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Venus on the Half-Shell Mass Market Paperback – January 15, 1975


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Mass Market Paperback, January 15, 1975
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 204 pages
  • Publisher: Dell (January 15, 1975)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0440161495
  • ISBN-13: 978-0440161493
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 4.2 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (83 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #196,665 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

76 of 77 people found the following review helpful By Douglas Doepke on June 24, 2002
Format: Paperback
In 1945, teenagers were visible as individuals but not as a group. The subculture would come later, with rock and roll, Elvis, and portable radios. Meanwhile there was a depression to work through and a big war to win. Small wonder that kids of that era passed quickly from adolescence to adulthood with hardly time for a coke along the way. The Amboy Dukes is a milestone youth novel of that era. Though not as self-consciously literary as its middle-class competitor Catcher in the Rye, Dukes vividly dramatizes urban despair in a crowded working-class precinct of New York City, and its effect on the Jewish youth gangs spawned there. It was then and remains a classically gritty tale of modern America.
Because Shulman portrays the sexual escapades and pot smoking in candid fashion, it's easy for critics to stigmatize Dukes as a trashy novel. That however neglects the many dimensions to the book, including some very fine writing by the author. Instead, I take it as an honest depiction of what Shulman knew and chose to set out in unusually forceful and unpatronizing terms. Coveted by teenagers of the time for its daring assault on censorship, the language and events may seem tame compared with today's non-existent standards. Yet Shulman's characters and their dramatic narrative remain as fresh and timely as ever, the murder of the teacher standing, in retrospect, as an opening shot in the youth rebellion to come. Substitute Latino or Black for the Jewish Dukes, add a level of drug trafficking, and the story (including the awful conditions that spawned them) remains essentially unchanged from then to now.
Also, author Shulman goes into vivid detail describing the youth fashions and moral behavior of the day, or what kids then considered 'cool'.
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Jim Cain on July 26, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was in junior high school outside New York City when this book made the rounds. (I'm now in my early 70's.) It was a paperback with a racy cover. The word was out in my school: "Wow, this is a great, dirty book." In those days, even George Orwell's "1984" was considered on the border of being racy; so obviously, times were far different then. Kids who got the book (including me) kept it hidden from their parents. I think there may even have been allegations that there was some communist conspiracy behind the book, because it showed the gritty and harsh world of youth gangs in New York--not a flattering picture of America. And it ended tragically. (In those days of the McCarthy hearings and blacklisting, anything that showed anything American in a bad light was believed to somehow be mixed up in communism--at least that's my recollection today of the way things were then.) I still remember, 60 years later, the horrifying last paragraph of the book--but will not divulge it here in case some plan to read the novel.

I kept my copy hidden in my closet, always fearful that my parents might discover it and raise hell with me for reading such "smut." Kids who took the book to school had it confiscated by the faculty. That fact alone increased the desirability of the book--much as the old 'banned by the Catholic Church' or 'banned in Boston' boosted sales of novels and movie tickets.

Amboy Dukes appealed to the sexual interests of we then-adolescent boys who read it. The characters routinely "felt up" their girlfriends and occasionally had sex--much as we hoped to do when we were a little older.

Of course, the social implications were lost on most of us kids. We were more interested in the sexual capers of these 1940's gangbangers.
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42 of 47 people found the following review helpful By frycook@prodigy.net on April 26, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Venus on the Half Shell IS my favorite book, with Jung's autobiography and T.S. Eliot's Complete Works running close second and third. I have read it more times than I can count. It cheers me up when I am blue...it answers questions when I am confused (at least it slaps me a good one while shouting, "TAKE YOURSELF A LITTLE MORE SERIOUSLY, WHY DON'T YOU!") It makes me laugh. It laughs at me. There is simply no other book in the same category as Venus.
Originally I found it on the "book shelf" at the Kroger in Petoskey, Michigan just after its publication in '70-something. Where else would one find a Kilgore Trout novel? I knew immediatley that I had happened upon a black pearl of literature! I couldn't wait to get home to start reading it and actually went next door to the Big Boy and had some warm salad a cold hamburger while I entered into the universe of Simon Wagstaff.
The only problem with the edition available here is that it is a new hardback. This is anitpodal to the concept itself. This book MUST be read in paperback, which is available with a little perseverence at your nearest used book shop. Kilgore Trout was NEVER published in hardback, and neither did he ever win a second edition! In order to properly appreciate this book, you really need to know Kilgore Trout as a character. Then read this book. Then read Philip Jose Farmer. If you have put the cart before the horse and already have encountered Philip Jose, it won't ruin the experience...he also wrote some pretty far out Tarzan stories.....
Read and enjoy! And, Mr. Farmer, if you check this particular message board, THANK YOU!!!! It is gratifying to know that you are out there!
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