Taking a similar tact to Michael Bronski's epochal PULP FRICTION, ace historian Stryker parlays a collection of battered pulps into a periscope through the murky waters of gay and lesbian acceptance in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. She's able to show, just through the cover alone, how bisexuality proved to be the wedge that eventually toppled Amewrica's binary notions of sexuality. Triangle books, two men and a woman, two women and a man, perhaps seemed safer for timid 50s readers to understand, or at any rate aroused mass curiosity, and before you know it, the "divided path" had made way for full on "queer passions."
Stryker devotes separate chapters to the paperback revolution itself, as well as to lesbian, transgender, and gay male bodies of work. The covers are sometimes humorous, sometimes inane, but all of them give off a nervous sexual energy that still fills you up through your hands and eyes. She delves into the lives of the primary pulp creators, insofar as they have been divulged, and makes you feel with them as they created this enormous corpus. Chronicle Books has outdone itself with its huge, creamy graphics and must have had a good time doing so, with some amusing juxtapositions.
What happened to the end, though? The book ends without so much as an adieu, nearly in the middle of a paragraph. Perhaps the book's chic designer overrode whatever conclusion tthe author had written; they had perhaps run out of illustrations and, like Alice in the Lewis Carroll book, saw no sense in a book that had neither "pictures nor conversations." Instead, an able bibliography appears, meekly enough, and a tidy 4 page index.
Some of these authors are new to me, but I hope very soon to be able to pore through some of the books of Chris Davidson (GO DOWN, AARON; CAVES OF IRON; A DIFFERENT DRUM; THE GOLDEN TUFT), who sounds the most far-fetched of the lot. Will I be using one hand, or two, only time, or Tim, will tell.