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Lesbian Pulp Fiction: The Sexually Intrepid World of Lesbian Paperback Novels, 1950-1965

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Long before the rise of the modern gay movement, an unnoticed literary revolution was occurring between the covers of the cheaply produced lesbian pulp paperbacks of the post–World War II era. In 1950, publisher Fawcett Books founded its Gold Medal imprint, inaugurating the reign of lesbian pulp fiction. These were the books that small-town lesbians and prurient men bought Long before the rise of the modern gay movement, an unnoticed literary revolution was occurring between the covers of the cheaply produced lesbian pulp paperbacks of the post–World War II era. In 1950, publisher Fawcett Books founded its Gold Medal imprint, inaugurating the reign of lesbian pulp fiction. These were the books that small-town lesbians and prurient men bought by the millions — cheap, easy to find in drugstores, and immediately recognizable by their lurid covers. For women leading straight lives, here was confirmation that they were not alone and that darkly glamorous, "gay" places like Greenwich Village existed. Some — especially those written by lesbians — offered sympathetic and realistic depictions of "life in the shadows," while others (no less fun to read now) were smutty, sensational tales of innocent girls led astray. In the overheated prose typical of the genre, this collection documents the emergence of a lesbian subculture in postwar America.


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Long before the rise of the modern gay movement, an unnoticed literary revolution was occurring between the covers of the cheaply produced lesbian pulp paperbacks of the post–World War II era. In 1950, publisher Fawcett Books founded its Gold Medal imprint, inaugurating the reign of lesbian pulp fiction. These were the books that small-town lesbians and prurient men bought Long before the rise of the modern gay movement, an unnoticed literary revolution was occurring between the covers of the cheaply produced lesbian pulp paperbacks of the post–World War II era. In 1950, publisher Fawcett Books founded its Gold Medal imprint, inaugurating the reign of lesbian pulp fiction. These were the books that small-town lesbians and prurient men bought by the millions — cheap, easy to find in drugstores, and immediately recognizable by their lurid covers. For women leading straight lives, here was confirmation that they were not alone and that darkly glamorous, "gay" places like Greenwich Village existed. Some — especially those written by lesbians — offered sympathetic and realistic depictions of "life in the shadows," while others (no less fun to read now) were smutty, sensational tales of innocent girls led astray. In the overheated prose typical of the genre, this collection documents the emergence of a lesbian subculture in postwar America.

30 review for Lesbian Pulp Fiction: The Sexually Intrepid World of Lesbian Paperback Novels, 1950-1965

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lobo

    Z góry zaznaczam, że ocena nie odnosi się do jakości opowiadań w antologii, bo te są... specyficzne. Tym, co mnie zainteresowało w opracowaniu Forrest był wstęp i sam dobór tekstów. Wstęp jest świetny, porusza wiele zagadnień związanych z funkcjonowaniem lesbijskiej fikcji w latach 50., jest pełen ciekawostek i generalnie uwielbiam w nim każdy akapit. Bawi i uczy :D Tym, co mnie urzeka w pulpowych powieściach lesbijskich była ich masowość. Wszechobecność. W każdym kiosku i w każdej drogerii. Jas Z góry zaznaczam, że ocena nie odnosi się do jakości opowiadań w antologii, bo te są... specyficzne. Tym, co mnie zainteresowało w opracowaniu Forrest był wstęp i sam dobór tekstów. Wstęp jest świetny, porusza wiele zagadnień związanych z funkcjonowaniem lesbijskiej fikcji w latach 50., jest pełen ciekawostek i generalnie uwielbiam w nim każdy akapit. Bawi i uczy :D Tym, co mnie urzeka w pulpowych powieściach lesbijskich była ich masowość. Wszechobecność. W każdym kiosku i w każdej drogerii. Jasne, były sprzedawane jako tanie sensacyjne powieści o perwersyjnej miłości, ale to tylko płytki poziom odbioru. To, jak wiele znaczyły dla lesbijek tego okresu ma o wiele większe znaczenie niż to, czym planowano, że miałyby być. Pod wieloma względami obyczajowość Polska współczesna przypomina amerykańską w tamtym okresie, głównie ze względu na backlash, jakiego doświadczają ruchy kobiece i heteromatriks zafiksowany na binarności płciowej (ostatnio widziałam w sklepie dwie opcje tego samego produktu - Pan i Pani Śledź, odpowiednio w niebieskim i różowym opakowaniu i nikt mi nie wmówi, że to jest normalne) macierzyństwie jako strategii wypychania kobiet z rynku pracy. Myślę, że świadomość społeczna odnośnie queerowości w Polsce też jest analogiczna wobec amerykańskiej sprzed 70 lat: choroba psychiczna i zbrodnia, z podziękowaniem dla kościoła katolickiego za ich propagandę i sianie paniki moralnej, którą maskują fakt, że jako religia nie mają nic do zaoferowania. Dlatego też zastanawiam się, czy nie powinnyśmy mieć odpowiednika fikcji pulpowej, z uwzględnieniem tego, jak bardzo zmienił się rynek wydawniczy, oczywiście - może pulpowe ebooki? Lesbijskie pulpowe ebooki? Czy nie byłoby pięknie? PS Przełomowa lesbijska powieść pulpowa została napisana przez pochodzącą z Polski Żydówkę, dziękuję bardzo.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ana

