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Pulp Friction: Uncovering the Golden Age of Gay Male Pulps Paperback – January 14, 2003

4.5 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Noting research that included reading "just over 225 novels," cultural critic Bronski (The Pleasure Principle) delightfully chronicles gay pulp novels from their emergence in the late 1940s through the post-Stonewall era in this expansive, exhaustively researched amalgam of fiction and gay history. In the earliest novels, homosexual characters were often drawn as angst-ridden men living hideaway lives. These mild tales gave way to the more outrageous and sexually intrepid plot lines of the 1950s and early '60s as gay male pulps gained momentum-typical is a locker-room fantasy scene from Jay Little's Maybe-Tomorrow. As the 1960s progressed, fiction grew bolder in form and content. Richard Amory's lush The Song of the Loon was a landmark title, its literary aspirations plain, while other titles of the era-racy fictions like Jack Love's Gay Whore, a melodrama set on Fire Island, and the pseudonymous Memoirs of Jeff X-were willing to settle for being "extraordinarily profitable." The gay revolution unleashed by the Stonewall riots is boldly evident in excerpts by Marcus Miller (from Gay Revolution), and a selection from Bruce Benderson's 1975 erotic potboiler, Kyle. Prefacing each section with thoughtful background on the period, Bronski then steps back to let the generous novel excerpts speak for themselves. Bronski has searched thoroughly and thought-provokingly, and this book should pop up on required reading lists for gay studies courses (the extensive appendix is invaluable). This is obviously a labor of love, and an absolute must for gay historians and those interested in stimulating gay fiction from years gone by.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

“I read through this book saying again and again, 'How did I miss this?' 'How did I manage not to know about this?'--a sign that Michael Bronski has done a necessary job and done it well. Rarely is a book so educational also such a delight. By leaving the hallowed precincts of the 'literary,' Bronski lends a continuity heretofore lacking in many of our pictures of the development of gay fiction from World War II on.” ―Samuel R. Delany, author of Times Square Red, Times Square Blue and The Motion of Light in Water

“Out of the shadows, into the sheets! Between the covers of gay pulp fiction, Michael Bronski finds forgotten treasures, presenting juicy excerpts and his own wise insights into this neglected bit of literary history.” ―Jonathan Ned Katz, author of Love Stories: Sex Between Men Before Homosexuality and Gay American History

“A wonderful book, a sexy, funny, looney-tune work of social history that rewrites the recent past. It's a celebration of the poetry of pulp as well as the truth of pulp. I cannot remember the last time I learned so much while having so much fun.” ―Christopher Bram, author of Father of Frankenstein and The Notorious Dr. August

“Noting research that included reading 'just over 225 novels,' cultural critic Bronski (The Pleasure Principle) delightfully chronicles gay pulp novels from their emergence in the late 1940s through the post-Stonewall era in this expansive, exhaustively researched amalgam of fiction and gay history. In the earliest novels, homosexual characters were often drawn as angst-ridden men living hideaway lives. These mild tales gave way to the more outrageous and sexually intrepid plot lines of the 1950s and early '60s as gay male pulps gained momentum--typical is a locker-room fantasy scene from Jay Little's Maybe--Tomorrow. As the 1960s progressed, fiction grew bolder in form and content. Richard Amory's lush The Song of the Loon was a landmark title, its literary aspirations plain, while other titles of the era--racy fictions like Jack Love's Gay Whore, a melodrama set on Fire Island, and the pseudonymous Memoirs of Jeff X--were willing to settle for being 'extraordinarily profitable.' The gay revolution unleashed by the Stonewall riots is boldly evident in excerpts by Marcus Miller (from Gay Revolution), and a selection from Bruce Benderson's 1975 erotic potboiler, Kyle. Prefacing each section with thoughtful background on the period, Bronski then steps back to let the generous novel excerpts speak for themselves. Bronski has searched thoroughly and thought-provokingly, and this book should pop up on required reading lists for gay studies courses (the extensive appendix is invaluable). This is obviously a labor of love, and an absolute must for gay historians and those interested in stimulating gay fiction from years gone by.” ―Publishers Weekly

