Cheap Paperbacks and Queer Cold War Readers
This chapter examines Christopher Isherwood’s reception by readers across the great American landscape as they found him in dime-store paperback racks. It explains how Isherwood’s frank and unpretentious persona invited his readers to consider him a trusted friend and inspired letters that went beyond hero worship to casual encounters and the taking of considerable liberties. It shows that Isherwood was enmeshed in one of the most lucrative and debated movements in Cold War print culture: the “paperback revolution.” It also considers how the Cold War’s larger homosexual panic fueled official concern about “deviant” sex, particularly the widespread distribution of “well-of-loneliness” fiction, or what Susan Stryker calls queer pulp. Finally, it describes how gay readers across Cold War America read and welcomed Isherwood’s work, including his 1954 novel The World in the Evening, and became devoted fans.
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