    Given how disappointed I was with the ending of The Strange Women, I was invested in reading more pulp lesbian fiction only if I could skip the ending. This book of excerpts offers the perfect solution. Tereska Torres: Women’s Barracks Vin Packer: Spring Fire Anne Herbert: Summer Camp Sloane Britain: These Curious Pleasures Joan Ellis: The Third Street Randy Salem: Chris Artemis Smith: The Third Sex Valerie Taylor: The Girls in 3-B Valerie Taylor: Return to Lesbos Miriam Gardner: The Strange Wome Given how disappointed I was with the ending of The Strange Women, I was invested in reading more pulp lesbian fiction only if I could skip the ending. This book of excerpts offers the perfect solution. Tereska Torres: Women’s Barracks Vin Packer: Spring Fire Anne Herbert: Summer Camp Sloane Britain: These Curious Pleasures Joan Ellis: The Third Street Randy Salem: Chris Artemis Smith: The Third Sex Valerie Taylor: The Girls in 3-B Valerie Taylor: Return to Lesbos Miriam Gardner: The Strange Women Dorcas Knight: The Flesh Is Willing Kay Martin: The Whispered Sex Fay Adams: Appointment in Paris Brigid Brophy: The King of a Rainy Country March Hastings: Three Women Shirley Verel: The Dark Side of Venus Della Martin: Twilight Girl Paula Christian: Edge of Twilight Paula Christian: Another Kind of Love Ann Bannon: Beebo Brinker Ann Bannon: I Am a Woman Jill Emerson: Enough of Sorrow

  3. 4 out of 5

    Dora

    Very exciting, but just don't do it! It's a book full of excerpts that offer no conclusions or resolve. I thought this was a compilation of unabridged novels, a la Richard Brautigan. The individual titles are hard to find, but worth the trouble if you don't like random chapters from 20 different books. Very exciting, but just don't do it! It's a book full of excerpts that offer no conclusions or resolve. I thought this was a compilation of unabridged novels, a la Richard Brautigan. The individual titles are hard to find, but worth the trouble if you don't like random chapters from 20 different books.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Despite the lurid cover, this is a collection of romantic stories about lesbian love in a time when lesbianism was considered a perversion. It details how a lesbian couple had to walk a half-block away from each other to avert suspicion, how sometimes a lesbian would be humiliated by approaching another woman she guessed to be lesbian, only to be told she was straight and rebuffed harshly. The stories are mainly well-written excerpts of pulp novels from 1950-1965, which was, perhaps curiously, f Despite the lurid cover, this is a collection of romantic stories about lesbian love in a time when lesbianism was considered a perversion. It details how a lesbian couple had to walk a half-block away from each other to avert suspicion, how sometimes a lesbian would be humiliated by approaching another woman she guessed to be lesbian, only to be told she was straight and rebuffed harshly. The stories are mainly well-written excerpts of pulp novels from 1950-1965, which was, perhaps curiously, four years before Stonewall and eventual lesbian pride. The near-impossibility of living a normal, untroubled life was a severe factor limiting the existence of lesbians. One passage says it best: "You know something, baby? It doesn't matter. Nothing matters. You don't like me, and that doesn't matter. Someday maybe you'll love me, and that won't matter either. Because it won't last. Not down here. Not anywhere in the world, if you're gay. You'll never find peace. You'll never find Love, with a capital L." The stories are poignant and sad (although a few are trashy), but they all depict the loneliness and alienation of being a closeted lesbian when that was the only option for you. An interesting cultural/period study that gives you a good sense of the enormous difficulty of being a lesbian and trying to find love at that time. Required reading for anyone who wants to get an inside view of lesbianism.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Erica

