It has to be said: American Perversity, by William Bradford Borden, is a perversely odd little book, refusing easy categorization or labeling. Bradford originally wrote the essays that comprise the book longhand in a series of journals, and his musings on "Sex, Politics, and Religion" American-style are resolutely the stream-of-consciousness, caffeine-fueled ramblings of an independent thinker. Some of his thoughts are bold and powerful, while others seem somewhat self-absorbed and pedantic. But through it all he achieves a cathartic purge of all the disconnected and yet interconnected thoughts and beliefs that shape his perspectives, and ultimately his world.
As he begins, in his introduction:
What are the three things that one should not discuss in public to avoid confrontation? What are the three things that people hold so personal that they are willing to kill and die for them? If you answered sex, politics and religion, you're right.
Sex, politics and religion, although highly controversial are also the three most personal, and hence, most interesting topics to discuss. Discussions of these topics scares many people. Does it scare you, bother you or annoy you? Do you search within?
My intention with this book is to employ the Socratic dialogue that, in essence, says that the questions we ask of others and ourselves are ultimately more important than the answers. My goal is to continually question things, peel away the layers and tear down the walls. I also hope to question some of your realities.
That is, it must be said, something of a tall order and a daunting challenge. And Borden's musings are frequently so personal that I'm not certain whose realities he is actually questioning. But nonetheless, it is interesting to follow him as he chases rabbits down holes and out into whatever Wonderland that occupies his momentary attention.
He begins with sex, a topic many might suggest is also the ending, but well, it's his book and he can organize it as he wishes. His homage to Hugh Hefner becomes an exploration of his own sexual revolution, his narrative cast adrift in some sort of Vonnegut-like diversion as he ponders the merits of bidets:
I wonder if the White House bathrooms have bidets. I think it's absurd that we don't have more bidets in America. Many Americans have never seen a bidet. The Italians and French use bidets and their women are known for their freshness, their allure, and their culinary delights. I wonder if Bridget Bardot's bidet is used every day. Maybe, to bring the wonderful French back into favor, we could have a National Bidet Day. The French know the value of health, of wine, of fine dishes – especially the fresh fish, cleansed and prepared property, ready to be savored, consumed and devoured.
His riff on Jennifer Lopez (who "could have been a Playboy bunny, for few women are blessed with such a shapely shape, a shape for sex, for movement, for grandeur," notwithstanding that many wonder how much of the original shape remains) becomes a eulogy for a young Latin girl who committed suicide. It is here that his drifty prose is perhaps most effective, if only because of the emotional punch of his story, as he describes this fifteen year old girl, the things she wrote in his class, and his subsequent encounters with her parents.