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Queer Books
by Edmund Pearson | Humor
Registered by wingGoryDetailswing of Nashua, New Hampshire USA on 11/7/2002
Average 7 star rating by BookCrossing Members 

status (set by -Bodhi-): travelling

This book is in the wild! This Book is Currently in the Wild!

11 journalers for this copy...

Journal Entry 1 by wingGoryDetailswing from Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Thursday, November 07, 2002

9 out of 10

This is a simply wonderful book by Edmund Pearson (better known, perhaps, for his essays on murders of his day, collected in "Studies in Murder" and "Murder on Smutty Nose" - click here to see those and other Pearson titles I've registered). This one's much lighter in subject - in fact, it's more or less a history of the pop culture of the day (circa 1928), as evidenced in print. (Pearson dedicates the book to the librarians at the New York Public Library, among whom he worked for some time, and where, presumably, he found many of the items he pokes fun at here.)

Pearson's style is drily sarcastic, a style of which I am fond; some might find him unbearably arch and/or old fashioned, but I like him. From the chapter on "Temperance Writers":

"...the work of the writer of temperance tales for children came near to being unpardonable. Is it possible that anybody could wish to create with his pen such insufferable prigs or to hold them up as models? 'Brave Boys and Girls,' edited by L. Penny, begins with:

'Happy Johnny, how you grow.
Do you chew tobacco?' 'No!
And what is better yet,
I never smoked a cigarette.'

We may tolerate Johnny, but someone will certainly wish to lay hands on Little Alice, aged eight, who was taken sick, and, when very ill indeed, heard the doctor prescribe brandy for her. Looking up, she said as loudly as she could: 'No brandy for me; I'll die first! I'm a temperance girl.' We are left to suppose that she did die, so the story cannot be said to have an unhappy ending."

Other chapters cover etiquette books (including some that were a century old when Pearson was writing about them), books by cranks [crackpot theories and those who write books about them are far from new], and long-forgotten best-sellers such as "Alonzo and Melissa: or, The Unfeeling Father," which Pearson claims was a runaway hit for most of the mid-1800's, despite - or because of - considerable confusion as to its actual origins and author.

Basically, Pearson is having a jolly time discussing books of the "so bad they're good" category. This book, published in the 1920's, was reprinted in the '70s and while no longer in print that I know of, seems to be fairly widely available in used-book stores. I think you'll find it entertaining.
[Bookies - do we know any of those? - might also enjoy Pearson's "Books in Black or Red".] 

Journal Entry 2 by wingGoryDetailswing from Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Monday, March 31, 2003

This book has not been rated.

Bookray participants:

zmrzlina (Boston) [I'll be bringing the book to the April Meetup to hand off]
cestmoi (Toronto)
avanta7 (Little Rock)
lavatea (Huntsville, TX)
JennyO (Temple, TX)
daidy (MI)
caligula03 (CA)
charbono (Australia)

I'll ask everyone to journal the book when they get it, and again when they've read it and are ready to release. When you get the book, please PM the next person in line for their address so you'll be prepared to send the book off when you've finished. Hope you all enjoy it! 

Journal Entry 3 by Zmrzlina from Abington, Massachusetts USA on Tuesday, April 08, 2003

This book has not been rated.

Picked this up from GoryDetails at tonight's Meet-up and will continue the circle next week. Read bits of it while on the train coming home and smiled at the initial paragraph about temperance novels. Pearson says they are often in very good shape, because, as he do delightfully puts it, "they have been drawn up in close formation on the shelves; not out skirmishing." I think lots of BCers' books are doing a great bit of skirmishing in the wild :-) Thank you GoryDetails! (and I love the Gorey stamps) 

Journal Entry 4 by Zmrzlina from Abington, Massachusetts USA on Sunday, April 27, 2003

This book has not been rated.

Enjoying this book very much. I will be sending it off to the next person on Wed and will post more before sending, but one passage I just have to capture here...

From the chapter titled "Alonzo and Melissa" in which Melissa is hurried off to a castle (which the author notes is odd to find in Connecticut!):

He could no more avoid putting his heroine into a haunted castle, and subjecting her to horrid groans and ghastly visions, than the novelist of the present [late 1920s] decade can escape Freudian terminology and dreams of sexual symbolism.

I couldn't help thinking that if one were to judge by the best seller list, today's must-have situation is a dysfunctional family. Of course, my own theory is that families that aren't dysfunctional are just plain weird :-)

This reading a book about books is fun. I think I should like to read more books like this. Not reviews, not lit crit, but just fun observations about a particular genre at a particular point in time.  

