By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
At points these writers drown in their own grief. Mark Doty's languid piece on losing his lover Wally spends too much time searching for Wally's spirit through strange symbolic associations, like seals. But the majority of the writers give hope to those left behind. Ann Hood's inspiring "In Search of Miracles" recounts her hope that Santa Fe's "miracle dirt" will heal her dying father. Although he dies, she says, "What I gained there was a peace of mind." And Andre Dubus's "Sacraments" teaches us to take even the mundane tasks of everyday life, like making lunch for his daughters, as an "outward sign of God's love."
Reading Henry's anthology, I learned what anyone grieving does: Somehow, you must go on. This book turns both a critical and spiritual gaze on loss. If you're dealing with sorrow, it's one useful book. Celeste Doaks
The Love Diet
What do oysters, pumpkins, sunflower seeds, and lean beef have in common? They all contain zinc, scientifically proven to increase testosterone levels and maintain vaginal lubrication. Forget Viagrabone up on a few of nature's secret love potions that "cooking couple" Michael and Ellen Albertson reveal in their new Temptations: Igniting the Pleasure and Power of Aphrodisiacs (Simon & Schuster, $14). As with their prior books, Food as Foreplay: Recipes for Romance, Love, and Lust and He's a Fork, She's a Spoon: Recipes for a Long Loving Life Together, this chef-comedian-dietitian duo promises readers more dynamic sex lives and even longer-lasting relationships by bringing together two of the most basic human instinctseating and sex. But Temptations is more than just a culinary sex manual. It provides medical, historical, and cultural background on well-known aphrodisiacs such as oysters, chocolate, and garlic, while introducing some lesser-known items such as the saviña habaneropepper, which should be consumed with caution lest it disintegrate your tongue, and swiftlet bird's nest soupmade from seaweed and fish spawn pasted together with the saliva of the swiftlet bird itself. Yummy! The book's most entertaining facet is its aphro-revisionist global history. Who would have thought oystersnature's little hermaphroditesmight be the culprits behind China's overpopulation, 19th-century America's population boom and westward expansion, and the high divorce rate here today? Indeed, there might be something else in the food the Albertsons are eating besides a few aphrodisiacs, especially in their closing chapters when they recommend "edible orgy" scenarios, such as the geisha-samurai sushi orgy. While Temptations may be pumped with a little too much aphrodisiology, its value lies in the connections the authors make between the health, sex, and relationship problems of many Americans and our ignorance of and detachment from our own bodies. Josephine Lee
Talk the Talk
Actions speak louder than words. People roll their eyes when annoyed and shrug their shoulders when confused. They also respond to the common query "What's wrong?" by saying, "Nothing," when they really want to throw every indiscretion, bad decision, and faux pas of the last 10 years in your face for the crime of failing to pick up your underwear.
Harriet Lerner's The Dance of Connection: How to Talk to Someone When You're Mad, Hurt, Scared, Frustrated, Insulted, Betrayed or Desperate (HarperCollins, $25) shows you how to verbally "dance" your way through some of life's most combustible situations (such as confronting a spouse about an alleged affair or telling a parent how he or she has emotionally scarred you) without all of the huffing, puffing, and posturing that make such confrontations so difficult.
Lerner acknowledges the difficulty in achieving such evolved verbal communication when all you want to do is cry, curse, and beat someone about the head with a blunt object. However, the book goes beyond simple "I statements" and "feeling words," offering real-world advice on sharing one's fears, voicing concerns and requests, and (most importantly) making clear just how much one is willing to take from another. It's one thing to talk the talk. Lerner, to her credit, teaches people how to walk the walk as well, making clear to her readers that they can leave any relationship if it fails to meet their needs. Action gets no louder than that. Chanel Lee
You are stiff and can't touch your toes anymore. Time to start exercising, but public gymscrowded, intimidating, and confusingare not the answer. Join Sweating With Supervision and enhance your mind-body connection. At this private fitness studio, in a basement near Delancey Street, you can enjoy, for only $30, a one-hour, one-on-one calisthenic workout, and feel the exhilaration of body-fat reduction, weight management, body shaping, and toning (discount packages available). Improve your strength and flexibility with the aid of Diana Perez or one of her qualified female trainers, who can help you set realistic goals and determine safe strategies, all while providing the encouragement you need. To learn how to master and manipulate the fundamental elements of weight control, call for a free session. Ioana Veleanu
Sweating With Supervision, 112 Suffolk Street, 780-0156.
Wake Up and Smell the Kona
Kahuna O'Kana'iaupuni Iwi'ula (a/k/a Aupuni) introduced the Ho'ala (literally, wake up) Series last May at the American Indian Community House at 404 Lafayette Street. Ho'ala is the initial phase of a series of workshops in Ho'omana, a broad term for native Hawaiian spiritualitythe real deal, as it was before Western and Christian contact. Similar to the spiritual practices of other indigenous cultures, this tradition incorporates advanced energetic processes that can be utilized for protection, self-correction, and healing. With the abolition of the kapu (taboo) system and destruction of the Hawaiian temples in 1819, the religion went underground and was practiced in secret until the Hawaiian cultural renaissance of the 1970s. (Incredibly, as recently as 1970 it was technically against the law for Hawaiians to publicly teach their native religion.)