Pierre Louys. The Young Girl's Handbook of Good Manners.
Shoppers at modern "book" stores and hip urban clothing outlets know full well the current surfeit of coffee-table advice books--100 More Ironic Cats that You Should Look at While You're Dying--and their insipid cohorts. Pierre Louys, by way of contrast, is the real stuff. A straight drinking pal of Gide and Wilde, author of more mainstream works like The Woman and the Puppet (adapted to film by both von Sternberg and Bunuel), Louys labored away throughout his lifetime at so much elegantly refined smut (the delicately obscene was his stock in trade) that it was ultimately best measured by the tonnage--nine hundred pounds' worth, according to his biographers. This slender volume, itself comprising less than one nine-hundredth of that prodigious, prurient output, is nonetheless vintage Louys, consistently light and perverse and deliciously trashy--while also witty, insightful, and genuinely scathing. "For Use in Educational Establishments," his Handbook is rather obviously a send-up of social values both then and now hypocritical: "If you know that your mother is expecting her lover, do not hide under her bed, especially if you intend to jump out and shout 'Boo! It's me!' as he is coming in her mouth. You might make her choke." It also never surrenders the shameless pleasure of being erotic fantasy, eagerly imagining a world where sex is casual and constant, and where everyone--especially young girls--head off to bed each night well-fucked (where they engage in further frolics). This is just the book to give your niece--if she's a quiet, neat, straight-laced girl.