One of the frustrating things about the whole book writing business is that you spend sometimes years working on a book project. It’s finally published and then when the the book is mentioned, or the reviews come out, they so often seem to miss the very points you thought they’d pick up on. Here’s a graphic illustration of this. I suggested that the publisher send a copy to The Church Times, because a third of the book is about religion and there is a good deal of material on Christianity (that is respectful, surprising and – I think – very interesting). And then Lo! The Church Times does mention the book, but only to feature a photo of the Women’s Party of Poland, and a brief paragraph missing completely all the material on Christianity. But at least it’s in their bookshop and perhaps I do them a disservice and a review will appear later! Meanwhile the Independent’s review today has started to circulate the net with its reviewer’s snappy line: ‘Nudity is like religion: tolerable in moderation but embarrassing in excess.’ Jonathan Sale continues nicely: ‘Combining the two, like members of the aptly named “Fools for Christ” who loved to let it all hang out during Russian winters, is a proof of being out to lunch in a big way.’
Speaking of lunch, I was invited to speak on A Brief History of Nakedness while various clothed and unclothed members of the Spielplatz Naturist community tucked into their lunches on their Open Day last Saturday. It was disconcerting but I soldiered on, and was abetted by the webmaster of the Spencer Tunick Experience Unofficial Website, Gilead Limor, pictured here talking to me in the Club House. I was particularly interested in what he was able to say about the way participants in Spencer Tunick’s photo-shoots often go through a cycle of emotional and psychological states that can trigger a sense of the experience being life-changing.
Meanwhile I have been contacted by the Wellcome Foundation to speak about the way in which a sensitive and appropriate consideration of nakedness can be a useful way to help change the way we feel about ourselves (and hence the planet). Gok Wan in the UK and Carson Kressley in the USA are doing this in their own way for women in particular, but I am more interested in issues of identity, and of how our body-image affects the way we relate to others and the environment. The Wellcome Foundation’s event looks interesting. My talk will be: ‘Ordinary heroes: how nakedness can be used to enlighten, empower and entertain.’ How many of us are comfortable enough in our own skins to feel free of any sense of embarrassment about our bodies? Despite the religious, legal and cultural restrictions that surround its display, nakedness has been used creatively by mystics, political protestors and artists for centuries. Today it is also being used by ‘ordinary people’ to break free from feelings of ‘body shame’ and from the tyranny of stereotypical ideas about beauty.’ For details see their site.