A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
As you probably know, when you run a blog you can ferret around in the bowels of the thing and see the search terms that are bringing people to you. We derive a great deal of less-than-innocent amusement from watching the ‘search terms’ list and our current favourite is “how is pride and prejudice different from pride and prejudice and zombies?”. (Hardly at all, darling – hardly at all …).
A couple of years ago, we were bemused but delighted to spot someone searching for “the big book of lesbian horse stories” … and even MORE bemused but delighted to realize, after a swift search of our own, that it was not only a real book but also the 2003 winner of the Bookseller/Diagram Prize for Oddest Title of the Year.
Fast forward to last month when I spotted a copy for sale on AbeBooks for – inexplicably – £7.55 including postage (the average asking price for this classic of sapphic literature is £70.00). Naturally, I snapped it up and it went straight to the top of my TBR pile (sorry, biography of Oliver Postgate, latest opus from Steven Berkoff and the 50+ others that got shunted down one …).
I’d like to be able to report that the book lives up to its magnificent title and wonderfully cheesy dime novel cover, but unhappily the joke wears very thin very quickly. It would have been a great parody for one short story: throw every lesbian trope (and then a few) into the pot, add a clutch of dastardly Sons of Adam and several magnificently muscled thoroughbreds, and then write the whole thing down at a headlong, overblown, pulp fiction gallop. Unfortunately, it palls dramatically after the first two stories and half way through the third I was just thinking “Oh please …”.
Even allowing for the fact that the writing style is deliberately laboured (at least I hope it’s deliberate) it’s very stilted, mannered and hard to read. Think Girls’ Own with groping. That, however, is not the main problem with it. What I really can’t forgive is that from time to time you catch it taking itself horribly seriously. Behind the ‘Hey Girls, isn’t this FUN!?” facade, the authors can’t resist delivering little sermons about how horrid men are – how they’ve ruined the earth, oppressed women, do nasty things to animals, etc, etc, etc. On top of that, we get silly homilies about “the cossacks and their terrible pogroms”, race relations, the relative merits and failings of Marxism and Capitalism (as debated by two Depression-era teenagers) … I kid you not.
The males in the stories are there simply as punch bags and are variously dim, evil, lecherous, thuggish or all four (except for the occasional kindly, avuncular type of course). At one point I thought they’d actually created a LIKEABLE male character, but it inevitably turned out to be a girl in drag.
I wanted SO much to like this book – because there’s a germ of a good idea in it somewhere – but not only was it peculiarly humourless for a book that its army of devotees insists is hilarious, it also left me with the uncomfortable feeling that I was being drip-fed a feminist polemic in the guise of a pulp fiction pastiche – a technique that makes it very difficult for anyone, particularly someone with external genitalia, to criticize anything about it, because the authors can just turn around and say: “Lighten up! Can’t you take a joke?”.
Well, yes I can. And I don’t think this was one.
It’s still a great title, though. Shame about the book.
Kensington Books. 20002. ISBN: 0-7582-0254-7. 228pp.