Dirty Books: Erotic Fiction and the Avant-Garde in Mid-Century Paris and New York by Barry Reay and Nina Attwood
Hardcover – Manchester Univ Press – Aug 2023 – 297 pages
From the 1930s to the 1970s, in New York and in Paris, daring publishers and writers were producing banned pornographic literature. The books were written by young, impecunious writers, poets, and artists, many anonymously. Most of these pornographers wrote to survive, but some also relished the freedom to experiment that anonymity provided – men writing as women, and women writing as men – and some (Anaïs Nin, Henry Miller) went on to become influential figures in modernist literature.
Dirty Books tells the stories of these authors and their remarkable publishers: Jack Kahane of Obelisk Press and his son Maurice Girodias of Olympia Press, whose catalogue and repertoire anticipated that of the more famous US publisher Grove Press. It offers a humorous and vivid snapshot of a fascinating moment in pornographic and literary history, uncovering a hidden, earlier history of the sexual revolution, when the profits made from erotica helped launch the careers of literary cult figures.