Journal Entry 5 by Zmrzlina from Abington, Massachusetts USA on Thursday, May 08, 2003

8 out of 10

Well, I have read lots of bits from this book, enough to know I like it very much, but since there are others waiting, I am not going to hold it up any longer. It is off to cestmoi in the morning. And thank you GoryDetails for bringing yet another I-would-never-have-found-this-if-not-for-BC book into my life :-) 

Journal Entry 6 by cestmoi from Hamilton, Ontario Canada on Wednesday, May 21, 2003

This book has not been rated.

Just received in the mail today. I'll journal again. Thanks GD and Zmrzlina. 

Journal Entry 7 by cestmoi from Hamilton, Ontario Canada on Sunday, June 01, 2003

9 out of 10

Great book! I especially enjoyed Alonzo and Melissa and Genteel Behaviour I. The illustrations added so much to this book and I often flipped ahead to see what the next one would be.
Thanks for sharing this GD, it will be on its way to avanta7 in a few days. 

Journal Entry 8 by avanta7 on Thursday, June 12, 2003

This book has not been rated.

Oh no!!!! (she wails) too much karma has descended upon me! Five, count 'em, FIVE bookray/ring volumes have showed up in my mailbox in the last week. (Not that I have any regrets, mind you.) I look forward to reading this and I promise I will get to it just as soon as humanly possible.

(She staggers away, awed by the tremendous responsibility of not breaking the chain...) 

Journal Entry 9 by avanta7 on Tuesday, July 22, 2003

7 out of 10

My! What a hoot of a book! I especially enjoyed the overview of the murder tracts and gallows broadsides (which, I imagine, is the reason GoryDetails bought the book in the first place), but the section on etiquette books was quite amusing as well.

One section in particular caught my attention. The author goes into great detail about three sisters, Amy, Elizabeth and Cynthia Halzingler, who cut a swath of murder and mayhem across the country. They were born here in Little Rock, Arkansas. I just may have to pay a visit to the newspaper morgue to find any articles written about them (the book references at least one mentioning the family published in the Arkansas Democrat, now defunct as an entity itself, but taken over by another daily -- ah, the Arkansas newspaper wars...). Note to self, they were born in Arkansas sometime after 1826 and left for San Francisco in 1853.

All in all, an enjoyable read. Passing on to lavatea shortly. 

Journal Entry 10 by avanta7 on Thursday, July 24, 2003

This book has not been rated.

Mailed to lavatea today. 

Journal Entry 11 by lavatea from Tyler, Texas USA on Monday, July 28, 2003

This book has not been rated.

I just received this book in the mail today. I'll read it and journal it as soon as I can. 

Journal Entry 12 by lavatea from Tyler, Texas USA on Tuesday, November 04, 2003

This book has not been rated.

I'm having a very hard time getting through this book. I'm on the second chapter (about Fourth of July speeches) right now, and it's just not doing it for me. I was going to go ahead and pass it on, but it seems that many of the "glowing" journal entries so far have been about chapters I haven't reached yet. So I guess I'll hold on to it a little while longer. 

Journal Entry 13 by lavatea from Tyler, Texas USA on Monday, March 01, 2004

This book has not been rated.

I couldn't get into the book, and it was time for it to move along. Mailed 2/28/04. 

Journal Entry 14 by wingO-Jennywing from Temple, Texas USA on Monday, March 01, 2004

This book has not been rated.

Got this one in the mail today. Will finish the Louis Bayard book I'm reading now and get right on it. Thanks, GoryDetails! 

Journal Entry 15 by wingO-Jennywing from Temple, Texas USA on Wednesday, March 03, 2004

This book has not been rated.

Read about the first third of this book last night and I love Pearson's Sahara-dry wit. I've already tabbed a couple of quotes I want to include in my review. I've set it aside for a day or two while I finish a Sarah Waters book, but I'll pick it back up and finish it by the end of the week.

Thanks GoryDetails! 

Journal Entry 16 by wingO-Jennywing from Temple, Texas USA on Saturday, March 06, 2004

6 out of 10

I got this book as part of a bookcrossing book ring. It was written by
a New York Public Library librarian in 1928. It's a discussion of
several different types of books that were no longer in favor at the
time (I'm guessing they're the ones no one ever checked out of the
library). There were chapters on:

Truly awful poetry
Truly awful political speeches
Temperence novels
Books about etiquette
Crime writers

And a few more. The book could've used some organization and
transition between chapters. There was no flow whatsoever. But I did
like Pearson's bone dry sense of humor and air of superiority. Here
are a few quotes that will show you what I mean:

"So they are, and so also, by this preface, is the reader prepared to
learn that the author placed a firm reliance, not only on Providence,
but on the majestical sound of polysyllables."

