No sex in MU libraries

Together, John P. Raynor, S.J and Memorial libraries have thousands of titles in their collections, but three recent books with racy content are not among them. Their absence may indicate a larger prejudice against what may be becoming a modern literary staple: the sensational, steamier-the-better tale.

Raynor's Browsing Collection, an assemblage of newer books chosen for their popularity or potential for mass appeal, according to Nicholas Burckel, dean of libraries, is missing adult film star Jenna Jameson's bestselling kiss-and-tell "How to Make Love Like A Porn Star: A Cautionary Tale." Pamela Anderson's "Star: A Novel" cannot be found on the collection's shelves on the first floor of Raynor, either, and former Maxim magazine editor Dave Itzkoff's soft-selling but critically-acclaimed "Lads: A Memoir of Manhood" joins these two on the ranks of the missing.

Burckel said library staff chooses which books to buy by examining reviews in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the trade publications Publisher's Weekly and Library Journal. Student suggestions made electronically via the Marquette University Libraries homepage can also influence acquisition decisions, Burckel said.

Privacy laws prevent Burckel from revealing if any students have requested these three books.

Though the sheer popularity of a book may play a factor in whether or not it gets acquired, it isn't an automatic get-in-free card. Jameson's "Porn Star," for instance, peaked at number six in its category on The New York Times best-seller list, according to a representative from her publisher, but hasn't been purchased by Marquette's libraries.

"We don't take The New York Times best-seller list every Sunday and buy what we don't have," Burckel said.

All three books hype on their seedy content as a marketing ploy, and it may be for this reason that none of them are in the Marquette collections.

"If the material is largely salacious, we wouldn't acquire it," Burckel said.

And salacious these books are.

In "Porn Star," Jameson recounts being raped by a neo-Nazi at 16, becoming addicted to crack cocaine and having many sexual encounters with members of both genders. Anderson's "Star" takes a lighter approach to some similar material, including posing for adult magazines and having multiple sexual encounters. Itzkoff's memoir "Lads" finds him dishing on his substance abuse, soliciting for sex and attempting suicide.

"We don't censor things, but we want to make sure they're appropriate for an academic audience," Burckel said. Therein lies the answer to why Marquette has many once-controversial books such as Toni Morrison's "The Bluest Eye" and Jack Kerouac's "On the Road" but not "Porn Star" or "Lads."

"Kerouac has academic legitimacy," Burckel said, "but Pam Anderson probably doesn't."

The way New York Times arts critic Janet Maslin sees it; the sensationally themed book has firmly cemented itself in pop culture.

"The formerly outré, freaky and unthinkable now constitute business as usual in popular culture. And these have become outright selling points for books that eagerly capitalize on their kinks. Although the celebrity autobiography is a genre that might be deemed obscene by definition, it takes on a whole new meaning with Jenna Jameson perched high on the best-seller list," Maslin wrote in her Sept. 10 article, "Yesterday's Shocker is Today's Must Read."

Burckel said without seeing the books themselves or reading reviews about them, he would not acquire Anderson's "Star" or Jameson's "Porn Star." He said he was unfamiliar with "Lads" and so didn't know whether he would consider acquiring it.

"If a student really wants a book, there are plenty of outlets to do that, from the public library to the bookstore," Burckel said.

The Milwaukee Public Library, 814 W. Wisconsin Ave., has Itzkoff's "Lads" and Anderson's "Star," which was not only checked out but on hold as of Wednesday. It does not have Jameson's "Porn Star," although that doesn't reflect any discrimination on the part of the library, according to library manager Paula Kiely.

"There doesn't seem to be any reason why it's not in our catalog," Kiely said, adding that the library acquires books based on public demand and critical review.

Borders Books and Music, 101 W. Wisconsin Ave., has all three titles, though Kelly Edmonds, the store's general manager, said she was prohibited from discussing the titles' in-store popularity.