May 13, 2008 by Tracey S. Rosenberg
A blog on collecting children’s books recently had an entry on Phantom Books, and it reminded me of a phantom book of my own: Dawn B. Sova’s Passion and Penance: The Lesbian in Pulp Fiction.
But surely this book exists? It has an Amazon page. It has an ISBN (0571199178; ISBN-13: 978-0571199174). It has a publisher and a publishing date – Farrar Strauss And Giroux (Nov 1 1997) or Faber & Faber (December 1998), depending on who you ask. It has a blurb from Ingram: ‘With unique access to several large private collections, Dr. Sova has extracted scenes and chapters from each decade’s pulp fiction, from the 1920s to the 1960s, and comments with wit, erudition, and light on the changing evolution of this heretofore unexamined genre of lesbian literature.’ It’s linked to at book sites and bookswap sites and library sites….
And yet. The Lesbian Pulp Fiction Collection at Duke University (seriously) lists it as ‘on order’ since December 1999. No book site or bookswap site actually HAS a copy. Aha! Worldcat says that the Library of Congress has a copy and so does a library in Halifax. So it MUST exist.
Except. I e-mailed the LOC to check on this and another book, both of which were listed as ‘on order’ in the catalog. Neither book is there. The other I found at Better World Books and let’s just say I’m treating the money I paid for this book as a donation to literacy, ’cause the prose was so bad it wasn’t even laughable (kind of a new age romance with a lizard bad guy – okay, HE was laughable, but otherwise it was at the level of excruciating fanfic). About the Sova book, the helpful librarian said that both the LOC record and the Halifax library’s record are incomplete, and the book was never received by either of them. Frankly, he doesn’t think the book was ever published. And when a librarian says that, it’s time to listen.
Yet it’s weird that there’s an awful lot of information out there about a book that was never published.
I wrote to F&F but never got a response, so if Dr. Sova ever reads this, maybe she can solve the mystery.