Thursday, 1 October 2009

A Cheap Laugh at the Innocent Past

Ferreting through a second-hand bookshop recently, I came across an example of a book whose title has suffered at the hands of time and the changing meaning of words.



I especially enjoyed the bookseller's plot summary: "A Cape Cod man comes back home to live off his brother after his bank job evaporates. Sister-in-law isn't happy, but Carey Judson perseveres and eventually turns to his love of carving wild birds." Anyone after hot homoerotic action is probably going to be disappointed by that.

It also sent me, in an idle moment, looking for other books which have suffered in the same way. This was only ever going to be a cheap laugh, but sometime you can't afford anything better.




 

 

That last book was doing so well until it decided to add a subtitle.  Another book that still seems relatively innocent is this one...



..until you open it and see that the subtitle is 'A Boy's Queer Search'.

I've just started contributing to the Hyde Park Review of Books, which is relaunching imminently. I'm going to use the fact that I've just written a longer piece for them as an excuse for the lack of any depth or insight in this post. When my first article goes up over there, I'll link to it here, and include some DVD-style extra material on this blog. In the meantime, here's a classy re-envisioning of a science-fiction classic.







18 comments:

Bob Fingerman said...

I'll have to send you some snaps of old fruit crate labels I have from the 1920s that also suffer the whims of changing language. Yes, cheap yuks to be had.

Derek said...

LOL there's no humor quite like unintended humor.

JRSM said...

Derek: Spot-on!

Bob: I NEED to see these labels.

Matthew Adams said...

"I'm off to the cape to do some duck carving with the boys" was said by many a queer man in the old days.

"I'm gonna carve me some wood at the old cod" was the phrase used by the less sophisticated but just as queer blokes.

Christy Pinheiro, EA ABA said...

I think the invisible man cover is really really cool!

Wait--Who loves side-boob? Everyone loves a little side-boob!

Saul Blacktop said...

I have a lot of Joesph C. Lincoln books, but I've never seen that one before! Most of JCL's books take place on Cape Cod.

Deb said...

As we all know, the word "gay" has also undergone a similar transformation. I almost bought an old book at a UBS with the title (I think) The Gay Life. Its copyright was from the mid-1920s and it seemed to be about Jazz Age Manhattan.

Also, Leslie Garis (granddaughter of Howard Garis, author of the Buddy series, among many others) wrote a very good book about her family, The House of Happy Endings.

Deb said...

I just realized "happy ending" is also a term that's undergone a transformation. Leslie Garis's book is in no way a double-entendre.

sarajill said...

Let's not forget the ever popular "Faggots for the Fireside"! http://bit.ly/9fwx7

Steerforth said...

Funnily enough, I found a copy of Faggots this week.

Re: the 'gay' theme - I have The Toff Goes Gay, The Gay Venture Stamp Album, Gay Legends of the Saints and Gold for the Gay Masters. When accompanied by 'wholesome' jacket images featuring fine, upright young men, the humour value is doubled.

Matthew Adams said...

There is also the book with the rather promising title Penetrating Wagner's Ring.

JRSM said...

Thank you all: I have many fine titles to investigate now. And no immature snickering to indulge in, obviously.

JRSM said...

Though that 'Penetrating Wagner's Ring' was published under that title as recently as 1991 hows a certain lack of judgement.

Matthew Adams said...

They had a review page for it on Amazon for a little while, but with comments like "It was dry and musty at first, but after a few hours of pounding away I really started to get into it, and it became a pleasurable experience" they decided to take it down.

Ben said...

I bought a nice copy of Dostoevsky's "The Dream of a Queer Fellow" the other day, and I didn't snigger even a little bit. A proud moment.

Brian Busby said...

I must agree with Derek - there's no humour like unintended humour. Just this yesterday, I let out a schoolboy snicker in coming across Away from Quebec: A Gay Journey to the Province (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1937). There's a part of me that will always be ten years old.

susanwiggs said...

Priceless post! Just found this blog. I love cover art, too. Someone once gave me a 1965 Boy Scout Handbook, copiously illustrated. The section "From Boy To Man" made me howl, even though it was quite innocent. Fun blog.

JRSM said...

That reminds me that there's a book of unfortunate book titles called 'Scouts in Bondage' that came out a copule of years ago. [Checks Amazon] Yes--'Scouts in Bondage: And Other Books from an Innocent Age' by Michael Bell. I haven't seen it, but it sounds like something I should get hold of.