Today's book has been impossible to list for a while. I keep switching around. Here's a summary:
Reefer Madness by Eric Schlosser - I've been reading on this for way too long, but it's really three long essays gathered into a book. I'm taking breaks between parts but am on the last one now. It's about obscenity and the lucrative porn trade, and alludes to such local luminaries as Charles H. Keating. This drove me to...
The Story of O by Pauline Reage, classic erotica purchased from the wonderful mail-order catalogue Good Vibrations. The combination of free speech and love slaves is always irresistible. I've only read the first 40 pages or so of "O" but it's very charming... everyone's so French and blase about everything. She has more fun describing the rooms and outfits (down to the exact thickness of the leather collars) than anything else, which is very quaint. I find all the flogging a little unsettling, but chacun a son gout.
As it happens, there's sexual flogging in Julius Caesar; in Act I Antony is instructed to take a whack at Calphurnia during his Lupercal run. Sadly, politics soon take center stage. Still, I enjoyed this reading much more than previous ones. The play is beautifully structured, with the assassination almost exactly in the center of the play, so the entire first half is buildup & the second is fallout. I had forgotten about all the ghosts and lions whelping in the streets of Rome. Great, creepy stuff.
There are also creepy things lurking in Under the Pyramids, a short story ghostwritten by H.P. Lovecraft for Harry Houdini. It's fun to read a Lovecraft story in which the protagonist is not clearly a bookish stand-in for him; he writes convincingly about the awkwardness of being recognized on a train & being made to sign autographs. I wish he'd stepped out of character more under his own name. Spoiler: The ending, in which a giant five-headed monster proves to be nothing more than the monster's merest fore-paw, is hilarious.
More creepiness lies ahead in the vaunted first novel by Elizabeth Kostova, The Historian, which has been loaned to me by two colleagues who both found it long and dull. I am against it going in because they've reissued Dracula with a matching cover, and that just irritates the hell out of me. Dracula is a classic in its own right and does not need to be cutesily matched up with a current bestseller. We shall see.