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; 1st edition (January 14, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312252676
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312252670
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,317,178 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I've respected Michael Bronski's journalism for years, but this is the first of his books I've read. I'll definitely be reading more. Here he performs two amazing feats. First, after doing an extraordinary amount of background reading, he selects examples of gay pulp fiction from the 1940s through the 1970s, ranging from the surprisingly literary to campy porn. I worried that the excerpt approach would be frustrating, but Bronski has a real knack for setting the scene, and the excerpts are all satisfying on their own. Given that most of these novels are hard to find (now probably more so), this is a tremendous resource.
Second, he offers an introductory essay bursting with insight & nuanced introductions to every piece (often with tantalizing information about the writers). At the back, perhaps most valuable of all, he puts together an annotated timeline of highlights of gay male literature 1940-1969 which discusses works by the writers included in the book as well as more literary work (Genet, Vidal, Baldwin, etc.). It's an essential resource for those looking for further reading.
The later pieces are often pornographic, campy and silly (very entertaining, occasionally dark or hard-core) while some of the earlier pieces are generally more thoughtful, even literary, though sometimes downbeat. Bronski's selections always emphasize what was exceptional or unique for the time. *None* of these pieces are routine. My personal favorites are "Sam," "Spur Piece," "Lost on Twilight Road," "The Boys of Muscle Beach," "Song of the Loon," and "Gay Revolution" (in which the world is turning gay, Body Snatcher-style). "Maybe--Tomorrow" is hilarious yet somehow brilliant. ("Muscle Beach" & "Gay Whore" are also hysterical.) My excitement about gay literature has been completely renewed.
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Just after the end of World War II, a small literary movement began, unnoticed to most of the public: the gay pulp novel. From quiet novels about homosexual relationships post-WWII to the psycho-analytic and sexually charged writings of the Sexual Revolution to the more speculative and activist writings post-Stonewall, Author Michael Bronski has drawn from extensive research and a large collection of pulp novels to give an in-depth look at this almost hidden movement. Through this anthology, the reader not only sees a history of the gay literature but of societal views concerning homosexuality and how they have progressively changed.
Bronski has chosen to cite only a few chapters from specific works to point out the pulp styles as they changed with the times. At first, I thought I would be put off by this, but instead, it has interested me enough to try to find copies of some of these works, many of which have not been in publication since the 1950s and 1960s. One selection of note is from "The Gay Haunt" by Victor Jay. Kind of a gay "Blithe Spirit," even the snippet that was included in this book had me laughing hysterically.
This is a fascinating read, most definitely worth your reading.
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By A Customer on August 15, 2003
Format: Paperback
Michael Bronski's enlightening anthology of mostly forgotten gay writings from the mid-twentieth century is a wonderful addition to any bookshelf. Alternating literary analysis with lively samples, he demolishes the notion of a dearth of gay literature from World War II to the 1969 Stonewall riot. All of the works excerpted here are out of print, and while some may not be to our modern readers' tastes, they are all evocative of gay men's lives at the times, for better or for worse. From insightful drama to hardcore erotica, these books did much to shape America's views of homosexuality, and "Pulp Friction" whets the appetite and showcases where today's gay literature can trace its roots. Also included is an appendix where Bronski lists a smattering of gay novels published from 1940 to 1969. This anthology is a great introduction to this genre of queer writings.
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Format: Paperback
The modern gay movement is usually thought to have begun with the Stonewall riots of 1969 but before that there was an underground subculture with its trashy erotic writings from the late Victorian age to the late 1960s. They included crotch-hugging trousers and marble-topped coffee tables, "blood-filled dagger" is pitched against "throbbing lance" in one Civil War story, heavy manhood that pulsed and throbbed. lean saber, the sap of my loins was full-blossomed and ripe for harvest, and moist sheath. All this was endangered as gay liberationists had a negative attitude to older groups which amounted to a rejection of the past.

They provided a chance for inexperienced authors to prove themselves. The smaller firms didn't edit and the more explicit books were more profitable so there was a high turnover.

Some thought that they had a teaching function but were they purveying positive or negative images? Did there always have to be a tragic ending? `Novels are to be read for enjoyment or relaxation, not instruction...That is why you study from textbooks in school. The art of fiction is the art of reflection, not of shaping.'

Usually a lone person finds another lone person - a gay community is very recent. There was a gradual change from `inverts' or talk of women trapped in men's bodies, to psychology.

1930s saw fly-by-night publishers - the beginning of gay press. They used Mailing lists from sales of non fiction study but being on such a list was dangerous.

As early as the 1940s, respectable publishing houses wrote gay characters. There was a wartime idolisation of macho bodies: `he had never associated masculinity with abnormality until tonight.'

By the 1950s there were happy endings and moving in together.
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