Pulp Friction – Michael Bronski

PFThe 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.

In the mid 1960s censorship laws were relaxed and mainstream publishers started to produce gay stories so these earlier books were pulped – hence the title of this book. More men became brave enough to buy them and straights were interested to learn. The stories become lengthier and some became political – industrial tribunal stuff such as: ‘the branch line of the Santa Fe was a shifting, shuddering ribbon of dual-engined trains that bore hurriedly into the heart of America’s wheat belt like hungry snakes and then crept away like politically protected looters with their easily plundered burdens.’

There’s a story devoted to hairy armpits. There’s also S & M.

The behaviour in a 1959 New York bathhouse could have been anywhere at any time.

We read about one older man rebuffing a younger and then wondering whether it would be more moral not to – corrupting younger or saving him from rough first encounter with another? Wait until he is old enough to know his true nature.

We get families who never talk about sex, a young man whose father hadn’t told him the facts of life.

There are scenes of showering, comparing sizes, attempted rape

We get stereotypes: being gay and wearing girls’ clothes and makeup, using people for sex – yet most loving couple are gay, doting mothers and distant fathers. One story wonders if there could be a drug in the water, left-handed in a right-handed world turned on straights

There’s a quest for some sort of cultural equivalent – like the Red Indians, people on a spiritual quest, hippies.

“Gay Revolution” has characters called Alexei Cogsugeroff and Gaylord le Claire

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