Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me and the Crooked Game
of Post-World War II America
Though presenting itself as pulpy example of hardboiled American fiction, Jim
Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me opens up in important and
unexpected ways when read as a subversive Gothic novel. Such a reading sheds
light on a range of marginalized characters (especially women and rural peoples)
who often remain shadowed by more conventional readings. Reading the novel as
Gothic also highlights thematic concerns which counter the halcyon image of
post-World War II America as a golden age and reveal instead a contemporary
landscape fraught with violence, alienation, and mental instability.
Death, decay, and the Technological reliquaries, 1637–67
and the ‘resurrection of the flesh’ in a
prohibitively puritanical and pleasure-numbing post-WorldWarIIAmerica. ‘[W]e need an erotics of art’, she famously
concluded in her 1964 essay ‘Against Interpretation’.
Thek – who painted that phrase on one of his last canvases in
1987 – was Sontag’s modern art muse, constantly
experimenting with avant-garde forms and processes that
Scholarly personae: what they are and why they matter
kaleidoscopic overview of a steadily
growing number of ‘approaches’ to the American past. By emphasizing
difference or even ‘fragmentation’ – a trope in the history of post-WorldWarIIAmerican historiography – such typologies of approaches often
have a dispersive effect of a kind illustrated in the following passage on
New Left historians in the 1960s:27
A strict taxonomy might demarcate differences between the self-consciously
Marxist work of an early wave, whose members included current or former
Communists, Trotskyists, and Schachtmanites, and that of a younger cohort
structure, reworked and
re-signified over the decades.
This organic and diachronic dimension of art is what
post-WorldWarIIAmerican artists appreciated about Italy. Its
complexity was more multifarious and allegorical (in Benjaminian
terms) 49 than
the self-assuring fantasy nurtured by the Section of transplanting a
golden age retrieved from the
The archive has assumed a new significance in the history of sex, and this book visits a series of such archives, including the Kinsey Institute’s erotic art; gay masturbatory journals in the New York Public Library; the private archive of an amateur pornographer; and one man’s lifetime photographic dossier on Baltimore hustlers. The subject topics covered are wide-ranging: the art history of homoeroticism; casual sex before hooking-up; transgender; New York queer sex; masturbation; pornography; sex in the city. The duality indicated by the book’s title reflects its themes. It is an experiment in writing an American sexual history that refuses the confines of identity sexuality studies, spanning the spectrum of queer, trans, and the allegedly ‘normal’. What unites this project is a fascination with sex at the margins, refusing the classificatory frameworks of heterosexuality and homosexuality, and demonstrating gender and sexual indecision and flexibility. And the book is also an exploration of the role of the archive in such histories. The sex discussed is located both in the margins of the archives, what has been termed the counterarchive, but also, importantly, in the pockets of recorded desire located in the most traditional and respectable repositories. The sexual histories in this book are those where pornography and sexual research are indistinguishable; where personal obsession becomes tomorrow’s archive. The market is potentially extensive: those interested in American studies, sexuality studies, contemporary history, the history of sex, psychology, anthropology, sociology, gender studies, queer studies, trans studies, pornography studies, visual studies, museum studies, and media studies.
Edward Melcarth and homoeroticism in modern American art
Barry Reay and Erin Griffey
warIIAmerica’, The Journal of American Culture, 32:4 (2009), 318–31, quote at
54 Ibid., 324.
55 Ibid., 319, 329.
56 Ibid., 320, 323, 327.
57 Explored further in Reay, New York Hustlers.
REAY (Sex in the Archives) PRINT.indd 64
58 Painter, Box 1, Series 2, C. 1, Vol. 6: 14 January, 17 January, 29 January, and
21 June 1949.
59 W. H. Auden, The Enchafèd Flood (New York, 1950), p. 146.
60 Weinberg, Speaking for Vice, p. 89.
61 Meyer, Outlaw Representation, p. 43.
62 Ibid., pp. 8, 42.
63 Ibid., p. 42.
64 Katz and
obvious in post-WorldWarIIAmerican art. In the fine arts it is not the critics or the artists who are invested in the ideology of contemporaneity, but the museum managers. The “American contemporary,” which was partially discussed in parallel with the contemporaneity emerging in Moscow after Stalin's death (see Chapter 4 ), and was illustrated in the context of the 1948 renaming of the Boston ICA is one such example of a “contemporary” radicalism. The ICA's managers’ “successful attempts to detach ‘contemporary’ from ‘modern,’” as one commentator wrote
analysis, the reader has fallen into the trap
its author has set.
1 David Riesman, The Lonely Crowd: A Study of the Changing American
Character (1950), New Haven: Yale University Press, 1960, 22. For an
excellent analysis of the class dynamics at work within the culture of
conformity Riesman describes, see Andrew Hoborek, The Twilight of the
Middle Class: Post-WorldWarIIAmerican Fiction and White-Collar Work,
Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005. Joel Foreman’s edited
Refuge and refuse in Slow Learner
volume The Other Fifties: Interrogating
The ideological bedrock of the postsocialist contemporary
For a discussion of antipolitics in the context of Western Europe, see Suzanne Berger, “Politics and Antipolitics in Western Europe in the Seventies,” Daedalus 58, no. 1 (Winter, 1979): 27–50. For antipolitics in the context of post-WorldWarIIAmerican “neo-avant-garde,” see chapter “Virus” in David Joselit, Feedback: Television Against Democracy (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2007).