In his first non-fiction book Mark Haskell Smith (MHS) explored the world of cannabis connoisseurs and their suppliers; his second is about about nudism. As his wife observes "First you're stoned all the time and now you're going to get naked. Why can't you write a book about cheese? You like cheese."
- Mark Haskell Smith.
MHS really does take his research seriously and gets naked for a good deal of the time. We find him - unclothed - on a cruise ship, various beaches and naturist clubs in the USA and Europe and hiking in the Alps. As a result of this enthusiastic fieldwork", he is able to meet a variety of "non-textile" devotees, ranging from skinny-dippers, nudists and naturists through to the more esoteric smoothies. His willingness to be part of their world results in people being very honest and forthright when discussing their choice of lifestyle.
It would be very easy for such a book to become an irreverent and humorous look at at the activities of a minority group with much innuendo and childish smut. Instead, the author carefully avoids the obvious traps and with a great deal of relevant humour sensitively explores not just the obvious issues which affect people who want to take off their clothes, but also the background to such activity.
There is a marked difference between American and European attitudes to nudity, both in public and in private, which will surprise many readers. However, on both sides of the Atlantic, it is apparent that a battle is being fought against fear, ignorance, prejudice and wilful obstruction by Society which cannot, or which refuses to, understand the attraction of nudity to many people.
MHS also explores the history, philosophy and politics of getting naked, the radical attitudes of some of it's past and present practitioners possibly contributing to todays general disquiet about public nudity.
"Naked At Lunch" is an eminently readable, humorous and informative book. It will dispel many myths and answer many questions about nudity and can only add to a better understanding of the desire of some people to shed their clothes, whether in public or in private.
Bearing in mind that this review is primarily for ARRSE readers, it must be said that naked roll-mat fighting does not receive attention; however, Stephen Gough, "The Naked Rambler" and former Royal Marine, does get an honourable mention.
4 out of 5 Mushroom Heads.