Warped Woman (aka Wilma’s Wants and Taboo Thrills)

I don’t have a scan of the cover yet, as the copy I have is pretty beaten up, but the cover is simple: all black, with a white-grey photo of a naked woman lying down and hugging a big stuffed rabbit.

What the fark?  My first thought was: is this some sort of furry fetish tale (tail?) perhaps on par with Hitt’s Panda Bear Passion?

Hitt - panda

Hitt - Taboo ThrillsI was in for a surprise, and Warped Woman (also published as Wilma’s Wants and Taboo Thrills — all hard to find it seems) has definitely converted me into a Hitt Man, hence this off-shoot blog from that other one.

Novel Books gave Hitt freedom that his other publishers, such as Beacon, Midwood, and Kozy, would not allow — for those publishers, skating the edge of obscenity laws, moral tales, and happy endings were usually called for.  Not always, but they were straight plot and entertainment, no politics or veering off from the story.

Not so with Warped Woman; usually through dialogue (arguments wth the narrator’s girlfriend), Hitt pontificates on his soap box about censorship, freedom, and social society.  Hitt is a Libertarian: “I don’t care what you do as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone.”  His general view is, why do people complain about “offensive” things, like books and films?  if they’re offended, they don’t have to read or watch the matter. That is what Harlan Ellison always told readers who were offended or did not like his work: “Well, don’t read it then.”  But people will read and watch anyway, so they can complain, attack, decry, and defend their stance on censorship, which comes in many forms.

The narrator is “Chet Long,” a man in his mid-30s, lives in a small upper NY state town, and writes pulp sleaze novels for a living.  He has written around 100, some under his name, some under a pen name, like his lesbian novels.

This is obviously autobiographical in some ways, with  fundamental differences: Chet is single, 6’2″, and sleeps around, although he has a main girlfriend, Wilma, who is a prude.  Orrie Hitt was married with kids, 5’5″, and probably had an active sex life only in his imagination.  Later I may talk about the psychology of why a short man’s heroes are always over six feet tall womanziers. Is Chet Long Hitt’s alter ego the way Henry Chinaski is to Charles Bukowski, or Joey Bandini is to John Fante, or Jacques Deluze was to Jack Kerouac?  Speaking as a writer who has used some alter egos in my novels (Nicky Bayless in The Comfor of Women [Blue Moon, 2001] and its reprint, Comfort & Motion [Olympia, 2009], Jonathan Morey in Drama [Blue Moon, 2003]) I can say we like to cast our ideal selves into fiction; in the novel, the girl who said no says yes; in the novel, the fellow you can’t stand gets his justice…

comfort of women

Here is Chet, whose life mirrors Hitt’s in this way: he started publishing articles in outdoors magazines when he was a teenager; his high school English teacher did not think he could be a publihsed writer; he wrote his first books in a rooming house, poor; he lives in a nice apartment now that he makes money from his potboilers.

But Chet does not see his work as sleaze or cheap literature, although packaged as such; he sees his work as serious American literature and sociological studies on people who live deviant lifestyles: whether they are carny girls, nudists, call girls, pornographers, juvenile hoods…and now, peeping toms.

Chet is writing a peeping tom novel and is basing it on “research” he has done on the town’s nincompoop, Claude, the son of the woman who runs the boarding house (a 40-year-old lush whom Chet used to sleep with).  When Claude starts to focus his interest on Wilma, Chet starts to worry, thinking Claude will go beyond a mere festish of looking through women’s windows.

Why Chet is with Wilma is unclear, even to him — he loves her, but she hates what he writes.  She works for the town community paper, writing fluff on rotoary club meetings.  She is trying to force him to stop writing sleaze novels at one a month and sit down for two years and write a serious historical novel, or some kind of high brow “literary” novel that will make him a man of words, not a man whose tawdry novels are bought in the dug stores and newsstands.  Her father, who owns a bowling pin manufacturing plant, wants him to come work for him, with the idea he will marry Wilma and take over the family biz.  Chet won’t have it — he will not sacrifice his freedom or art, and he speechifies long on it: a corporate job would kill his art, he makes good money on the sleaze books, he does’t know if he wants to marry Wilma.

Wilma is on a tirade to have a planned parenthood educational film banned from the schools, claiming it is “filth.”  She is on a mission to “clean up” the town of all offensive things, incluing her boyfriend’s novels.

Wilma won’t have sex with Chet either; but one day when she gives in, he finds out she’s not a virgin and she is ashamed of her one sex act, in high school, that has left her the prude she now is.

Chet gets plenty of ass, though.  The novel opens with him waking up with a massive hangover and a big-boobed blonde in his bed (sounds like Bukowski may have borrowed from Hitt).  She’s new in town, a waitress at the place Chet drank too much and she drove him home and had sex with. He does’tb remember the sex but she assures him he was good.  She asks to read some of his books and she’s blown away: she sees herself, in all the loose women, in the books.  She winds up moving in with him, unknown to Wilma.

Chet has also been keeping time with a married woman down the hall; when her husband is gone of business trips and she has the need, Chet has the need too — it’s a good arrangement.

Wilma’s rich father decides to buy the newspaper and put Wilma in charge. She immediately uses it as a bully pulpit to call for censorship and social control for what is “clean and right.”  She even arranges for a book burning of all the dirty mags and sleaze books — including the burning of Chet’s novels.  She tells Chet: “Novels such as yours should be censored” (p. 117); when he asks her how she’d like it if the government exerted consorship on her newspaper, she has no answer and deflects it: “That’s not the same.”

Warped Woman is both an American novel and an American political treatise; at the back is a note from Hitt, who writes: “Here, for the first time, I have told the raw, real truth about the motivations and sexual perversions of bthe very people who regard sex as evil, those who advocate censorship!”  Wilma is this person, she is the warped woman: at the heart of her disgust of anything dealing with sex, it is due to a bad personal experience, but also inner desires that she is ashamed of.

It’s not that much different from the “tough guys” who beat up gay men, because they have homosexual feelings and fear those feelings, so they physically attack those who exhibit such feelings to the world — by destroying those who accept such desires, perhaps the dark desires within will go away…

Little has changed in depraved human nature from 1962 ro 2009, eh?  Also: Wlma wants an educational film on breast cancer banned because it shows naked boobs of women showing how to do self-examinations…

Think of anything similar going on in this country the past 5-10 years?

Warped Woman and its other titles is a remarkable book and highly recommended…

Anna Biller, at Ann’a Blog, read and reviewed this book in 2006.  She has some interesting insights as a woman.

Now, I feel like I need to read one of Hitt’s peeper books, and there are many — The Peeper, Peeping Tom, I Prowl at Night, Lust Prowl, Unnnatural Urge…those are what I am aware of, there may be more. This begs a question: why did Hitt write so many peeper books, all in first person?  Was he exercising a demon inside?  Are we all voyeurs, in one fashior or another?  When we watch the news or stop to watch a car crash or stop in the street when we see a woman (or man) in an open window, what does that make us?

Hitt - Lust Prowl

Hitt - prowl by night

hitt - the peeper

4 Responses to “Warped Woman (aka Wilma’s Wants and Taboo Thrills)”

  1. greaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat

    wait another

  2. J. Wellington Thorpe Says:

    Excellent review! I have more to say, but it’s late at night where I live, so I’ll try to comment more within the next few days.

    JWT

  3. […] instead of a home) when he was too drunk to function, quite similar to the opening of Hitt’s other (wonderfully great) novel, Warped […]

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