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6 Burlesque Books

As you might know, one of my passions is Burlesque as performing arts (I run Cabaresque) and thus I invested in a few books on Burlesque, to learn more on the subject. (Find more performing arts and burlesque books on the blog right here>>)

Here is my Burlesque book haul #1 !

Have you read any of the books on this list? Let me know what you thought about them in the comments!

6 Books on.jpg

  1. “The Best Burlesque Sketches – as adapted for Sugar Babies and other Entertainments” by Ralph Allen

“Here is the first-ever collection of classic comic sketches from the bawdy, rowdy world of our slum music halls. Habitués of Burlesque (and sons of habitués) will revel in boisterous stock scenes and blackouts of this uniquely American form of popular entertainment.” – from the back cover of the book.

This is a book primarily about the comedic sketches and traditions of the earliest Burlesque revues in the English-speaking world. It includes both historic anecdotes, slang and stage terms as well as manuscripts from sketches used in or intended for productions. I found it in the Columbia University bookshop in New York City. First printed in 1995.

Read my review of it here >>

  1. “The Happy Stripper – Pleasures and Politics of the New Burlesque” by Jacki Willson

“Eloquent on prettiness and power, desire and ‘knowingness’, money, sex and class, Willson draws on her extensive knowledge of burlesque’s rich tradition and of women’s performance art to argue for the subversive thrust of the burlesque ‘stance’. Provocative and passionately written, The Happy Stripper dares to tackle long overdue questions about women’s erotic expression within a ‘postfeminist’ condition.” – from the back cover of the book.

This is definitely one of the more academic books in this haul, and I’ve encountered several terms, personas and events that I wasn’t really familiar with before opening the book – but it poses some interesting questions and I don’t mind having to research my way through some of it, although it’s not exactly what I’d consider a light read.

  1. “Behind the Burly Q – The Story of Burlesque in America” by Leslie Zemeckis

“From the director of the hit documentary Behind The Burly Q comes the first ever oral history of American Burlesque – as told by the performers who lived it, often speaking out for the first time. Burlesque was one of America’s most popular forms of live entertainment in the first half of the twentieth century. Gaudy, bawdy, and spectacular, these shows entertained thousands of paying customers every night of the week. And yet the legacy of burlesque is often vilified, misunderstood, and left out of the history books.” – from the back cover of the book.

This book seems like a documentarist, interview based look into the lives of the Burlesque performers and producers and thus more subjective than history books, and with a greater focus on the people behind the stage and what they went through.

  1. “Burlesque – A Living History” by Jane Briggerman

“Join the journey; discover burlesque when it was part of a larger theatrical world filled with dance, comedy, and live music. Burlesque: A living History, captures the spirit of this unique art form through hundreds of photographs and stories from many who were a part of America’s most colorful past.” – from the back cover of the book.

This is like a who’s who in Burlesque in the past and it includes different kinds of historic material, photos, scripts, interviews and more, and thus seems like a vivid and inclusive walkthrough of the history of American Burlesque.

  1. “Horrible Prettiness – Burlesque and American Culture” by Robert C. Allen

“Robert Allen’s compelling book examines burlesque not only as popular entertainment but also as a complex and transforming cultural phenomenon. When Lydia Thompson and her controversial female troupe of “British Blondes” brought modern burlesque to the United States in 1868, the result was electric. Their impertinent humor, streetwise manner, and provocative parodies of masculinity brought them enormous popular success – and the condemnation of critics, cultural commentators, and even women’s rights campaigners.” – from the back cover of the book.

I’m looking forward to diving into some of the history of British/American Burlesque and the effects it had. As well as the society it evolved in at that time.

  1. “Burlesque Plays of the Eighteenth Century” edited by Simon Trussler

“Burlesque plays were written to undermine the artistic pretensions of inflated tragedy [… the plays] reflects the marvelous parodying of this form, which with its barbed allusions, refreshed frankness about sexual mores, and mock-pedantic footnotes continues to make hilarious reading today.” – from the back cover of the book.

This one I picked up from an antique bookshop in Camden Market in London as I happened to find it on the shelves. It was first published in 1969. I love the idea of Burlesque plays as a counteract to the ‘heavy’ tragedies of the time.

I haven’t read all of them yet, but when I’m through with them, I’ll make sure to post some reviews!

Is there a book missing from my shelves about Burlesque that you think I should read? Hit me up in the comment section below!

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