Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Forbidden Apple - Kat Long

I stumbled on this book at the library when I was getting another book for this month's theme, and it seemed interesting and it had a little to do with the theme, so I figured I'd check it out. The book's subtitle is A Century of Sex & Sin in New York City and it is just that - a good, solid overview of "adult entertainment" in New York City for the past 100+ years. My first exposure to Times Square was back before the recent "cleanup" and I have to say that although of course it was seedy and dirty and all that, having seen it again a few years ago, I felt like I was in a random shopping mall in Podunk Junction, and I kind of missed the sleaze; at least it was particular to the city (as someone quoted in the book also points out). In any case, this book gave a good high-level summary of the constant battles being fought over what is legally permissible, what should be protected as a human right, etc. A nice surprise was the inclusion of gay culture, and it was fascinating to read about gay culture in the late 1800s.

Oh, and lest anyone think I was picking on Poisoned Pen Press in my last review, I found a fair amount of typos in this book too, unfortunately. And it's not just small publishing companies, either - I find typos of all sorts in all kinds of books from all kinds of companies.

So now to link the book to the theme: Nat Wills spent a good portion of his performing career based in New York City, and as a performer he would have at least been aware of some of the more salacious aspects of city life. Also, stage performances in general and vaudeville in particular were often mixed up with prostitution and lewd behavior, even if that link was only in some people's minds. At its height, vaudeville was family entertainment, and burlesque dancing was a separate entity that was geared for adults, but as vaudeville declined in popularity I think it often became conflated with burlesque and got a more sleazy reputation that hadn't previously been deserved.

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