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AANR-WEST BOOK REVIEWS
“Free and Natural,” Is Destined to Become an Important New Book About Nudity in America
By Gary Mussell
To put it bluntly, Free and Natural, Nudity and the American Cult of the Body is a newly published book (July 2019 by University of Pennsylvania Press) that every serious nudist in the country should read. Its 288 pages are extremely well researched and documented, with anecdotal references from dozens of eyewitnesses and written accounts. The author, Professor Sarah Schrank is an academic historian at Long Beach State University, California. She weaves a fascinating examination of events, trends, and patterns in the nudist movement in America, from its early successes in the 1930s to the present-day age of smart phones and the Internet, and how organized nudism has had to evolve to stay relevant.
Her narrative quickly hooks the reader to follow what she calls one of the great underreported stories – how the American nudist movement survived and has thrived up to the present day despite pressure by law enforcement, religious leaders, politicians and opportunistic newspaper publishers to put it out of business.
In my favorite chapter Welcome to the Nudist Colony, Schrank describes the introduction of Lebensreform (life reform) into America through German immigrants, who hoped to practice their philosophy in this country. How and why such disparate groups as the KKK, the Catholic Church and Southern Baptists rose against these “foreign influences led by nudist pioneers Kurt Barthel and Ilsley Boone in the early 1930s makes for fascinating reading. Schrank documents how these nudist pioneers were forced out of the cities to out-of-the-way locations that become the first successful “camps” and “colonies” of the American nudist movement. It is a struggle with many parallels 90 years later in our modern era with nudist beaches and hiking trails.
NAKED AT LUNCH, A RELUCTANT NUDIST’S ADVENTURES IN THE CLOTHING-OPTIONAL WORLD
A book review by Jim Carter, SCNA Cultural Editor
On Wednesday evening, June 3, Rolf and I attended the standing-room-only reception and book-signing event for Mark Haskell Smith’s hilarious new book, “Naked at Lunch, A Reluctant Nudist’s Adventures in the Clothing-Optional World.”
The event was hosted by Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena and moderated by L.A. Times book critic, David Ulin. Until we arrived we had no ideas of the popularity of this author as he apparently has a vast readership following. (His other books include “Heart of Dankness: Underground Botanists, Outlaw Farmers, and the Race for the Cannabis Cup.”)
Smith gave us a brief reading which was very entertaining and offered many insights into the nudist experiences. The Q & A session produced a very broad range of questions that revealed many of the general public’s misconceptions about nudists and nudism in general. I commend Smith for his gentle handling of some of the inquiries. And yet – still – at the very end, the last question was “At any time did you have to tame your Johnson?” which, of course, got a big laugh. Obviously, we still have a long way to go educating the public! See my book review below:
The new book, “Naked at Lunch, A Reluctant Nudist’s Adventures in the Clothing-Optional World” by Mark Haskell Smith, a self-professed outsider to our way of life, gives the reader a unique perspective on the social nudist movement. The book is well researched, truthful and occasionally very humorous.
NAKED HIKING” REVIEWS 22 TRAILS FOR FREE HIKERS TO EXPERIENCE
By Jim Carter
The Naturists’ bookshelf is relatively short, ranging in quality from the excellent The Nudist Idea by Cec Cinder and A Brief History of Nakedness by Philip Carr-Gomm to rather poor efforts such as the self-published, Nudist Among Us, Revisited by Allen W. Parker. And so it is that I am happy to recommend the recently published, Naked Hiking, by Richard Foley.
This is, as far as I know, the only book length publication dealing directly with the subject of nude hiking. Articles about nude hiking are scattered far and wide amongst various Naturist periodicals, but for the first time, here is a wonderful collection of essays dealing with our peculiar predilection for being nude in Nature in one convenient place.
Richard Foley, an American ex-patriot and experienced freehiker is the web master of “The Naktiv Network” http://www.naktiv.net and is the author of several articles and non-fiction books including Active Nudists and The World Naked Bike Ride.
The twenty-two essays in Naked Hiking are framed by an excellent introductory Forward and a concluding poem, Daybreak on the Alp, by Vittorio Volpi. Author Notes, evidently provided by the authors themselves, with plenty of references to other publications and web sites concludes the collection.
