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Bannon, Ann (b. 1932)  

Along with Valerie Taylor and Paula Christian, Ann Thayer, who adopted the pseudonym Ann Bannon, wrote lesbian pulp novels in the late 1950s and early 1960s. When first published, Bannon's five novels, which form an interlinked series, achieved considerable popularity; they were even translated into other languages. Their appeal lies in their plausible descriptions of lesbian life in New York City; as critic Diane Hamer comments, Bannon's novels "read like a travelogue or tourist guide of Greenwich Village and its homosexual bars."

It was Thayer's own liminal position, existing between the heterosexual and homosexual communities, that made her such a perceptive commentator about the difficulties of pursuing a lesbian lifestyle in the 1950s.

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Thayer began to lead a double life at an early age. She was conventionally married yet slipped away on the weekends to experience the gay night life of Greenwich Village. Valuing her privacy and not wishing to be connected with lesbian pulps, she dropped from sight after her books were published. Only in 1980, when her books were republished by Naiad Press, did she acknowledge authorship.

Although written last, Beebo Brinker (1962), is actually the first novel in Bannon's sequence, chronologically. The novel introduces young Beebo, fresh from the Midwest, who comes out as a lesbian in the Greenwich Village gay culture. Beebo, the stereotypical butch, is a central figure in Bannon's other novels, as well. Apart from its depiction of Beebo, this novel is also notable for its accurate account of the social pressures that confronted lesbians in this period.

Odd Girl Out (1957) centers on the growth of a lesbian relationship between two college students. Shy, sheltered Laura is at first horrified to discover her feelings toward Beth since she assumes that lesbians are "great strong creatures in slacks with brush cuts and deep voices." Here, Bannon uses her fiction to explode lesbian stereotypes.

By the end of the story, Laura accepts her lesbianism, but Beth flees into the safety of marriage to a man. Such a conclusion seems at first glance to endorse the benefits of heterosexual marriage, but for Bannon, denying one's lesbianism can lead only to dissatisfaction, and the marriage fails.

I Am a Woman (1959) revolves around Laura's attempt to establish her lesbian identity and find love after she has left college. Bannon is particularly good at portraying how Laura manages to move from a heterosexual environment, such as the office where she works, to the lesbian bars where she meets Beebo. Despite the novel's rather pat conclusion--the two women kiss and declare their love--I Am a Woman provides a sensitive study of the Greenwich Village homosexual community of the late 1950s.

The bleakest of Bannon's novels is Woman in the Shadows (1959). Beebo, now an alcoholic, antagonizes Laura and they have fights, often ending in physical confrontations. To escape her embattled relationship with Beebo, Laura has an affair, but it ends bitterly. At the book's conclusion, Laura has left Beebo and, rather implausibly, has married Jack, a gay man, and become artificially inseminated.

Journey to a Woman (1960) recounts Beth's story of fleeing her unhappy marriage in order to search for Laura. Even though Beth leaves her husband and children, Bannon portrays this not as negative, but as necessary in order for Beth to find her true identity. Although at the end of the novel, Beth has found happiness with Beebo, her new lover, other lesbians are not as fortunate. Vega, for instance, rejects her lesbianism, which drives her to insanity. In this fashion, Bannon reverses the then common assumption that lesbianism itself was a form of insanity.

As do all of her novels, Journey to a Woman criticizes how heterosexual society views homosexuality, a pertinent reason for still studying Bannon's texts. Bannon's novels, as well as other lesbian pulps, provide an important record of lesbian life in a period when few women dared speak about homosexuality.

Sherrie A. Inness

     

 
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Ann Bannon in 2002. Bannon's web site (www.annbannon.com) includes an extensive collection of historical and personal photographs.
  
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    Bibliography
   

Barale, Michele Aina. "When Jack Blinks: Si(gh)ting Gay Desire in Ann Bannon's Beebo Brinker." Feminist Studies 18.3 (Fall 1992): 533-549.

Benns, Susanna. "Sappho in Soft Cover: Notes on Lesbian Pulp." Fireworks: The Best of Fireweed. Makeda Silvera, ed. Toronto: Women's Press, 1986. 60-68.

Hamer, Diane. "'I Am a Woman': Ann Bannon and the Writing of Lesbian Identity in the 1950s." Mark Lilly, ed. Lesbian and Gay Writing: An Anthology of Critical Essays. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1990. 47-75.

Tilchen, Maida. "Ann Bannon: The Mystery Solved!" Gay Community News 8 (January 1983): 8-12.

Walters, Suzanna. "As Her Hand Crept Slowly Up Her Thigh: Ann Bannon and the Politics of Pulp." Social Text 23 (1989): 83-101.

Weir, Angela and Elizabeth Wilson. "The Greyhound Bus Station in the Evolution of Lesbian Popular Culture." Sally Munt, ed. New Lesbian Criticism: Literary and Cultural Readings. New York: Columbia University Press, 1992. 95-113.

Zimmerman, Bonnie. The Safe Sea of Women: Lesbian Fiction, 1969-1989. Boston: Beacon, 1990.

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Inness, Sherrie A.  
    Entry Title: Bannon, Ann  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated August 19, 2005  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/literature/bannon_a.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
 
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates  
 

 

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