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Are Men Necessary?: When Sexes Collide by Maureen Dowd (Putnam hardback). You can tell America is on edge by some critics' vicious reactions to the title of Pulitzer winner Dowd's new book, never mind the content. Too bad, it's their loss. Dowd is her usual sardonic, sophisticated self as she navigates the mindfield of male/female relations, the rise and subsequent muddling of feminism and the absurdities of both topics, with sidelong glances at a confusing culture. Except for one chapter dwelling too long on Cosmo founder Helen Gurley Brown, she's on target throughout the book, never more so than when she punctures gender clichés. (According to Dowd, women are more suited to be President than men because "women are affected by lunar tides only once a month; men have raging hormones every day.") Makes sense to me. -- Dana Renaldi

Campus Sexpot: A Memoir by David Carkeet (Univ. of Georgia Press hardback). Novelist Carkeet (Double Negative, The Full Catastrophe) gets very creative with creative nonfiction in this funny and oddly compelling memoir of a 1962 scandal in his hometown. A former high-school teacher wrote a sexy pulp novel called Campus Sexpot about his affair with one of his students, hardly disguising the identities of the real-life characters involved. Carkeet relates the episode as a nerdy kid's introduction to sex, alternating between excerpts from the pulp novel and his own reactions to it (both then and now), filling in more info about the characters as he goes along. This is light reading but smart and ingeniously put together. -- John Grooms

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