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Reading a big part of her life

Dr. Ruth K. Westheimer: Reading a big part of her life

Marianne Rafter

Dr. Ruth K. Westheimer, America’s diminutive, straight-talking sex therapist, admits that if she has a choice between reading at home or going out, she’ll go out. Only a foot of snow in New York City and sub-zero temperature would prompt the 85-year-old author of some 40 books to spend the day reading. She will appear Saturday, Feb. 22 at the The Big Book Getaway at Mohegan Sun Resort in Uncasville, Conn. Tickets are $45 for Friday, $65 for Saturday only, and $100 for the entire weekend.

BOOKS: What are you reading currently?

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WESTHEIMER: A book about Israel that makes me very sad, “My Promised Land” by Ari Shavit. I fought for Israeli independence in 1948. I was badly wounded by a cannon ball that filled my legs with shrapnel, but that is not why I’m short! This book upsets me because when I was fighting I would have never believed that after the United Nations was created that there still would be so many wars. I’ll tell you what I’m reading that makes me smile, “Paris: A Love Story” by Kati Morton. It makes me laugh because I lived in Paris. It also makes me upset because she describes an affair she had while she was married. I’m a square. If somebody has cheated they should keep their mouth shut. She shouldn’t have written about it even if her husband forgave her.

BOOKS: What else do you read?

WESTHEIMER: I read for my profession. Of course I read “Fifty Shades of Grey” by E.L. James, all three volumes. It’s not great literature. It makes a point that I have been making for 50 years; women get aroused by sexually explicit literature. I also have a new edition of “The Song of Solomon,” the biblical lust poem. I quote that a lot. Sometimes if I have a little time, I pick it up, and I read a little bit, smile and say, “It’s very nice to be Dr. Ruth.”

‘Of course I read “Fifty Shades of Grey,” all three volumes. It’s not great literature. It makes a point that I have been making for 50 years; women get aroused by sexually explicit literature. ’

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BOOKS: Do you still read in German?

WESTHEIMER: I read a little bit in German. I have the “The Hare with Amber Eyes” by Edmund de Waal in German and English. It’s about netsuke, these little Japanese carved figurines. I have about 20 of them. A friend of mine had a big collection. One day he said he had too many. I asked him how much he wanted for some and wrote him a check. He’s regretted it ever since. I read de Waal’s book and think of how smart of me to make such a rash decision. I have guides to dollhouses because I collect them too. When my mother sent me to Switzerland in 1939, I had to leave my dollhouse in Frankfurt. I never saw my parents again. I learned later they had died in the Holocaust. At the orphanage, I had no control over my life. I do have control over my dollhouses. They each have a family in them.

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BOOKS: Did your family have a lot of books?

WESTHEIMER: A fair amount but not as much as me. They had a book, “Ideal Marriage” by Theodoor Hendrick van de Velde about married life with pictures of sex. They hid it high on a bookshelf so I shouldn’t see it. I climbed on a chair to get it. I was fascinated.

BOOKS: Were there books at the orphanage?

WESTHEIMER: Very few because the orphanage could not afford books but every Friday evening after dinner we were read to. I remember “How Green Was My Valley” by Richard Llewellyn.

BOOKS: Do you have a lot of books?

WESTHEIMER: I have books all over the place. It is very nice. I have been a hoarder for a long time because I grew up with nothing. Some years ago in Germany I did a book that is coming out here this year, “The Myths of Love.” It sold nicely, but the publisher told me that they would destroy the last 200. A book of mine is not going to get burned. That would remind me of the Nazis who burned books and then people. I bought them. I have a 100 left. They fill one whole book shelf in a bedroom.

AMY SUTHERLAND

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