Promotional page for Panurge Press, from Bookleggers and Smuthounds
In the history of American erotica there are two private press publishers of curiosa, Falstaff Press and Panurge Press. Both are well-documented in Bookleggers and Smuthounds, both were at the hight of their activity in the 1930s.
Interestingly, both of the presses’ names are derived from male fictional characters, in the case of Falstaff described as “fat, vainglorious, cowardly, jolly knight” and in the case of Panurge as “an exceedingly crafty knave, a libertine, and a coward.”
Maurice Girodias @90
The cover states: “Ne doit pas etre exposé en étalage ou en vitrine,” in English that is: “Cannot be displayed in show window.”
Ah … the good old “sous le manteau” days
“I remember a very funny story told to me by Maurice. He once had to take the train to Belgium, where he needed to bring a great deal of money. He had hidden the money bills in his shorts. Once on the train, he was overcome by diarrhea and forgot to remove the money from his shorts when he went to the toilet with the unfortunate result of soiling this small fortune. He cleaned the money as best as he could and afterwards reserved those bills to use as — quite literally — dirty money.” —Sholem Stein
Girodias’s involvement with his father’s business started early. In 1934, at the age of 15, Girodias drew the disturbing crab picture seen on the original cover of Tropic of Cancer. After his father’s early death in 1939, Girodias took over publishing duties, and at the age of 20 managed to survive Paris, World War II, Occupation and paper shortages.
The Affaire Miller ended with Girodias out of jail, but bankrupt and no longer in control of his company.
Olympia Press was a Paris-based publisher, launched in 1953 by Maurice Girodias as a rebadged version of the Obelisk Press he inherited from his father Jack Kahane. It published a mix of erotic novels and avant-garde literary works, and is best known for the first print of Vladimir Nabokov‘s Lolita.
Most, if not all, Olympia Press publications were promoted and packaged as “Traveller’s Companion” books, usually with simple text-only covers, and each book in the series was numbered.
Olympia Press was also the first publisher willing to print the controversial William S. Burroughs novel, Naked Lunch. Other notable works included J. P. Donleavy‘s The Ginger Man; the French trilogy Molloy, Malone Dies and The Unnamable by Samuel Beckett; A Tale of Satisfied Desire by Georges Bataille and Story of O by Pauline Réage.
English-language presses in Paris
The Enlish-language literary expatriates depended on the presence in Paris of a substantial number of English-language presses, periodicals, and bookstores. These small presses included such famous names as the Contact Press (of American poet Robert McAlmon), the Three Mountains Press (of Bill Bird), the Hours Press (of Nancy Cunard), the Black Sun Press (of Harry and Caresse Crosby), the Obelisk Press (of Jack Kahane), and the Olympia Press (of Maurice Girodias, son of Kahane).
The current state of cult film historiography is perhaps best exemplified by the book Cinema of Obsession. It’s just a pity that it’s rather clumsily written. This could have been a great book in the hands of Greil Marcus or David Toop. Excellent is its selection of films and its four tier ontology, of which three are useful: the male gaze, the female gaze, the fugitive couple. The category titled romantic implosion is rather enigmatic.
Nikolai Gogol @200
“What an intelligent, queer, and sick creature!” —Ivan Turgenev
“I don’t know whether anyone liked Gogol exclusively as a human being. I don’t think so; it was, in fact, impossible. How can you love one whose body and spirit are recovering from self-inflicted torture?” —Sergei Aksakov
Gogol wrote in the literary tradition of E.T.A. Hoffmann (The Sandman) and Laurence Sterne (Tristram Shandy), often involving elements of the fantastic and grotesque. In addition, Gogol’s works are often outrageously funny. The mix of humor, social realism, the fantastic, and unusual prose forms are what readers love about his work.
The Vampyre @200
“The Vampyre” was first published on April 1, 1819, by Colburn in the New Monthly Magazine with the false attribution “A Tale by Lord Byron.” The name of the work’s protagonist, “Lord Ruthven“, added to this assumption, for that name was originally used in Lady Caroline Lamb‘s novel Glenarvon, in which a thinly-disguised Byron figure was also named Lord Ruthven. Despite repeated denials by Byron and Polidori, the authorship often went unclarified.
