Hot on the heels of their exhibition on the political fanzines/ephemera of the Crass era, In All Our Decadence People Die, Boo Hooray is featuring another collection of overlooked media. From November 2nd till December 1st, the gallery will feature the sleaze paperbacks of Ed Wood. Should be a great show for those interested in book design, human sexuality (the books were recently purchased by the Cornell for their rare book collection), and Wood, himself.
The antiquarian mystique surrounding Edward Davis Wood Jr.’s career as an author of pornographic pulp fiction is legend. He wrote under a variety of pseudonyms, books were published and re-published under different titles, and occasionally under different author names. Multiple authors would share the same pseudonym, and the companies that published the titles weren’t the kind of operations that kept any kind of records, nor paid royalties, nor really existed in the manner that most are to expect of book publishers.
The paperbacks are truly rare, even in an age of mass-searchable used book engines, and google ferocity. Ed Wood’s sleaze fiction is also as strange, idiosyncratic and out of step with his times and mores as his infamous movies. Wood would write porn inter-spliced with lengthy philosophical, sociological and psychological discourse, he’d write first person narratives of life as a transvestite in the buttoned up America of the 1950’s. He’d riff on psychosexual themes, and unleash his id, his ego and his superego in turn, sometimes in the same chapter. He’d write about sex and the human condition without veneer or filters, offering up the damaged and anguished voice of a desperately soul-searching drunk with a sense of self-worth that would stand in dichotomy to his self-pity.
His descent into alcoholism and poverty was mirrored by the publishers that employed him. Towards the end of his life he wrote pornography with decreasing amounts of the strange flourishes of his eccentric personality. He died in 1978 of an alcohol-induced heart attack. His friends say the porn killed him. For further information see Rudolph Grey’s masterful biography Nightmare of Ecstasy.
This is the largest assembly of Ed Wood publications exhibited to date. Boo-Hooray has tracked down roughly seventy of his books and publications. Some collectors claim that he wrote dozens more. Entrepreneurial book dealers often indulge in Ed Wood pseudonym speculation. A ten dollar paperback can thus become an antiquarian rarity, even with flimsy or non-existent evidence. A handful of these are in the show.
A catalog is available for purchase here.