    Soozee recently gave me this book for my birthday -- good so far. I really enjoyed the introduction (I usually despise and always skip over them) that detailed the history of some of the authors. For example...M.E. Kerr anyone? A pretty famous young adult author who wrote mystery, crime and lesbian pulp under the name Vin Packer. Interesting.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Weregoth

    DNF'd about halfway through because my loaning period expired. Can always check it out of the library later in the year. However, a lot of the stories were really similar, and I'm unsure if reading any more would change the 3 star rating I am giving it! DNF'd about halfway through because my loaning period expired. Can always check it out of the library later in the year. However, a lot of the stories were really similar, and I'm unsure if reading any more would change the 3 star rating I am giving it!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Elaine

    This is for a book club. It was fun and enlightening of what I remember and how the world was so different

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen Hagen

    Lesbian Pulp Fiction: The Sexually Intrepid World of Lesbian Paperback Novels, 1950 to 1965, edited by Katherine V. Forrest, Narrated by Madison Vaughn, Produced by Audible Inc., downloaded from audible.com. The Publisher’s note explains this title as well as I can. Long before the rise of the modern gay movement, an unnoticed literary revolution was occurring between the covers of the cheaply produced lesbian pulp paperbacks of the post-World War II era. In 1950, publisher Fawcett Books founded it Lesbian Pulp Fiction: The Sexually Intrepid World of Lesbian Paperback Novels, 1950 to 1965, edited by Katherine V. Forrest, Narrated by Madison Vaughn, Produced by Audible Inc., downloaded from audible.com. The Publisher’s note explains this title as well as I can. Long before the rise of the modern gay movement, an unnoticed literary revolution was occurring between the covers of the cheaply produced lesbian pulp paperbacks of the post-World War II era. In 1950, publisher Fawcett Books founded its Gold Medal imprint, inaugurating the reign of lesbian pulp fiction. These were the books that small-town lesbians and prurient men bought by the millions - cheap, easy to find in drugstores, and immediately recognizable by their lurid covers: often a hard-looking brunette standing over a scantily clad blonde, or a man gazing in tormented lust at a lovely, unobtainable lesbian. For women leading straight lives, here was confirmation that they were not alone and that darkly glamorous, "gay" places like Greenwich Village existed. Some - especially those written by lesbians - offered sympathetic and realistic depictions of "life in the shadows", while others (no less fun to read now) were smutty, sensational tales of innocent girls led astray. In the overheated prose typical of the genre, this collection documents the emergence of a lesbian subculture in postwar America. These stories had one drawback. They were excerpts from full novels, so they never felt as if you got the whole story. But each one clearly described an earth-shaking event in the life of a particular woman. Ann Bannon’s introduction is very thorough and gives us a history of that period.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lissa

    Lesbian pulp fiction intrigues me. There's something...different...about these books from the fifties and sixties. Some of them are poorly written, and many of them have unrealistic parts to them, but still, the books are important to our queer history and culture. They're like mini-time capsules, and every time I finish reading one, I find myself thankful that I live in the present. Katherine V. Forrest's introduction is worth the price of the book alone, in my opinion. I am queer in a rural ar Lesbian pulp fiction intrigues me. There's something...different...about these books from the fifties and sixties. Some of them are poorly written, and many of them have unrealistic parts to them, but still, the books are important to our queer history and culture. They're like mini-time capsules, and every time I finish reading one, I find myself thankful that I live in the present. Katherine V. Forrest's introduction is worth the price of the book alone, in my opinion. I am queer in a rural area, but I have the internet, and online bookstores, and e-readers to find community and literature. Forrest didn't have any of that. I do know, however, what it feels like to discover that one isn't alone, that there are other women out there like us, and how nerve-wracking it is to march up to a counter and purchase a book like that (usually with somewhat suggestive covers - mine was Ann Bannon's "Odd Girl Out" with two women kissing in silhouette; it took me almost a half hour to gather up my courage to march up to the counter!). And the excerpts themselves are interesting, as well. There are some real pulp gems, and I added a few different pulps to my "to be read" pile because of this book. Altogether, recommended - not necessarily for the literary value (although some of the excerpts, even today, are pretty good), but for historical/cultural value.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    This is an interesting book; I enjoyed it a lot even though I'm not really the target audience. The editor describes finding one of these novels in 1957 as "as necessary to me as air"; Since that doesn't apply to me I found it to be more of an interesting collection of curios. For being pulp paperbacks from the 50's and early 60's I was surprised at how good most of the writing is (and it's nowhere near as lurid as the cover might suggest) - Forrest's careful selection runs the gamut, although m This is an interesting book; I enjoyed it a lot even though I'm not really the target audience. The editor describes finding one of these novels in 1957 as "as necessary to me as air"; Since that doesn't apply to me I found it to be more of an interesting collection of curios. For being pulp paperbacks from the 50's and early 60's I was surprised at how good most of the writing is (and it's nowhere near as lurid as the cover might suggest) - Forrest's careful selection runs the gamut, although most books at the time had to have downer endings where the heroines either were locked up or were "cured" and happily settled down with Good Men (TM), Forrest has managed to either pick books without this mandated theme or excerpted the parts without it, so you get all kinds of different flavors. As a result the book's always interesting, and if you find a selection you don't like (and I'm not sure I ever did), it's just a few page flips before you're in a totally different world. I'm not really sure who to recommend this to, but I guess if you've read this far you'll be able to figure out if this is the kind of book you'd be interested in.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Judy!

