While supervising a project to increase the lesbian fiction holdings at Barnard, I discovered this novel by Barnard professor Margaret Vandenburg. To my discredit, I'm kind of cloistered in the library and don't know much about what goes on on campus, but since Teresa Lee (LIS student whose project the lesbian fiction collection is) determined that the book has circulated sixteen times in the last six years, I guess there are plenty of people who know about Dr. Vandenburg's work.
Published by noted lesbian publisher Cleis Press, the novel takes place in 1920s Paris. The protagonist, a young sapphist (her word) from Utah Henrietta—a name which is immediately shortened to Henri by none other than Gertrude Stein, goes to Paris to write about art for a journal and to get some.
In addition to being a good story with a compelling voice and the audacity to include characters like Ms. Stein and also her pals Toklas, Picasso, Hemingway, Barnes, and the rest of the Paris avant-garde, I was taken with how well Vandenburg described the art and used it as subtext. For example, early in the novel,
I scanned the gallery, but she was nowhere to be found. Despite my impatience to meet my first Parisian sapphist, my attention was repeatedly diverted by the cacophony of art surrounding me. There were more modern masterpieces crowding the walls than I had seen since my last visit to Paris some five years before. Already, I noticed a change. They were less angular, less angry, as if the hostility of the War years was finally starting to wear off. They were more random, more dizzying, and maybe even insane.
There was no sign of Prohibition in Parisian art. It looked drunk. p.13
Another favorite scene is James Joyce reading a misogynist passage from Ulysses in a roomful of sapphists, while there's a whole bunch of other drama going on anyway. (pp.195-202)
Irrelevant to the quality of the writing, I was also touched by the fact that the copy seemed to be numbered. 4945 is stamped on page 218, for a ziney embellishment.