October 17, 2017

The dirtiest book I’ve ever bought

By John Guy LaPlante

I’ve bought many books. None ever as filthy as this.

The book is “The Limerick” by G. Legman. An oldie, 1969.

I’m not given to writing book reviews. But  I’ve got to express my opinion about this one.

Gershon Legman when he was researching and writing full blast.

Gershon Legman when he was writing full blast. Didn’t seem the outdoor type.

I bought it online, so with no peeks inside first. It was considered a classic.  Written by a scholar, with scholarly notes. I liked the cover. And 1,700 limericks. Wow! And there was even a used copy.

One thing I saw right away.  Because it’s an old book, all the limericks in it are old, some very, very old.  Next I’m going to buy one that’s contemporary.

I like limericks. So clever. Often so funny.  Such a challenging art form.

I got my first taste of limericks as a teen-ager reading the great old Saturday Evening Post. And I’d look forward to seeing another, and another.

I’ll bet some of you enjoy limericks.  May even have memorized a few.

Most people know a limerick is a poem but have no idea what exactly makes it a limerick. Yes, often funny, which is great. But serious is okay.

A limerick has a rigid format. Always five lines. Lines one and two must rhyme. Lines 3 and 4 must also rhyme but differently from Lines 1 and 2. Line 5 must rhyme with lines 1 and 2. That’s it. Short lines are better than long ones, but that’s my opinion.

An important quality is that it sound natural. Not tortured and contrived.

It’s a genre that’s been around for centuries.

I’m not a poet but I write a limerick now and then.  It’s calisthenics for my brain. And fun even if the result isn’t so hot.

(I also write quatrains, four lines, also quite challenging.)

Here’s a limerick that I’ve crafted as an example for you.

I like to write limericks        

Because that gives me great kicks    

Not that easy, I admit

At times I feel a dimwit    

Oh, for someone who’ll kibitz! 

Well, that one’s Line 5 is not a perfect rhyme for Lines 1 and 2, but I don’t think anybody will complain. The whole thing has seven syllables in each line, by the way. Exactly 7.  It can take quite a bit of tinkering to achieve that.

I looked forward to “The Limerick.” Finally it arrived. I opened it the minute I could. Started reading.  I was appalled. A dirty limerick. Then another. Then another. An endless stream of them. Some sickening. Perverted.  Horrid. Totally pornographic. And what’s so sad, some by established, famous writers.  You would have no idea.

I got the feeling that many were the work of perverts. Wackos. Some with zero artistic / poetic flair. I was disgusted by it all.

I am not a prude. I admit that in growing up I got to look at a smutty, grainy 8 mm. film or two. And when Playboy first appeared, I peeked at it more than once. Part of the appeal, I’m sure, is that it was all new, unheard of, and naughty.  I think that’s just normal curiosity for young adults. But they outgrow it. (I also know that nowadays online porno has far more viewers than just about anything else available.) Not my thing, thank goodness.

Bottom line: I found these limericks in G. Legman’s book abhorrent and prurient. Sick.

I’ve combed through the book for a few mild ones. These are as mild as I could find.  Here’s one. Feel free to skip it.

There was a young lady of France

Who went to the palace to dance.

She danced with a Turk

Till he got in his dirk,

And now she can’t button her pants.

Want another?

She was a young lady named Bruce

Who captured her man by a ruse:

She filled up her fuselage,\

With a good grade of mucilage,

And he never could pry himself loose.

One more?

There lived in French Louisiana

A quaint and deceived duanna

Who naively thought

That a penis was wrought

To be et like a thick ripe banana.

What possible merit do these have? They certainly didn’t make me laugh.

And if you’ve been checking the line counts, you’ve seen that the counts hardly come close.

I said these were the mildest. Remember, 1700 limericks in the book! I wouldn’t dare show you the others.

They involve  people in all levels of society, from high up to way down, youths to seniors, and the whole range of humanity,  royals and intellectuals and tycoons and priests and rabbis down to crooks and rascals  and pimps and whores, engaging in sex ranging from A to Z. Not only in in normal sex, but every deviant, some more kinky than it’s possible to imagine.

By the way, I was remiss.  I did not pay attention to the subhead of the book. It’s “This is the largest collection of limericks ever published, erotic or otherwise. Of the 1700 printed here, none is otherwise.” That would have tipped me off.

Legman was truly a scholar. In this book he’s got more than 150 pages of notes, listing authors, topics, variations, on and on. How he compiled all these limericks, how long it took him, and how he developed this incredible erudition, I have no idea.

Of course I looked him up – he’s Gershon Legman (1917-1999). He wrote many books as well as a long list of articles, nearly all focusing on sex. And not on the nice, beautiful aspects of it.

Another of his famous books was “Oragenitalism: An Encyclopaidic Outline of Oral Technique in Genital Excitation,” both fellatio and cunnilingus. He started writing this book in his early 20’s. Wow!

He also published a vast and scholarly collection of dirty jokes, also broken down into categories. And strove to explain them from a psychoanalytical angle.

His books and articles angered a lot of people. Institutions also. he got into big trouble with the Post Office.  They confiscated and destroyed some of his books.  He faced a trial for writing dirty stuff.  He skipped to France and lived there the rest of his life.

It was obvious that many of his findings and writings were based in part on his own sexual life.  He experimented and played around a lot. He had numerous liaisons with women, including two or three marriages, and fathered several children.

By the way, a number of his books sell in the hundreds of dollars and are collector’s items. Ironic–he had a hard time getting by financially.  He collected erotica and now and then he’d sell a piece to keep going. For a while he was able to continue his work only through the support of an unnamed benefactor.

Consider the following. He invented the dildo also in his early 20’s, taught briefly at the University of California /San Diego, was a biblio researcher for Alfred Kinsey, the sexology pioneer, for a while, and was credited with coining the expression “Make Love, Not War” during a lecture at the University of Ohio. His death was reported in numerous publications, notably the New York Times.

He had another big interest: origami. Became an expert and published a book about it.

Feel free to look him up at Wikipedia. There’s plenty on him.

Anyway, I wound up with his “The Limerick.” I did not get the pleasure from it that I hoped for, far from it. But it did introduce me to this extraordinary man who all his life walked to a different drummer. Regardless of the dire public consequences. Who devoted himself to studying and analyzing sex in all its facets, many horrid and scandalous and depraved. But which was also the great driving force all his life.

It’s only fitting that I close this with another limerick I just got inspired to write.

Yes, I do like to write a limerick.

Good for my brain because it’s quite a trick.  

No way will I ever write one obscene.

Dirty ones should get a squirt of chlorine!

Such “poetry” to me is just damn sick.

It would have been nice to come up with a line 5 that was funny. Couldn’t find it in me.  But I did manage precisely 10 syllables in every line.

Why don’t you try your hand at one? How about a funny one? Send it to me, please.

None of mine, and none of yours, I’m quite sure, would be raunchy enough to have interested poor G. Legman.

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