The story was an immediate popular success, partly because of the Byron attribution and partly because it exploited the gothic horror predilections of the public. Polidori transformed the vampire from a character in folklore into the form we recognize today – an aristocratic fiend who preys among high society.
An Italian translation of Malory by American author James Hadley Chase
Cover design by Carlo Jacono
A digression into Italian exploitation.
My interest in regional exploitation or pulp culture is that what it tells about the region where it is produced. I am searching for national stereotypes by way of their exploitation culture; regional stereotypes deduced from regional fears and desires (horror and eroticism).
Italian exploitation culture is literature and films in the “low culture” tradition originating from Italy, cultural products which address the prurient interests of its audience. A quick glance at Italian society on the one hand, which its firm anchor in puritan Christianity, and its abundance on the other hand of graphic exploitation material, quickly reveals its double standards.
But the nature of Italian prurience is most readily revealed in Italian cinema. Genres such as cannibal films, Italian erotica, Italian horror films, giallo films, mondo films, il sexy, spaghetti westerns, sword and sandal films all went a tad further than contemporary products of European exploitation.
Had it not for the world wide web, these maligned genres would probably not have been so widely known, but if you prefer reading books to the internet, here is a list of publications on European exploitation you may enjoy.
- British exploitation
- French exploitation
- German exploitation
- Italian exploitation
I’m experiencing a sudden outburst of graphomania.
Though I meant to review the wonderful Feuchtgebiete after I’d read Catherine Millet and Toni Bentley, I decided to publish this piece on erotic memoirs now after finding the (fake) erotic memoirs of Anne-Marie Villefranche. Reading Millet and Bentley will have to wait.
Joie d’amour by Anne-Marie Villefranche
From my wiki on erotic memoirs:
Erotic memoirs include those of Casanova‘s Histoire de ma vie from the eighteenth century, ‘Walter’s My Secret Life from the nineteenth, Frank Harris‘s My Life and Loves (1922-27) from the twentieth and Catherine Millet‘s The Sexual Life of Catherine M. (2001), One Hundred Strokes of the Brush Before Bed (2003) by Melissa Panarello, Toni Bentley‘s The Surrender : An Erotic Memoir (2004) and Feuchtgebiete (2008) by Charlotte Roche from the twenty-first.
I continue form my wiki with erotic memoirs of the 19th century.
Sensational journalism such as W.T. Stead‘s The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon (1885) about the procuring of underage girls into the brothels of Victorian London has also provided a stimulus for the erotic imagination. Stead’s account was widely translated and the revelation of “padded rooms for the purpose of stifling the cries of the tortured victims of lust and brutality” and the symbolic figure of “The Minotaur of London” confirmed European observers worst imaginings about “Le vice anglais” and inspired erotic writers to write of similar scenes set in London or involving sadistic English gentlemen. Such writers include D’Annunzio in Il Piacere, Paul-Jean Toulet in Monsieur de Paur (1898), Octave Mirbeau in Jardin des Supplices (1899) and Jean Lorrain in Monsieur de Phocas (1901).
Here is a mini-review I wrote on February 17th of Feuchtgebiete:
I have started reading Feuchtgebiete. A very dry, cold and realistic style, almost devoid of poetics. The first page mentions an anal orgasm. There is a memorable scene where the protagonist and her friend take a great deal of drugs from a dealer-friend’s stash, later puke because it was too much, find that many of the pills had not been digested and drink their vomit all up again.
RIP Philip José Farmer (1918 – 2009)
Philip José Farmer (January 26, 1918 – February 25, 2009) was an American author, principally known for his science fiction and fantasy novels and short stories. Farmer’s works often contain sexual themes, and some of his early works were notable for their groundbreaking introduction of such to science fiction. Farmer’s first published science fiction story, “The Lovers,” which won him the Hugo Award for most promising new writer in 1953, was the first sf story to deal with sexual relations between humans and aliens. It instantly put Farmer on the map. His collection of short stories Strange Relations (1960) was a notable event in the history of sex in science fiction. He was one of three dedicatees of Robert A. Heinlein‘s 1961 novel Stranger in a Strange Land, which was also noted for breaking sexual taboos. Fire and the Night (1962) is a non-science-fiction novel about a love affair between a white man and a black woman that features some interesting sociological and psychosexual twists. Witness to that are these French translation covers.