Thursday, February 21, 2008

Pop Culture:Strange Sisters, The Art of Lesbian Pulp Fiction 1949-1969

(Jaye Zimet, Viking Studio, 1999)
One of those great books that are tremendously fun to flip through because of all the reproductions but that are read much too quickly due to a dearth of any real text.
The title says it all, the book being a presentation of some two hundred covers of the various lesbian pulp novels that the author has collected over the years
she is one dedicated lady) augmented by a forward by Ann Bannon (an early lesbian pulp author) and with a brief introduction to the subject by the collector herself. One really gets the feeling that Zimet must have blown a fortune on e-bay, seeing that many of these books can easily reach 3 digits when up for auction.
Strange Sisters
was the first publication ever that featured such a fine collection of such cover art, and it is an obvious labour of love and patience. The covers are amazing pieces, ranging to unbelievably tasteless to absolutely beautiful to ridiculously dated to timelessly immortal; more than one tantalizing cover actually succeeds in making one want to read the original novel — if that were only possible. Perhaps the collection is a bit too padded by too many volumes of actual pornographic publications,
rather than the more innocent (though often just as sleazy) pulp publications meant for a more general distribution, but all covers are tantalizing eye candy. Still, this volume would be much more interesting and exciting if it were also to include a bit more background information about the various publishers, writers, plots and — most glaringly absent — the artists themselves. True, Zimet does occasionally include such information, but she does so both much too seldom and much too skimpily. The inclusion of more such information would take this book beyond the mere range of simply entertaining and put into the even more satisfying realm of informationally entertaining. As it is, the publication remains simply an engagingly fun coffee table book when it deserves to be much more… but then, in all likelihood Zimet cannot supply more info than she does simply because more info is not available.
An excellent website on the subject (not by the book’s author) is also entitled Strange Sisters. The cover art featured on the website, like that in Zimet’s book, sends me into fits of jealousy… although any collection of fine paperback art sends me into fits of jealousy.

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