    the most interesting part in this anthology of early lesbian paperbacks is that the editor includes text from the original paperbacks' front and back--copy about the "depraved" women inside and how reading this story will teach everyone about the "condition" of lesbianism and help us to learn to better combat it. basically, as the editor points out, the more hateful the cover copy, the juicier the lesbian relations inside...sort of. as a social picture of the space lesbians were relegated to at the most interesting part in this anthology of early lesbian paperbacks is that the editor includes text from the original paperbacks' front and back--copy about the "depraved" women inside and how reading this story will teach everyone about the "condition" of lesbianism and help us to learn to better combat it. basically, as the editor points out, the more hateful the cover copy, the juicier the lesbian relations inside...sort of. as a social picture of the space lesbians were relegated to at this time is very interesting, but don't go here for your erotica fix! the stories are actually deeply depressing, the gals in throes of passion exclaiming "no! don't do this! you'll live to regret becoming a sad terrible lesbian like me!" and whatnot. basically, it looks like it should be salacious midnight reading for your night-table, but really it's best read in the library, and its content extrapolated for a women's studies class.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Mirrordance

    Dopo i primi 4/5 racconti... ho abbandonato. Prendo atto del genere e dei tempi in cui si è sviluppato. Forse un racconto per volta può anche essere sopportabile ma tutti in fila no. Troppo simili, troppo pulp. Forse negli anni '50 e '60 solo trovare accennata l'esistenza di lesbiche in narrativa era una grande conquista ma questi romanzetti tra l'harmony ed il fotoromanzo sono decisamente tyristi. C'è poco spessore anche se spesso riflettono il sentire del tempo e quindi la sofferenza nello sco Dopo i primi 4/5 racconti... ho abbandonato. Prendo atto del genere e dei tempi in cui si è sviluppato. Forse un racconto per volta può anche essere sopportabile ma tutti in fila no. Troppo simili, troppo pulp. Forse negli anni '50 e '60 solo trovare accennata l'esistenza di lesbiche in narrativa era una grande conquista ma questi romanzetti tra l'harmony ed il fotoromanzo sono decisamente tyristi. C'è poco spessore anche se spesso riflettono il sentire del tempo e quindi la sofferenza nello scoprirsi diverse ma anche a volte una certa "ripetitività" emotiva. Poco più di un foto romanzo e nonostante tutto non riesco ad appassionarmi al genere ed a tali letture, mi domando se, vivendo in quell'epoca e con niente altro che raccontasse quelle storie (non che oggi ci sia una produzione moltop più ampia) avrei apprezzato maggiormente.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Wendy

    What a great overview! I read Odd Girl Out in its entirety a few years ago and was pretty disappointed - not much of what I'd hoped for from a pulp: good setting/feel for the time period and lots of sex; it is really pretty formulaic. So this overview was a nice surprise. Some of the selections in this book are pretty bad,but most are not. They're often interesting explorations of women coming to terms with their sexuality in mid-20th century America and some have a really fantastic sense of plac What a great overview! I read Odd Girl Out in its entirety a few years ago and was pretty disappointed - not much of what I'd hoped for from a pulp: good setting/feel for the time period and lots of sex; it is really pretty formulaic. So this overview was a nice surprise. Some of the selections in this book are pretty bad,but most are not. They're often interesting explorations of women coming to terms with their sexuality in mid-20th century America and some have a really fantastic sense of place and time. (Okay, yeah, the sex scenes are pretty fun too!) The bibliography and list of other lesbian-related literature is also helpful for adding to one's book list.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jenny Yates