The essays themselves vary in length and quality, but all warrant our attention. These people are, after all, kindred spirits in our love of nude hiking. They range from straight forward travel logs to first time experiences, to philosophical and/or political tracts on the joys, merits, benefits and morals that underpin being naked in Nature as Nature intended.
The only drawback for Americans, if you can call it that, is that all of these essays deal with trails and issues in Europe. But for those of you who travel, some of the travel logs will yield some great ideas. I was particularly drawn to some of the hiking described in Jim Hutton’s Naked Hiking in Naturist Centers, an overview of trails on Naturist centers in the south of France.
Some varieties on nude hiking I had never heard of are also included, such as the “Naked-Naked” guided hikes where not even shoes are allowed to fully-catered week-long nude walking tours.
Practical matters are also considered, and range in scope from Mark Storey’s basic Hiking Naked reprinted from Nude and Natural Magazine (15.4) to Winter! by Jacques Marie Francillon about how and how-not-to hike naked in the snow!
All the topics discussed are fascinating, but for me at least, the heart of the book is an extended piece by Stephen Gough, the so-called “Naked Rambler”, written while still in a Scottish prison for violating England’s notorious Section 5 of the Public Order Act by appearing nude in public. In Notes from a Cold Prison Cell he discusses the origins of his philosophy of personal freedom and gives an account of his many incarcerations during his efforts to walk naked from one side of England to the other to a heartwarming homecoming at his mother’s house. For my money, Gough’s essay alone is worth the purchase.
Naked Hiking is available from Amazon and would be a welcome addition to any Naturist’s bookshelf. Well worth reading, friends, ISBN: 9-780-9572432-2-4.
AANR-WEST MOVIE REVIEWS
Predictable Script Disappoints as “Act Naturally” Tries Too Hard to Be Funny
Name of Film: ACT NATURALLY
Our Rating (out of five):
Year Released: 2011
Studio: Letter Blue Productions (Independent)
Director: J.P. Riley
Awards (if any): 2011 Audience Choice Award, United Film Festival (both the Los Angeles and London competitions)
Principal Actors: Katie L. Hall, Liz Lytle and Susan May Pratt
Comedy, 1 hour 30 minutes, MPAA Rating: R, Color,
Available on DVD
This low-budget independent film went straight to DVD after several years of not finding a studio willing to distribute it. This is a shame, because this little film, despite its flaws, deserves a larger audience than just those lucky enough to discover it on Amazon. It is one of those few movies that tries to accurately portray the nudist lifestyle and for that alone the film deserves our support.
The story starts with a phone call between two grown daughters who didn’t know the other existed. The birth daughter, Charlie (Liz Lytle), tell Leah the adopted daughter (played by Katie L. Hall, who also co-produced and co-wrote the movie), that their father has just died at a place called Bare Lake in Arizona, and they both need to drive there to pick up his ashes and receive their inheritance.
The two women couldn’t be more different. Struggling artist Charlie is bitter that her father abandoned her and her mother many years before. Leah, a financial analyst, grew up with fond memories of her father and his second wife. Both women are shocked to discover their inheritance is the Bare Lakes resort itself – a nudist park!
While there are abundant cliché moments (i.e. over-staring) as the two women adapt to seeing so much skin around them, the script follows their own journey from repulsion at the very idea that their father had a secret life, to tentative acceptance of both the lifestyle and also of each other’s existence. Unfortunately, the script is uneven and may suffer from too many writers and too much editing and re-editing because the plot at times seems to jump without showing us why certain events occur.
The natural tension that should exist between the two women is there, and then it isn’t and then it is again. Also, Leah appears to embrace her skin in one scene, then returns to clothes in the next scene (and for several thereafter) without explanation. It would have been far better had one sister assimilated faster than the other to add more tension and provide a better foundation for the scene where the two discuss their body flaws.
Two other scenes where Bear Valley members disclose the girls’ father had an affair with Lauren, the lifeguard, could have been done better had they discovered a note to them from their father when going through his personal things describing the open relationship he had with Leah’s mother, and also his hopes and plans for Bare Valley once the girls took it over. The “my dad has business plan and we can make this work” cliché at the end comes out of nowhere and seems odd, since the park is obviously not doing well – why didn’t he implement the business plan himself before?
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