Friday, October 21, 2005

The G-String Murders

by Gypsy Rose Lee, afterword by Rachel Shteir (NY: The Feminist Press, 2005).

This is part of a new series The Feminist Press is issuing called Femmes Fatales, reprinting popular pulp fiction written by women in the 1930s, '40s, and '50s. The Publisher's Foreword makes a great defense of the importance of these writers, who were read by many more people than more literary types (say, Proust) were.

The G-String Murders is not all that well plotted (a few weeks after reading it I can no longer even remember whodunnit), but it is interesting in its depiction of the burlesque industry, a sort of transitional form between Vaudeville and the strip clubs of today. The book is full of particulars about costuming, dressing rooms, toilets, food and drink, stage cues, regulations and the violations of them, police raids, and the slang of the period (the book was first published in 1941, but probably written in the '30s).

The afterword with biographical and publishing details added a lot. As a special treat, there is GRL's correspondence with her publisher (or, perhaps a pseudo-correspondence written for publicity purposes). The point is made that Lee was a woman who was proud of her intellect and vocabulary, and enjoyed freaking people out by being an intellectual and a stripper at the same time.

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