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Lesbian Pulp Fiction: The Sexually Intrepid World of Lesbian Paperback Novels 1950-1965 Formato Kindle
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"The importance of all our pulp fiction novels cannot possibly be overstated. Whatever their negative images or messages, they told us we were not alone. Because they told us about each other, they led us to look for and find each other, they led us to the end of the isolation that had divided and conquered us. And once we found each other, once we began to question the judgments made of us, our civil rights movement was born" (p. xviii).
In moving style, Forrest also writes of finding in 1957 a copy of Ann Bannon's ODD GIRL OUT, "a book as necessary to me as air" (p. ix). How fitting that Forrest should edit this wonderful homage to these early writers when her own works are frequently cited as having the same effect upon other women as Bannon's work had upon her. CURIOUS WINE (1983) is frequently cited by lesbians as a book that saved their lives. I believe it when Forrest writes, "I write my books out of the profound wish that no one will ever have to be there again" (p. ix).
To spotlight those early pulp novels, Forrest has selected twenty-two excerpts by nineteen authors including Ann Bannon, Vin Packer, Paula Christian, Tereska Torres, Valerie Taylor, and Marion Zimmer Bradley writing as Miriam Gardner. Among reasons for selecting these particular excerpts, Forrest cites pioneering status, sexual content, happy endings, reflections of the times, and quality of writing. Many of these books have been reprinted (several by Cleis Press), and with a little diligence, all of them can be located and purchased. Each of them is well worth reading in its entirety, but this wonderful collection will provide hours of delight and enjoyment to anyone willing to enter into the sexually intrepid world of lesbian paperback novels. An essential text for all libraries, both private and public, this book is highly recommended. ~Lori L. Lake, Midwest Book Review
But I was a bit disappointed in the content. Reading the excerpts is fun. I'm doing one or two in between reading other books and it's a good way to decide what other titles I might want to track down for my collection. But information about lesbian pulps in general is what I was most interested in as a lesbian literature history lesson. The introduction gave a decent overview, but it left me wanting a bit more. I also noticed that there were a couple errors in the intro, which I would never have realized had I not already read the pulps I already mentioned.
The information about the start of pulps, including lesbian pulps, was good. But most of the info was about specific titles and authors. Why did the pulp trend end? Why was there a lull in publishing lesbian books? Between the end of the pulp period and feminist and lesbian publishers finally getting a solid foothold in the 80's, not much was happening it seems. Or at least I'm not aware of what was going on (other than a couple authors) and I think exploring why and how things changed again would have been really informative and still tied in with the topic.
I suppose that's of particular interest to me because I was a teen in the 70's and there weren't any lesbian books on the drugstore racks for me to stumble over! I was buying straight historical romances and bestsellers from the drugstore rack on my way home from school, and mostly oblivious to my own lesbianism. I could have used a bit of fictional enlightenment. It wasn't until after I came out in the mid 80's and actively tracked down lesbian books that I found them. I never would have guessed that, in this one regard at least, the 50's and 60's had an advantage.
One thing that the pulp books I've read, and the excerpts included in this book, have demonstrated to me is how surprisingly positive some of the books and stories are. I've always heard the whole thing about how it was required for there to be no happy endings, the women usually ending up dead or with a man. And yeah, some of that goes on in these pulp novels. There are lots of mentions of how sick or unnatural lesbians are, etc. And in a couple of Bannon's books the characters are unlikable and commit reprehensible acts.
Yet it's fascinating to see that many authors were getting around those restrictions and writing endings that weren't completely negative from a lesbian point of view and characters and relationships were often portrayed in a positive manner. I was especially surprised by the fairly blatant sex in some books. That whole idea of the 50's being so repressed and uptight certainly isn't supported here and that has been a very interesting revelation for me, having been born in the early 60's and growing up post-sexual revolution.
The other main thing that I thought was missing from this book was an introduction to each excerpt from the pulp novels. The cover art and jacket copy is included at the start for each one, but I was expecting Forrest to write her own blurb about why she chose to include each novel and the particular excerpt of the book. Lesbian Pulp Fiction would have had a lot more depth for me if that had been true.
Overall I still think this book is worth the money and time to read. It's an important period in lesbian history and lesbian fiction that is still very obscure. Reading this book is educational, enlightening, and entertaining.
Kindle Note: Cleis Press unfortunately chose to do their Kindle edition in the Dreaded Topaz Format. This format is infamous among Kindle owners for the various problems it presents. In this specific case there are problems with letters in words being oddly spaced, either smooshed together or spaced far apart. Sometimes lines on the screen are oddly spaced also. But most frustrating is the images for each pulp novel excerpt. Not only is the cover an image, but the jacket copy that was on the front and back (much of it inflammatory or racy and thus what you want to read!) is part of the image. That means it's almost completely illegible when reading on the 6" Kindle. They may fare better on the DX, but I don't know. I'm gonna find my magnifying glass to see what I've missed!
Novels profiled are:
These Curious Pleasures
The Third Street
The Girls in
The King of a Rainy Country
The Dark Side of Venus
Edge of Twilight
Another Kind of Love
I Am a Woman
Return to Lesbos
The Strange Women
The Flesh Is Willing
Appointment in Paris
Enough of Sorrow
About the Editor
This is an interesting book that surprised me with some facts. It has often been said that the characters in most of these "50's pulps" were victims who were destined to a completely tragic end. This is not true as often as I had thought.
I love the personal experience the editor shares of her own introduction with the pulps and Ann Bannon specifically. It is always great to have a talented editor with a personal passion at the helm. Great fun!
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