Spine Intact, Some Creases: Remembrances Of A Paperback Writer by Victor J. Banis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
At the end, I feel a bit robbed by this book. Going back and reading the reviews here on Goodreads, I see reviews for the book I wanted to read. I wanted to read about the sixties struggle for rights and I wanted to read about Banis's writing style. While hints of these things are presented, they are mostly just touched on and the book definitely gets weighed down by a lack of focus.
I think an outline could have helped. I doubt anyway would decide as a plan to write ten pages on martinis as part of the afterward if they had a plan. I think a different editor would also have helped. The introduction to the book is definitely the weakest part, a 34 page long ramble. And this by the man who edited the book itself, it doesn't bode well.
A sentence from the introduction:
It is no accident that histories of pulp are told through these covers and characters, as the stars of a pop cult for the demi-monde that was, insomuch as it was obscene, at once underground and fully exposed, at once bordering on the illegal and evident in the pulp dazzling covers and "points of distribution."
"The pulp superstar, secondary as s/he is, enacts a parody of "proper" stardom and iconicity, a travesty of celebrity culture and the consumerist economy of exceptionality, originality, iconicity, and emblematic value, that one finds in Oprah and Hollywood culture."
This style is completely at odds with Banis' writing style and the tips he gives for writing within the book. I would honestly suggest skipping the intro entirely.
Once the book stats, Banis becomes easily distracted by fun little stories and it's rather like you're sitting down with him having a chat. It's mostly delightful until the last 10% or so, I despise talk of religion.
The best part really is these early side stories, like how people in the days before liberation found out where the gay bars were. Everyone had a different method. Just like when it comes to picking people up, several methods are revealed with the closing adage "the man who will eat anything rarely goes hungry."
Another highlight is Banis talking about the days of police raids in clubs and being in one club while it was raided. A lesbian picked him up and threw him around the dance floor to keep up appearances and I laughed out loud.
Another highlight is Banis talking about the history of gay publishing at length and naming off quite a few books I've somehow missed. I think anyone reading these books is into this and these are welcome additions to my "to read" collection.
And Banis' mom and living in the burn house, all great. Can you imagine someone in modern society sleeping in a room where it snows?
These are great times in the book. As the story goes on however, we see more and more:
The story I really started out to tell you, however, is a different one. (This happens to me a lot doesn't it?
And it really kind of does. It starts to get into things not really relevant, like the aforementioned religion and martinis. I don't know that anyone picked up this book looking for say arguments to refuting homosexual activity in the bible. Also there's several instances of "I just know someone is saying..." or someone will write a letter and save the postage, etc. and no one really is doing either of those things. These hypothetical arguments are numerous and unnecessary.
I appreciated the insight into Banis' mind, his family, his mom, and his life. I would have liked more reference to specific books he's written and general gay history and anecdotes. I felt the book lost its way at the end. But as Banis himself says:
serve the cheese balls anyway, someone will love them.
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