Archive for absurdism

Honey Gal by Charles Willeford (Beacon Books #160, 1955)

Posted in Beacon Books, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , on January 8, 2011 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

In the mid-1950s, just about every title from Beacon was listed as “First Award Winner” whatever that was.  Here, again, we have a cover that has little to do with the text — from this cover, and the title, we’re lead to believe this may be a steamy farm or backwoods tale, when the novel is far, far from that.  It is another quirky offering from Willeford about identity, fraud, and lost dreams.

The narrator is a middle-aged man in Columbus, Ohio, who works as an accountant at a milk company and is married to a dull wife.  In quiet secret, he wrote a novel called No Bed Too High and sold it to the second publisher he mailed it to.  He got a $250 advance and publication in hardcover, but the novel did not do too well or make him famous.

Still, it’s a way out of this droll life, and the novel encourages him to dream of a new life, and against his wife’s desire, they move to Florida where he tries to write a second novel but nothing is there.

He wants out of this life of failure too. he feels like a hel for letting his wife down.  He sees an small item in the morning paper about a monestary in Orangeville that will close down due to money matters. he thinks there might be a magazine article in this, so he takes the train, only buying a one way ticket, already knowing in his heart he won’t return to his wife and their life.

He discovers that the monestary is run by a con man who has re-defined his life, much like Jay Gatsby.  The narrator sees that he can do, so he joins the outfit and becomes a monk, and later a Reverend, going ouit top do God’s work.

He, a white man of the cloth, is sent to Harlem. Looking at the cover art again, is the dark-skinned woman not tanned or Mexican but supposed to be black?

Like Willeford’s other first-person sociopaths that feel no remorse in their deceptions and lies, , this one plays at being righteous, leads prayers when he does not believe in God, and marries teenagers whom he has made feel guilty for their sinful sex out of wedlock.  He has eschewed his two previous failures of a life, and now has this…but his past, and the life he abandoned, have a way of finding him.

In some ways, this novel is akin to the absurdity of Albert Camus, and the narrator likes to reflect on Kafka and Russian tragedies in comparison to his life.  Here, again, is a book that could have been categorized as awork of literary merit, at the time, rather than a cheap paperback with a cover and title that does not fit the  fine words on the pages.

Honey Gal isn’t as good as Pick-Up or The Woman Chaser, no, but we highly recommend it and if you have never read Willeford, now is a good time.

Horizontal Woman/The Social Worker by Barry Malzberg (Leisure Books, 1972; 197

Posted in Barry N. Malzberg, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , on November 22, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

This dark and comic “sex” novel was published in 1972 by Leisure as Horizontal Woman and reissued in 1977 as The Social Worker, probably the more absurd of the two titles.

After grauating college and working on selling his writing, Barry N. Malzberg worked for about a year as a social worker in the New York City Welfare Department, covering Brooklyn.  Most likely he hated it, caught in the dull insanity of the government system.  He did get a few books and stories out of it, notably The Day of the Burning, a novel that seems to be about alien invasion and world destruction but is about the collapse of one man’s mind and perhaps the welfare system itself.

In Horizontal Woman/The Social Worker, we meet Elizabeth Moore, who decides to use her body to soothe and comfort her clients, as she goes from door to door, updating her caseload.  What?  you say: This is a porn novel?  Softcore?  Sex? Sleaze?

Yes and no. It’s a Barry Malzberg sex novel, which means the sex is not, well, erotic, but it is dirty and slimey.  This is not exactly a left-hander; it’s a combination of the absurd rompings of a female a la Terry Southern’s Candy and the existential angst of Kafka and Camus…

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Insatiable by Sloane Britain (Midwood #57, 1960)

Posted in lesbian pulp fiction, Midwood Books, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 19, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

The protagonist of this novel is Sandy Hastings — a little nod, it seems, to March Hastings, a lesbian author at Midwood that Elaine Williams edited.  It also deals with the dynamics of D/s relationships aong the wealthy and elite

But it starts out as the story of Sandy’s normal married life.  She’s been married for two years to Ray Singer (Ron Singer was Sally’s brother and also a Midwood author as Greg Hamilton, Jesse Harper, and others) and they have been good years.  Up till age 21, all her experiences wth men had been bad and she’d given up on finding a good fellow, until one day writer Ron Singer walked into the library she worked at for research.  He courted her and they married…

At 23, Sandy becomes a widow when, rushing to meet Ray at the train station, back from a trip, missing him, he is hut by a car of hoods running away from a police car.