"We are not told from which college Beauman came. As he is plainly
destined to be the rival of Alonzo of Yale, we might have suspected
him to be a Harvard graduate. Nothing is said about this, however, and
the reference to Beauman's voluptuous manners makes it practically
certain that he was a Princeton man."

"The facts are written by an eyewitness of the principal
scenes....They may, therefore, be 'relied upon as accurate and true.'
They may--by folk who believe that a horsechestnut carried in the
pocket cures rheumatism, and that unicorns become docile in the
presence of a virgin." 

Journal Entry 17 by wingO-Jennywing from Temple, Texas USA on Saturday, March 06, 2004

This book has not been rated.

Oh, I also meant to say that I think Pearson would've LOVED Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood." Sounds like he's fascinated by good crime writing. (Or was anyway...I'm assuming he's dead now.) 

Journal Entry 18 by wingO-Jennywing from Temple, Texas USA on Saturday, March 20, 2004

This book has not been rated.

Putting this one in the mail to Daidy today. (Thank heaven for USPS sub-stations that are open on Saturday!) 

Journal Entry 19 by daidy from Kansas City, Missouri USA on Monday, March 29, 2004

This book has not been rated.

Reading it soon! 

Journal Entry 20 by daidy from Kansas City, Missouri USA on Saturday, April 03, 2004

5 out of 10

Well...I rather feel like I've watched a movie where the good parts were all in the previews, and the rest of the movie is just boring filler. Most of the good bits are already in the journal entries here. This was definitely not a book to sit down and read through, for me, it was more skimming for the good bits. 

Journal Entry 21 by caligula03 from Hayward, California USA on Friday, April 16, 2004

This book has not been rated.

It looks like a delightful read and I'm not going to read the journal entries to spoil it for myself. :) 

Journal Entry 22 by caligula03 from Hayward, California USA on Monday, June 28, 2004

9 out of 10

Queer Books is a queer book in itself. It's a thematic review of the popular (and not so popular) genres of the previous century of American literature. As the book was published in 1928, the books covered are those from the 1800s. Although most (all?) of the books mentioned have faded into obscurity the cross section of genres hasn't changed much all these years later. The temperance books are akin to the recent rise in popularity of Christian fiction. The Crochets are today's Self Help Books. There is a chapter devoted to self published books, an industry still going strong. The book ends with a couple chapters of "Sudden Death" books which show that our interest in "True Crime" books goes way back. The only fault with Queer Books is perhaps a result of the space between me a reader of 2004 and the author of 1928; some of the cultural references have been lost over time making some pieces of the book rather dry reading. 

Journal Entry 23 by caligula03 at on Monday, June 28, 2004

This book has not been rated.

Release planned for Saturday, July 03, 2004 at charbono in n/a, n/a Controlled Releases. 

Journal Entry 24 by charbono from Creswick, Victoria Australia on Thursday, August 26, 2004

This book has not been rated.

Received this in the mail today. Looks interesting. TBR.


Quirky and quaint, but I had to skim a lot of it. Unfortunately there are too many books like the kind this book makes fun of! I'm sure they were the height of sophisticated literature at the time. 

Journal Entry 25 by charbono at on Saturday, September 30, 2006

This book has not been rated.

Released 11 yrs ago (10/3/2006 UTC) at



Oh my goodness has it really been 2 years... I feel terrible! What a terrible bookcrosser I am. My problem is that most of my books are in boxes... and there are many, many boxes! This book was rediscovered during a recent cleanout, and will soon be on its way to the Australian BookCrossing Convention which is taking place this year in Adelaide. 

Journal Entry 26 by adelbcconv from Adelaide, South Australia Australia on Friday, October 13, 2006

This book has not been rated.

Received with much appreciation for the 3rd Australian BookCrossing Convention, Adelaide, Australia, 20-22 October 2006.

Thanks :) 

Journal Entry 27 by -Bodhi- from Jannali, New South Wales Australia on Friday, October 20, 2006

This book has not been rated.

What a well travelled little book! I picked this one up from the convention out of a mountain of books because it looked so quaint. I am sure that I will enjoy it immensely! Thank you all :) 

Journal Entry 28 by -Bodhi- at St Vincent De Pauls in Sutherland, New South Wales Australia on Tuesday, January 18, 2011

This book has not been rated.

Released 7 yrs ago (1/18/2011 UTC) at St Vincent De Pauls in Sutherland, New South Wales Australia


Too many books, must let this one fly and be free! 

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