Two new essays that I wanted to share, since I’m pretty excited about both:
I’ve got a piece in this new collection on gay pulp, just out from the University of Massachusetts Press. It’s a fantastic-looking book (I just got mine, and have only just begun reading through it). Lesbian pulp fiction has attracted a great deal of scholarly attention, but gay male pulp has gone mostly unattended by historians and literary scholars. So it’s neat to be part of the cutting edge of research here—essays in the book recover such authors and publishers as the Guild Press, Lou Rand Hogan, Phil Andros/Samuel Steward, Alexander Goodman, Victor Banis, Richard Amory, and more. It’s really an embarrassment of riches. Editors Drewey Wayne Gunn and Jaime Harker were clearly the perfect team for this project—Wayne having already edited another excellent collection on The Golden Age of Gay Fiction, and Jaime having written Middlebrow Queer, a really smart book about Christopher Isherwood that situates him within both middlebrow and lowbrow culture.
The truth is, I hadn’t known much about gay pulp when I saw the call for essays, so I pitched a more historiographical essay—which then evolved into a hybrid, looking also at how first the homophile, then the gay liberation, movement engaged with the seamy cultural connotations of pulp, which proved more difficult to absorb into a “liberated” sexuality than did the gay hardcore films of the 70s.
This was generative work in the best possible way—not only am I delighted to be part of a collection that I’d be thrilled simply to read, but also thinking historically about pulp has spurred a greater interest in it, and I’m now working on a few new pieces more directly examining some still-overlooked gay pulp authors. Not sure yet how they’ll shape up, but in any case, 1960s Gay Pulp Fiction is a great beachhead for further work, and I can’t wait to see what else it inspires.
Then there’s this:
The International House in Philadelphia is in the middle of its mammoth, jawdropping Free to Love: The Cinema of the Sexual Revolution series. It’s a brilliant combination of canonical (if still probably underseen) films, like Fritz the Cat and Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, and utter obscurities, from the bizarre documentary Free to Love to orphaned radical-sex-ed shorts by the Multi-Media Resource Center. The Pat Rocco screening that I got to introduce last week was part of this series (and was really enjoyable—Pat himself called in from Hawai’i for a spirited Q&A that climaxed in his sharing his home phone number with the entire audience!).
Jesse Pires at the I-House has done a remarkable press barrage for the series (I even got to be interviewed by the Philadelphia Inquirer, though I was overshadowed by, well, everyone else involved; no shame in that when everyone else includes Radley Metzger, I guess). His masterstroke, though, was putting together a striking catalog, with essays by exploitation-film historians Eric Schaefer and Elena Gorfinkel (both of whom can count me among their biggest fans), not to mention Jesse himself and Herb Shellenberger from the I-House, who’s unearthed some fascinating material about the sex-ed films. I wrote an overview of Pat Rocco’s work, arguing for his importance not just in gay film history but also the sexual revolution more broadly. The catalog also has a ton of sexy archival imagery, always the best kind.
Oh, and there’s also a piece by some obscure film writer named J. Hoberman. Which is amazing—if I weren’t pretty sure it would be the nerd equivalent to those obnoxious people who find any excuse to mention the time their band opened for Nirvana in 1988, and if I wouldn’t be forced to violate my own principles of non-violence to endorse people punching me in the face for it, I’d probably spend the rest of my life casually mentioning “that time I was in a collection with J. Oh, you know, J. Hoberman, mmmm.”
I’m told the Free to Love catalog will pop up on Amazon soon, but really the place to get it is at the I-House, where the series is still rolling, with Rosa von Praunheim’s It is Not the Homosexual Who is Perverse, but the Society in Which He Lives this Saturday, not to mention the Hoberman-introduced WR: Mysteries of the Organism, a set of Barbara Hammer shorts, and, er, uh oh, Woody Allen’s Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Sex (which might be a rather fraught screening, though probably not as fraught as the documentary about Mumia Abu-Jamal the I-House screened last year), among others.
edited to add: I forgot to mention, the catalog comes with an unlabeled DVD, with a few mystery shorts. I won’t spoil them, but they’re worth investigating.