Synopses & Reviews
How do we come to be who we are sexually?
How do we cope with the forces of desire?
How can we understand the relationship between the transcendent and the physical, between the wish for love and the anarchy of the erotic?
Daniel Bergner looks for answers in the stories of four people whose longings are very different from our own: a devoted husband burdened by an insatiable foot fetish, a clothing designer who finds ecstasy in the pain of others, a man smitten with his young stepdaughter, and an advertising director who casts traditionally beautiful models but who is attracted only to amputees. Bergner finds in their desires metaphors for the issues that confront us all and raises fascinating questions about the erotic differences between men and women and the nature of ecstasy itself: Are some people actually experiencing more ecstasy than the rest of us?
In speaking to experts in the fields of psychology and neurology, and by threading the personal stories of several modern-day Kinseys throughout his riveting case studies, Bergner has written a provocative, profoundly insightful, and brilliantly illuminating book about the most fundamental of human needs.
"As if it weren't already difficult enough to find a suitable mate, what if a prerequisite was that the lover be missing an arm or a leg? Or willing to be roasted on a spit? Comparatively, a mild-mannered foot fetish seems, well, pedestrian. Bergner (God of the Rodeo) investigates how 'we become who we are sexually, whether our lusts are common or improbable.' The book's combination of titillation, shock value and documentary evokes a set of page-turning conundrums: is a man who desires feet any less odd than the psychiatrist who treats him or the scientist who studies pedophilia or the journalist who describes a whipping session in precise detail or the reader who becomes voyeur? It's all fairly delicate and disturbing material, and while the descriptions can grow florid, the author's strongest moments (e.g., evoking the tabooed desires impelling the artist Hans Bellmer's work) compensate for the lapse. Bergner has an empathetic sensibility and convincingly suggests that what a fetishist needs is a willing and loving partner with complementary interests." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
“Bergner does what science cannot: He illuminates peculiar longings. His method is at first descriptive and finally poetic. . . . Given the limitations of science, resonant journalism may be the best way to approach paraphilia, and Bergners book has a musical quality.” Slate
“In carefully etched prose, Bergner unpacks the tightly twisted roots of desire, power seeking, self-hatred and theatricality that motivate his four pseudonymous subjects…Compassionate wisdom about dark needs.” Kirkus Reviews
“In this fascinating book, Bergner, with a novelists eye but a reporters grit, examines amputee devotees and S&M fanatics without resorting to sensationalism.” Metro New York
“Unsettling but riveting....what makes [this book] so powerful is that its as much about desire and whats normal as it is an exploration of why we are the way we are, whether we like it or not.” New York Times Book Review
“Attentive, carefully controlled…[Bergners] goal is empathy. He gives depth and shadow to his subjects longing, never mocking, oversimplifying or vilifying.” Washington Post Book World
“Daniel Bergners characters live in erotic no-go zones where most of us would fear to tread. Their stories will sadden, enlighten, disturb, and move youfor they are completely, intimately human.” George Packer, New York Times bestselling author of THE ASSASSIN'S GATE
“Searching, deeply humane. . . . Our reactions to the stories Daniel Bergner recounts reveal as much about ourselves as they do about his oddly winning subjects.” Jennifer Egan, bestselling author of THE KEEP
“Girded with scientific data about the nature of sexual identity, The Other Side of Desire is a foray into extreme passion, in quest of the human soul.” O, The Oprah Magazine
A terrific reporter with a novelist's eye ("New York Times Book Review") explores the essence of human sexuality through four provocative, personal stories, revealing the hidden nature of desire within everyone.
“Riveting….Powerful…as much about desire and whats normal as it is an exploration of why we are the way we are, whether we like it or not.”
—New York Times Book Review
Subtitled “Four Journeys into the Far Realms of Lust and Longing,” Daniel Bergners The Other Side of Desire is a literary exploration of science and sex that will appeal to readers of Mary Roach and Natalie Angier. A cross between “a top-rated HBO series [with] provocatively graphic sex, humorous dialogue, and moral ambiguity,” (New York Times) and a profound, deeply humanizing study of sexuality, The Other Side of Desire has been called, “a foray into extreme passion, in quest of the human soul” (O, The Oprah Magazine) and its author, Bergner, “a keen storyteller but above all a humane one” (Salon.com).
About the Author
Daniel Bergner is a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and the author of three previous nonfiction books: The Other Side of Desire; In the Land of Magic Soldiers, a Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year and winner of an Overseas Press Club Award and a Lettre Ulysses Award for the Art of Reportage; and God of the Rodeo, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.