This is a Bee-Line original paperback cover from 1970 that I ultimately found impossible not to make us of on this page. I mean, really, as a book lover (and that description sounds a bit more salacious in this context than in most), how could the front from Les Tucker’s Nympho Librarian not send my blood surging?
A Los Angeles friend of mine, author Gary Phillips, recently passed Nympho Librarian’s artwork along with the slug, “Best. Cover. Ever.” It had been used to illustrate a piece in The Paris Review from earlier this year, in which contributor Avi Steinberg recounted the sordid history of library sex fantasies. He began that essay thusly:
Porn books and librarians have always had a passionate, mutually defining relationship—it was, in fact, a prudish French librarian in the early nineteenth century who coined the word pornography. So it comes as no surprise that the sexy librarian, a fixture of the pornographic imagination, is most at home in books. Each year, new titles are added to the librarian-porn bookshelf. This past season’s crop included additions like Hot for Librarian by Anastasia Carrera; Lucy the Librarian--Dewey and His Decimal by John and Shauna Michaels; The Nympho Librarian and Other Stories by Chrissie Bentley and Jenny Swallows; A Librarian’s Desire by Ava Delaney, author of the Kinky Club series; and soft-core selections like Sweet Magik by Penny Watson. The conventions of the form--the dimly lit stacks, the librarian’s mask of thick glasses and hair tied into a bun, et cetera--are, of course, well known. Unlike video porn, where these conventions are typically used as a wholesale substitute for narrative, porn books still feel the compulsion to tell a story, to make the glasses and bun mean something. I was curious just what story these new books were telling. What does our most current version of the librarian fantasy say about us? To answer this question, I visited the library.You’ll find the remainder of Steinberg’s essay here.
I haven’t been able to learn much about author Les Tucker (who penned other books such as Freak-Out Party! and Every Night, Lover). But responsibility for the steamy cover of Nympho Librarian lies with the better-recognized (Isaac) Paul Rader (1906-1986), who perpetrated a tremendous quantity of paperback artistry during the 1960s, particularly for a soft-porn publisher called Midwood. Although I haven’t yet written much about Rader, I owe his memory a more thorough going-over in the near future.
READ MORE: “Sex in the Stacks: Porn and the Librarian,” by Stephanie Brown (The Best American Poetry).