cover image The Naughty Nineties: The Triumph of the American Libido

The Naughty Nineties: The Triumph of the American Libido

David Friend. Twelve, $32 (640p) ISBN 978-0-446-55629-3

In-your-face sexuality goes mainstream in this rollicking history of a lubricious decade. Vanity Fair editor Friend (Watching the World Change) surveys charged developments in the culture and politics of the 1990s, including the first stirrings of the gay marriage movement, seminal gains in feminist empowerment and the backlash against them by conservatives and panicked men (embodied by Michael Douglas in movies such as Fatal Attraction and Basic Instinct), the eruption of internet porn, and the introduction of Viagra. He wonderfully illustrates how an increasingly sensationalistic media paraded high-profile scandals, most notably Bill Clinton’s affairs with Gennifer Flowers and Monica Lewinsky, and how Clinton became a symbol of a new style of “perpetually horny, ever-prevaricating, irrepressibly optimistic” masculinity. Friend’s thoughtful and entertaining account of the era—he discusses “larger societal forces” behind the Brazilian-bikini-wax craze, for example—includes his own vivid present-day interviews with Anita Hill and John Wayne Bobbitt, among others. Ultimately, Friend presents an insightful and compulsively readable overview of America’s hormonal coming of age. Agent: Joy Harris, Joy Harris Literary. (Sept.)