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Fearless Vulgarity

Jacqueline Susann's Queer Comedy and Camp Authorship

Ken Feil

Film History, Film Theory and Criticism

Contemporary Approaches to Film and Media Series

Score 20% through July 31st with code FW22!
Printed Paper Cased
Available November 2022
ISBN: 9780814346037
Pages: 304 Size: 6x9
Illustrations: 41 black-and-white images
Available November 2022
ISBN: 9780814346044
Pages: 304 Size: 6x9
Illustrations: 41 black-and-white images
Available November 2022
ISBN: 9780814346051

Catalyzed by her notoriously "dirty," fabulously successful bestseller Valley of the Dolls, the "Jackie Susann Sixties" brimmed with camp comedy that now permeates contemporary celebrations of the author, from Pee-wee’s Playhouse to RuPaul’s Drag Race and Lee Daniels’s Star. First christened "camp" by Gloria Steinem in an excoriating review of Valley of the Dolls and compounded by the publishing juggernauts The Love Machine (1969), Once Is Not Enough (1973), and Dolores (1976), the comedy of Jackie Susann illuminated conflicting positions about gender, sexuality, and aesthetic value. Through a writing formula that Ken Feil calls sleazy realism, Susann veers from gossip to confession and devises comedies of bad manners spun from real celebrities whose occasionally queer and always outré antics clashed with their "official" personas, the popular genres they were famous for, and the narrow, normative constructions of identity and reality shaped by the culture industry. Susann’s promotional appearances led to another comedy of bad manners, this one populated with critics alternately horrified and delighted by an upstart woman vulgarian barging into the male literary firmament, and which continues to inspire fascination for the author, her novels, and their legendarily bad film adaptations.

Ken Feil is the author of Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In (Wayne State University Press, 2014) and Dying for a Laugh: Disaster Movies and the Camp Imagination. Feil has taught at Emerson College since 1995.