Sunday, September 11, 2011

One of my favorites

$ Not for Sale - Near Fine
Room and Broad
Fred Mercer
Bedside Books number 1248, 1963
I have decided to truly kickoff this blog with one of my favorite vintage paperbacks. I say favorite with regard to the cover art, a premise for these posts. The artist here, who remains uncredited, has done a slough of covers for publishing houses like Bedside, Bedtime, Gaslight, and perhaps a few others. The artist's name is ne'er found on these editions, and no mention (that I have seen) has been made in any of the major cover art/artist reference/anthology books to date. I see no reason why this artist should not receive the recognition due, with regard to his/her output, in much the same manner as, say, any of the prolific Roberts (Bonfils, Maguire, McGinnis). This artist simply uses a different approach and medium. Each of these books, and granted, like most covers, some are better than others, is begun with a central figure(s) and outlined heavily in what appears to be watercolor or gouache. As always, the skin tones are perfect, with relation to the rest of the piece; something considered a tad difficult in this medium. The accompanying props are usually less contrived, here a hotel smock the lovely, busty, leggy broad is putting away or retrieving from the rack to start her (what-must-be) arduous day of smiling prettily at guests -- "Yes, someone rang about needing new sheets?" -- when not 30 minutes before she could have been found romping ebulliently in said sheets, the sweating "Precision Tool" (see rear cover blurb) businessman beneathe her Golden Globes no doubt counting his blessings his boss elected him to fly to some desolate town where the local brewery is in a neighboring state. Yet something about this cover image speaks no sluttiness nor promiscuity, nor the need to fulfill some inborn compulsion to fuck, and rather a classic, Hellenistic feeling washes over the observer (here: you, flotsam: yours truly). Perhaps the artist is/was classically trained, one who studies the Renaissance, Greek art, see Titian / Courbet, almost / Cabanel (definitely), do not see Gaugin / Schiele / Picasso / or Klimt; the armless statues come to mind as well. And in their time did the artist adapt! He/she brought a sense of contemporary compassion for classic art. They took an example of, say, one of several depictions of Venus, and made her leggier, bustier, and sweeter, not so stone-like (although Cabanel really hit the mark, another great image, a natural beauty ushered to shore in a mammoth clam, perhaps a nautical take on Cinderella), including pink heels, an easily-DD brazier that just wont stay put, a fuchsia doily to go with the heels, some lacy panties, and thigh-high stockings with a garter strap. In short: I have a hard time honing in on the title, the garb on which the title has been conveniently embroidered, and the "subtitle" at the upper left. The focus is drawn directly to the maid's face, shoe-gazing, perhaps she is pondering that little scuff on her pink stilettos, recently purloined (see Poe) in the heated passion that was last night's awesome frolic with an independently-wealthy heir "just passin' through," or is she considering a new way of life, astray of the perspiration and degradation of maid staffing (not likely), or does her smock just not smell so good, OR STILL does her smock reminisce with natural aroma, Chanel 5 and cigar smoke? I'd like to think it's a combination of all.
The rear panel of the vintage paperback usually consists of some mid-level-education summary or excerpt relevant to the plot (or hardly at all). This blurb gives names, a vague plot (but enough to arouse your, um, interests), and even a cliff-hanger. The cliff-hanger is important with these books because it acts in a similar way as does the cover art; the potential buyer reacting in process: initial observation of the front panel, a casual glance of one's proximity so as not to seem too eager or perverted, retrieval of the book, another quick glance, the turning of the book to the rear panel, a quick purveying of the rear panel blurb, and upon one's feeling after the cliff-hanger, on into the second stage: Considering Purchase, which begins with reading the teaser page, followed perhaps by scouring a few internal passages, and again a once-over of the whole entity.
In this blurb, there is mention of "horsing-around" of two maids (i.e. lesbianism, itself a popular movement/period of sleaze), mention of losing one's virginity (not as popular as lesbianism, but still prevalent), and just at the tail end, "didoes." At first this looks like a typo, rest assured the scanner of this blurb is looking for important tell-tale terms to further increase the energy accrued and welling in certain prominent organs south of the equator (see Quills, starring Geoffrey Rush as the Marquis de Sade, a figure in sleaze history to whom a level of majesty can be attributed); but this is not the case. The term is didoes and not did, or does, or dildos, which might seem appropriate. Didoes just means pranks. Read: "...she too had to offer herself for the guests' pleasures and found that convention [pranks]...DEMAND PAINFUL PAYMENT." Hmmmm....heartbreak? Are emotions involved in this? I thought (was hoping), as I am just in it for the Epochal Cum, there would just be maids wandering halls, checking their guests' rooms, entering the rooms and bending over to "make sure the lamp is plugged in" and the rotund man in suspenders and wing-tips raising an eyebrow at those thigh-highs and frills, maids suggesting their guests' "ring them anytime" or "just buzz me when you need me," but it seems this might actually be a novel of heartbreak, a novel of entering womanhood, a scathing look at the corrupt business that is hotel brothelry

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