersed in the text. He admits to doing a bit of collecting (and even suggests this book is a collection of sorts), but most of those he writes about are in an entirely different league. Still, there's at least a bit of kinship between subjects and author (and he does offer, for example, Footsucker to establish his bona fides with the collectors).
       Nicholson does come at his subject-matter very much from the point of view of the observer, rather than the indulger -- and it's no surprise that among the best chapters is the one devoted to the collector whose approach was the most similar, Alfred Kinsey. But Nicholson does offer quite the range of obsessives: from serious collectors of erotic art and literature to Cynthia Plaster Caster (with her collection of plaster penises, all of which she cast and collected herself).
       Half the fun is the quirky people Nicholson encounters. Heavy-duty collecting requires deep pockets, and so he meets quite a few very wealthy eccentrics of one kind and another. He manages to find surprisingly many collectors who are women; interestingly, sex-collecting does not seem to be a pursuit that many young people are into.
       The collections themselves range from the fairly small (there are only so many varieties of lotus shoes (the kind worn by women whose feet have been bound)) to the unsurveyable (the manager of Third Eye Blind's magazine collection).
       Nicholson approaches the subject from many angles, including the relationships between the artists and the collectors. General collecting issues -- authenticity, provenance, what to do with all the stuff, who gets to see it -- are also covered. And there are a nice variety of observations, historical anecdotes, and just plain fun stories.
       One problem Nicholson has is that he is dealing with sex, which once again proves a difficult subject to get a handle on. He discusses many of the issues that crop up, but is hard pressed to come up with satisfactory answers. (The most obvious issue is, of course, the arousal one: do the objects serve a specific sexual function for the collector (i.e. do the collectors get off in front of them); sadly, it seems they mostly don't.)
       He also doesn't quite come to grips with the change sex-collecting has undergone over the past century or so: part of the fun was, of course, the illicit, under-the-counter nature of the subject, and that is, by and large, just not there any longer. As he discovers, porn isn't really hidden away much any more. He treads very warily around the few taboos left -- barely willing to touch pedophilia (despite the fact that that is obviously an area with many avid collectors), only offering a few bestiality asides, and completely ignoring necrophilia (surely there must be some intriguing necrophilia-themed collections out there somewhere).
       Sex Collectors is good fun, filled with the slightly bizarre (but only whiffs of the truly depraved and dirty), lots of good stories, and some interesting observations and opinions about collecting. Breezily written, it is a perfectly fine, amusing read -- but little more. Meandering, it's far from comprehensive; indeed, it largely reads like a collection of magazine-profiles.

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Sex Collectors: Reviews: Geoff Nicholson: Other books by Geoff Nicholson under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       English author Geoff Nicholson, born in Sheffield in 1953, has written a flurry of novels. He lives in London and Los Angeles.

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© 2006-2021 the complete review

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