MARK LARSON AND BARNEY HOSKYNSThe Mullet: Hairstyle of the Gods (Bloomsbury PublishingSt. Martin’s Press)

If you have ever gazed, with a mixture of astonishment and pity, upon a horrible bi-level haircut squealing by in a Trans Am, then the humor of this glossy small-coffee-table book (trailer coffee-table book?), The Mullet: Hairstyle of the Gods, is worth investigating. And it may even leave you with a certain twisted respect for its subject‘s wearers.

As humor books go, it’s pretty great the first time through. Masquerading as a library book checked out by one mullet-adorned Link Dunkelschwester, whose insights garnish the page margins, it bears a similarity to certain National Lampoon print projects of the ‘70s. We learn (through some fine graphic design) of great historical mullets, from the Neanderthal man (”Grunt! Hack off front so I can see!“), to Buffalo Bill, to David Bowie’s Ziggy resurrection, to current classics like Mel Gibson‘s ”Lethal Mullet,“ various athletes (the mullet is mandatory for relief pitchers), and the all-time king, Billy Ray Cyrus, who, shorn of his mullet — Samson-like — watched his career go down the drain with his locks. Especially amusing is the ”Field Watchers Guide,“ so you know what you’re looking at when hunting the elusive creatures.

Thanks to the mullet-obsessed Beastie Boys (who apparently coined the term), an entire cottage industry is growing around the mullet (a.k.a. the Camaro cut, mudflap, butt-rocker, shag, ape drape, squirrel pelt, business in the frontparty in the back, and many more colorful terms). Mullet fascination has been described as a kind of class warfare, since those who sport mullets are generally working-class; those who actively diss mullets, well, they have the time and money to make Web sites about them. Hairstyle of the Gods generally avoids snobbishness toward the now-infamous hair-don‘t and makes for pretty droll bathroom reading. And any way you slice it, cheese always makes a fine gift.

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