    This anthology (lesbian paperback fiction from 1950 – 1965) is worth reading both for its historical value and, often, for the writing itself. I came out in the 80s, so I missed all this, and it was quite fascinating to become acquainted with such famous characters as Beebo Brinker. I was mesmerized. Prevailing social beliefs are revealed – and you can see how they change in the fifteen years that are represented – but the characters themselves are motivated by love and desire. Even when they ar This anthology (lesbian paperback fiction from 1950 – 1965) is worth reading both for its historical value and, often, for the writing itself. I came out in the 80s, so I missed all this, and it was quite fascinating to become acquainted with such famous characters as Beebo Brinker. I was mesmerized. Prevailing social beliefs are revealed – and you can see how they change in the fifteen years that are represented – but the characters themselves are motivated by love and desire. Even when they are terribly wounded by the attitudes of the times, they break through the taboos and find each other.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    A survey of lesbian pulp told in excerpts, a few of which I'd read in their entirety (The Girls in 3B and the Beebo Brinker series). Five stars for the superb forward by Katherine V. Forrest. Despite the moral policing in their endings (thankfully not included here), they're an interesting glimpse into gay life in the 50s and 60s. A survey of lesbian pulp told in excerpts, a few of which I'd read in their entirety (The Girls in 3B and the Beebo Brinker series). Five stars for the superb forward by Katherine V. Forrest. Despite the moral policing in their endings (thankfully not included here), they're an interesting glimpse into gay life in the 50s and 60s.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Cliff Harrison

    One of the primary reason I wanted this book was because it had Lawrence Block's early writing among the stories. Block began his writing career writing erotica and although this book published other now famous writers who used pen names to disguise their early work I was not able to identify them. One of the primary reason I wanted this book was because it had Lawrence Block's early writing among the stories. Block began his writing career writing erotica and although this book published other now famous writers who used pen names to disguise their early work I was not able to identify them.

  17. 4 out of 5

    JKR

    I enjoyed this book, it truly points one into the direction of classic lesbian pulp fiction. Although I have read most of the books that the excerpts were taken from, there were a few that I was pleased to have brought to my attention. I am grateful for those brave authors who produced such works that at times would whisper to one, "you are not alone". I enjoyed this book, it truly points one into the direction of classic lesbian pulp fiction. Although I have read most of the books that the excerpts were taken from, there were a few that I was pleased to have brought to my attention. I am grateful for those brave authors who produced such works that at times would whisper to one, "you are not alone".

  18. 5 out of 5

    Tama Wise

    Ah nothing better than short story collections, where you can pick and choose. Nothing better than pulp fiction! This is a collection of excerpts from lesbian paperback novels, and it makes for amusing reading if nothing else. A great insight into how lesbians were seen or dealt with in fiction back in the 50s. "I don't want this life for you! I'm wicked!" Ah nothing better than short story collections, where you can pick and choose. Nothing better than pulp fiction! This is a collection of excerpts from lesbian paperback novels, and it makes for amusing reading if nothing else. A great insight into how lesbians were seen or dealt with in fiction back in the 50s. "I don't want this life for you! I'm wicked!"

  19. 4 out of 5

    Alicia Winokur

    A cute overview, but they really are just excerpts. It is interesting to see how the stories/attitudes change over the time period, but I was left wanting more.

  20. 4 out of 5

    JoyfulK

    How delightful to find this on the public library shelves! So far I am riveted by Forrest's excellent historical/critical essay, and haven't even gotten to the fiction yet. How delightful to find this on the public library shelves! So far I am riveted by Forrest's excellent historical/critical essay, and haven't even gotten to the fiction yet.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    A bit of historical reading- and totally grateful its 2015.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Liz Eudy

    This was extraordinarily interesting for me. It was like a window into a world I never imagined. So glad I wasn't born earlier! This was extraordinarily interesting for me. It was like a window into a world I never imagined. So glad I wasn't born earlier!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Amy Mumpower

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jura Spitfire

  25. 5 out of 5

    Darla Baker

  26. 4 out of 5

    Angelina Elser

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

  28. 5 out of 5

    faktory

  29. 4 out of 5

    Shakeem Johnson

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jacqueline

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