Ray’s body flew gracefully through the air in one last momet of bird-like freedom […] Ray’s flight ended […] in a squishy thud to the pavement directly in front of Sandy.

She looked at him, or what was left of him, with as little comprehension as she had witnessed the whole scene. Finally, one thought struggled to consciousness.

How absurdy melodramatic, Sandy thought as she collapsed to the ground. (p.39)

Insatiable is an absurd novel that is pessimistic  (cynical?) with dark humor, almost like a Barry Malzberg volume.

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Nympho Nurse by Mel Johnson (Barry N. Malzberg, Midwood Books, 1969)

Posted in Barry N. Malzberg, Midwood Books, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 8, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Johnson -  Nympho Nurse

As stated before, Barry N. Malzberg’s Mel Johnson books (from Midwood, Oracle, and Softcover Library) are hard to find.  Since I’ve been curious for a long time about Nympho Nurse, Malzberg fan Jim Mix kindly made a photocopy of the 1/3 Midwood for my eyes.

The title has been used on a dozen or more sex books over the decades, with variations like Intimate Nurse and Registered Nympho.  The problem with Malzberg’s 30K words novella: there’s no nurse in it.

The female lead, Virginia, is a secretary for a Freudian psychotherapist, and nowhere near a nurse, nor a nympho but simply a sexually liberated 23-year-old woman in the 1960s. Some bright editor (or Harry Shorten himself) at Midwood sure was paying attention here.

“She works for a doctor — she must be a nurse!”

Then again: Nympho Secretary doesn’t have tbe same ring.

Insane Secretary, maybe, or Sin Therapy

Wonder what Malzberg orginally called this…

It is, however, a wonderfully black humor novella, absurd and biting. It begins with nipples and breasts and ends with nipples and breasts, something Malzberg often focuses on in his fiction, even his SF: boobies, bosoms, bazookas, bodacious ta-tas.

He ground her nipples so hard that she felt she was breaking inisde, that some subtle part of her was burning within and was going to come apart. (p. 243)

This opening finds Virginia in bed with Harold, an ad copy writer who is also a patient of Dr. Miller’s, Virginia’s boss.  There’s quite a bit of unprofessional hanky-panky going on: Virginia has slept with several of her boss’ patients, and while he has warmed her of the ethical compromise, he is also fascinated when his patients talk about her.  Even if she doesn’t date them, some male patients are so striken by her sexiness in the reception area that the sessions with Miller focus on the secretary.  Finally, Miller decides he has to let her go for many professional reasons — notwithstanding his own lack of ethics for letting her date patients anyway.

She has been seeing Harold for a while now and so she peeks in on his personal file and Miller’s notes.  One night after sex, she accidentally lets something slip (a true Freudian slip here!) from her mouth that lets Harold know she has seen his confidential session file.  Harold freaks out and leaves.  In the morning, Virginia goes into work early and destroys Harold’s file.

I’m left feeling that this short novel may have been adapted from a one-act play — Malzberg was on a playwrighting fellowship at Cornell only a few years prior to writing this.  Much of the action takes place in two settings: the reception area and her bedroom, perfect for a play.  The dialogue an situations are absurd, at time Beckett-esque or Isben-esque.  Mazberg makes delightful fun of the whacky, faltering nature of psychotherapy, something he has done in his science-fiction or other fiction, now in a “sex novel.”    We realize, in the end, all three of these people are insane and need medical help, and just when things seem to be on the verge of exploding, it ends happily, with Harold and Virginia making up, strolling out as Dr. Miller hides from these crazy people.  Virginia’s last thought are on how she wants to swing her breasts over Harold’s face.

Malzberg uses Midwood’s three-in-one-book format to deliver an absurd message, and perhaps that is the reason why it is called Nympho Nurse — the title in itself in an absurdity.

Nympho Nurse