September 7, 2007

Evany Thomas and Amelia Bauer, The Secret Language of Sleep: A Couple’s Guide to the Thirty-Nine Positions (McSweeney’s Irregulars, 2006). 95 pages. $15.

Evany Thomas and Amelia Bauer’s The Secret Language of Sleep is an extended play on both couple self-help books and the myriad sexual position reference books that have become multi-million dollar niches for mass market publishers.

The text categorizes couples into four types of sleepers: Sun, Wind, Sea, and Wood. Despite the new agey names given to the categories, the introduction to each section explains the similarities shared by members of each group: “The focus of any Wind pose is the way the couple’s elements dovetail together” (31). Author Evany Thomas doesn’t miss a beat in her use of the scientifically definitive tone used in serious research and the ability to turn it on its head, often within the same sentence: “The one unifying aspect of all Sun pose couples is that they always sleep facing the same side of the bed, their bodies aligned front to back, lined up like Girl Scouts eagerly waiting for a chance to donate blood or apply a cold compress to a burn victim” (11). She also has mastered the psych-pop speak of best-selling self-help books: “but as Fireman’s Carry couples know, it can also take courage to agree to a third date after a lifetime running from commitment, or (in the case of Bird in Handers) to try again after long, loving relationships go sour” (31) .

For each of the 39 positions presented, there is a full page Amelia Bauer illustration to accompany the text. The illustrations are much more than the graphics required for a tongue-in-cheek approach to sexual positions books. Bauer’s line drawings manage to portray the security and happiness of the couples practicing these sleeping positions. An added, and obviously intentional, element to the illustrations is Bauer’s unwillingness to solely define what coupledom means in terms of heterosexuality. Gay and lesbian couples are represented in the same way as the other illustrations, making a visual argument that they as couples are no different than other couples. It’s subtle but very powerful.

Two notes: (1) Like other books in the McSweeny’s catalogue, The Secret Language of Sleep is well-crafted, textually, physically and aesthetically; this is a beautiful, hard bound book object; (2) Evany Thomas has a website were you can test to see which sleeping position you are.



Post a Comment

<< Home