cover image Nerve: The New Nude

Nerve: The New Nude

Chronicle Books. Chronicle Books, $35 (168pp) ISBN 978-0-8118-2957-1

The Web site pitches itself as ""literate smut,"" and this serious-looking book seems to be a logical step in its dot-diversification. In fact, there is nothing new about ""The New Nude,"" a languid flirt with art that has all the impact of a decaf coffee-table book. Seemingly turning down every opportunity to make a statement or take risks without fear of offending advertisers, the book fails to be conventionally sexy in the cheesecake sense, or to provoke the reader to think past its mostly familiar pix with occasional oddball selections. A-talent photographers check in with B-level work: Ralph Gibson, Nan Goldin, Richard Kern, Andres Serrano, Tony Ward are among the 44 photographers who contribute more than 140 shots. And despite a seemingly foolproof assumption thatDliterate or notDsex sells, image after image simply fails to interest. While Nerve says it tries to thoughtfully appeal to both genders and various inclinations, the book features a strikingly traditional imbalance of female nudes. Editor Field is editorial director and copublisher of the site, and former editorial director of MTV books (site founder Rufus Griscom also came from publishing). She explains the gender disparity by noting that ""[t]he male form... has yet to captivate both artists and viewer with the same intensity as the female body."" Sex sells, but some sexes apparently sell more than others. (Nov.) Forecast: The Nerve brand will be enough to lift this book off 20- and 30-something-directed gift tables, but this is hardly the cultural intervention it claims to be. After a moderate showing for the holidays, it will sell slowly and steadily to denizens of the site, and to the curious who will find it a safe entr e (or alternative) to Internet porn.