Sad Young Men Across the Pond

The Heart in Exile by Rodney Garland, W.H. Allen 1953

Cover line: A disturbingly frank novel of homosexuality in London

I discovered this gay British novel, not precisely a pulp but on the pulpy end of the spectrum, through a citation in my favorite book of 2015, The Spiv and The Architect. “Queer novels of the 1950s frequently exploited the continued currency of the traditional moral economy of furniture and design as a useful device for highlighting the domestic propriety of their respectable ‘homosexual’ protagonists,” wrote author Richard Hornsey, using The Heart in Exile as his example. He ties the novel’s detailed description of a bachelor flat to the way “a specter of malignant queerness haunted modern design,” leading to the perception of modern furniture as “an agent of corruption that would seduce children from the normative rituals of family life.” Who wouldn’t be intrigued?

The Plot: The suicide that ends many pulps starts this one. Tony Page, a queer, currently celibate psychiatrist takes on a new patient, Ann Hewitt. Continue reading

Just Plain Pulp

Kate, by Chet Kinsey, Beacon, 1959

Cover Line: “A novel that tells the truth about those homes for unwed mothers…”

Add this book to the category, “I’ve slogged through it so you don’t have to.” This is a perfect example of the mediocre stuff that was churned out solely to keep those drugstore bookracks filled. Did even Barbara Grier read this? I doubt it. Some friend said, Continue reading

The Man Who Would Be Lesbian

69 Barrow Street, by Lawrence Block writing as Sheldon Lord, Tower, 1959

Cover Line: “Their Love was Right! But Their Sex Was Wrong!”

We’ve all known them: the men who long to be lesbians. in the days before they found an outlet for their frustrated desires by dominating the discussions in women studies classes with passionate paeans to Monique Wittig, they wrote lesbian pulp.

Does Lawrence Block belong to this esoteric tribe? One thing is for sure: before becoming Continue reading

Bookstore Chronicles: The Power of Positive Thinking

I had a busy day at the bookstore Tuesday. There was a box from triliteral to unpack (I want all the books in the semiotexte series — so small, so simply designed, with such apocalyptic titles) and I was entering the books in the system while customers kept interrupting me — which is good! No complaints. We like it when people buy books.

A man in town for a convention asked if we had any books on dachshunds. No, I said, after conscientiously doing a keyword check, was he a dachshund fan? he wasn’t, his wife was. But stronger than a fan she was…”obsessed?” I Continue reading

The Queen of Pep

Lenora Mattingly Weber

Once upon a time I was attempting to summarize my books for a friend of my brother’s while my niece and the friend’s two kids ran around my brother’s living room wreaking havoc.

In the midst of my long-winded dissertation on lesbian pulp fiction, its historical context, my attempts to reimagine it, etc, my brother looked up from his iPhone and interrupted. Continue reading

Journey to Ann Bannon

Journey to a Woman, by Ann Bannon, Fawcett Gold Medal, 1960

Classic Line: “All the dormant fires of her younger days had sprung to life and they burned in her still, tempting her, torturing her until she knew she would have to find release somewhere or die of it.”

It took me many years to appreciate Ann Bannon’s contribution to lesbian literature. Bannon wrote five pulps between 1957 and 1962, linked novels that tell the intertwined, melodramatic adventures of Laura, Beth, and Beebo. The books made her Continue reading

Sad Young Men of LA

The Why Not, Victor Banis, A Greenleaf Classic, 1966

Best Line: “The Why Not represented everything he disliked about gay bars–screaming faggots, drag queens, rough trade. It was cheap and tawdry and, probably because of those qualities, successful.”

The above describes the book as well as the bar. I’ve been doing a little research on gay male pulp, in preparation for the upcoming pulp panel, and from what I’ve read The Why Not was the Women’s Barracks of the genre, a ground-breaking novel that led the way for books like Midtown Queen and Hot Pants Homo. Continue reading

Designing Lesbians

The Odd Ones, Edwina Mark, Berkley Books, 1959

“Jean discovered her true sexual nature through the expert teachings of sleek Sherri Lancaster.”

The Plot: Orphaned outcast Jean Grant is so desperate to get out of her hick town and discover her “true nature” she elopes with sensitive Tim, the unhappy son of the lecherous druggist (who is also Jean’s employer). After gritting her teeth through their wedding night, Jean steals Tim’s $1000 nest egg and hightails it to New York. There she checks into a cheap hotel and sets out to explore the city, alternately racked by guilt and overflowing with delirious joy at her newfound freedom. Continue reading

Sisters United

I went to the Lesbian Herstory Archives in Brooklyn a few weeks ago. Mostly just to check it out–I’ve been curious about it forever, or at least since I saw Cheryl Dunye’s Watermelon Woman which used it as a setting.

However, I had a project or two to focus my visit: mid-sixties period research with a lesbian slant; and finding out what I could about an obscure periodical, Sisters United, Continue reading