Yesterday's Papers: Introduction to Book Reviews, 1987 - 2001

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Introduction to Book Reviews, 1987 - 2001
by William A. Henkin
Copyright © 1998 by William A. Henkin



"Who," sang the Rolling Stones in 1967, "wants yesterday's papers? Who wants yesterday's girl? Who wants yesterday's papers? Nobody in the world."

Thirty years later it turns out that they were wrong: the plethora of archives holding yesterday's papers – and yesterday's girls and boys – abounds. Some of those archives are in real-world libraries and museums where scholars go to pore over original documents, decipher handwritten memos, and reinterpret history. Some are in small photo albums, passed hopefully, profitably, dutifully, or surreptitiously from one hand to another. Some exist in cyberspace, like the one you're visiting now.

This section of my archive is devoted to some of yesterday's papers – specifically to yesterday's book reviews, most of which I wrote for Spectator where I've long been a Contributing Writer; some of them date back to the late 1980s.

I haven't kept nearly all of my reviews, let alone sought to archive them, but I've retained the ones included here for either or both of two reasons. First, when I write a review I try to do more than simply give my opinion of a work. I think of my review as a piece of interpretative dialogue between the reader and me, so I want to quote enough or cite enough examples from the book I'm reviewing that the reader of the review can have a sense of the author's vision as well as my perspective on it. In that way, some of these reviews were venues in which I started to explore ideas that sometimes evolved into more elaborate dialogues, or occasionally into other written forms.

Second, some of these books are just too good or too important to be forgotten; and in an American civilization that still, as of 1999, publishes more than 60,000 book titles per year in paper form and a growing number in virtual form, I think it's a service to keep some reminders of their passing available on a site where interested people might some day actually find out about them.

Other sections of this archive will have other purposes, but if you've come this far on the website of the Society for Human Sexuality, or this far into my own archive of writings about human sexuality, you've provided your own answer to the Rolling Stones' questions in a way that might have surprised you had you only heard the song.

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