Literary Analyses

Hangsaman by Shirley Jackson, 1951 — an Analysis

This analysis of Hangsaman, Shirley Jackson’s chilling and thought-provoking 1951 novel, is excerpted from Girls in Bloom: Coming of Age in the Mid-20th Century Woman’s Novel by Francis Booth, reprinted by permission.

In a 1956 book called Sex Variant Women in Literature,  the academic critic, Jeanette H. Foster referred to Hangsaman as “an eerie novel about lesbians.’ This is a bizarre reading of the novel and Shirley Jackson was incensed. Her biographer, Judy Oppenheimer, quoted her as saying:

“I happen to know what Hangsaman is about. I wrote it. And dammit it is about what I say it is about and not some dirty old lady at Oxford. Because (let me whisper) I don’t really know anything about stuff like that. And I don’t want to know… I am writing about ambivalence but it is an ambivalence of the spirit or the mind, not the sex. My poor devils have enough to contend with without being sex deviates along with being moral and romantic deviates.” Read More→


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Odd Girl Out by Ann Bannon (Ann Weldy), 1957

Odd Girl Out by Ann Bannon (the pseudonym of Ann Weldy), was one of several hugely influential lesbian pulp novels of the 1950s. This appreciation and analysis is excerpted from Girls in Bloom: Coming of Age in the Mid-20th Century Woman’s Novel by Francis Booth, reprinted by permission.

In the introduction to her anthology Lesbian Pulp Fiction, the author Katherine V. Forrest remembers how a book she found in a bookshop in Detroit in 1957 changed not only her writing but her life: Read More→


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Spring Fire by Vin Packer (Marijane Meaker), a Lesbian Pulp Classic

1952 was something of an annus mirabilis for the lesbian coming of age novel, seeing the paperback republication of Diana, the original publication of both Patricia Highsmith’s The Price of Salt and Spring Fire by Vin Packer, a pseudonym used by Marijane Meaker. This analysis and synopsis is excerpted from Girls in Bloom by Francis Booth, reprinted by permission.

Meaker wrote about Highsmith in her late memoir Highsmith of 2003; they were on and off lovers in a stormy relationship for many years; Highsmith was much older and more established when Meaker finally plucked up courage to walk up to her in L’s bar.

“Pat had become my idol. Although we were both reviewed in Anthony Boucher’s mystery column in the New York Times, she was published in hardcover by Harper Brothers. As Vin Packer, I was one of Gold Medal Books’ mystery/suspense paperback ‘tough guys,’ and, as Ann Aldrich, a softcover reporter on lesbian life.” Read More→


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Diana: A Strange Autobiography by Diana Frederics (1939)

Frances V. Rummell, an American writer and educator, published Diana: A Strange Autobiography (1939) under the pseudonym Diana Frederics. More of an autobiographical novel than an actual memoir, nonetheless draws upon the author’s life. The story details the title heroine’s discovery of her lesbian sexuality.

Positive portrayal of lesbians was considered shocking when the book was published. It’s now considered groundbreaking as one of the first works of gay fiction to have a happy outcome.

Published squarely between The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall (1928) and the lesbian pulp novels that emerged in the early 1950s, Diana is a worthy, yet often overlooked addition to the genre. This analysis and appreciation is excerpted from Girls in Bloom by Francis Booth, reprinted by permission: Read More→


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Regiment of Women by Clemence Dane (1917)

This introduction to Regiment of Women (1917), a proto-lesbian novel by the pseudonymous Clemence Dane, is is excerpted from Girls in Bloom: Coming of Age in mid-20th Century Women’s Fiction by Francis Booth, reprinted with permission:

The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall (1928 ), usually said to be the first English-language novel containing veiled lesbianism was just beaten to the title by Rosamond Lehmann’s Dusty Answer, 1927. But ten years before even that was Regiment of Women, 1917, the debut novel of Clemence Dane, the pseudonym of Winifred Ashton (1888-1965), London-born novelist, playwright, and early feminist.

Clemence Dane’s 1921 play, A Bill of Divorcement, was made into a film three times and Dane went on to write screenplays herself, including Anna Karenina, starring Greta Garbo. Read More→


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