I didn’t know what to expect from this book. I requested it from Cleis press after being blown away by their title Inseparable: Desire Between Women in Literature by Emma Donoghue, and I hoped this one would be similar, but focused on lesbian pulp. Actually, it’s a collection of excerpts from lesbian pulp books from 1950-1965, with a short introduction that discusses lesbian pulp in general. I devoured the introduction, because if there’s anything I like more than lesbian books, it’s lesbian books about lesbian books.
Following the intro are excerpts from more than 20 novels. They are a great way to get familiar with the feel of lesbian pulp. I have always been amused by the lurid covers and overwrought descriptions of lesbian pulp, but this collection show that there is more appeal to this genre. Some excerpts show that there was great writing done between those scandalous covers, while others show the authentic representations of lesbian life that was being published alongside by-straight-men for-straight-men pulp. I was surprised at the variety in the collection. I had assumed there was a sort of formula for lesbian pulp: girl meets girl, girl gets girl, girl has tragic and sordid love affair, girl goes insane/dies. These stories don’t seem to all fit in the same mould.
I would not recommend trying to read these straight through–like I did–however. The excerpts are chosen well; they give you enough information to be able to piece together the general story, but they are only about 20 pages on average, and by the time you have figured out the thread of the story and gotten into it, it’s already ended. Unlike reading a short story collection, these are not meant to be read in isolation, so they do require some mental energy to determine context. That is not a negative on the book at all, though! They just would be more enjoyable as something to dip into occasionally, not to try to absorb all at once. If you are interested in lesbian pulp fiction (and why would you not be?!), Lesbian Pulp Fiction should be on your list.