Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Parted Lips: Lesbian Love Quotes Through the Ages

Simone Rich, Editor
Alyson Books

Parted Lips is a pleasant little book of quotations. Although of trade paperback quality, it is an unusual size (appx 4.5" X 5.75") with 187 pages worth of witty quotes from a broad range of individuals. Everyone from Sappho (circ 612-550 BCE Greek poet from the island of Lesbos) and Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz (17th Century poet) to Groucho Marx and Lucy Lawless, provides bon mots. The quotations are divided into a baker's dozen of thematic chapters such as Lovers & Relationships, Beauty, Marriage, Butch and Femme, Bisexuality, and Odds and Ends. Observations range from the Rita Mae Brown's wry, "Love is the wild card of existence." (54) to several deliciously bawdy comments from Tallulah Bankhead. Each chapter opens with a lovely black and white photograph that reflects the chapter's subject from the suggestive to the amusing.

However, Parted Lips could use a touch of lip gloss, for this reader. First there is the subtitle: Lesbian Love Quotes Through the Ages. It's not clear how some of these quotations qualify as lesbian or love quotes. For example Harper Lee's "the one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience." (179), though a favorite of this reader, doesn't clearly strike one as a love quote, unless there is some context that is not provided. Then there is the general uneven quality to the credit citations. Some citations have the author's name and the title of a published source. Others have the context of the quote, such as a response to an interview question, but no source for the interview. In some cases the author's view has actually changed over time, as with Rita Mae Brown's comment about bisexuality (90) which clearly reflects her radical days with the Furies in the 1970s. Some names have simple biographic information. Other names have none. An appendix with brief biographical information would have been nice.

The lack of an introduction by the editor to explain how she came to pull this volume together, how the quotes were chosen, and how she sorted them is probably the most annoying omission. The back of the book states that Rich has been collecting lesbian quotes and trivia for some 15 years. Finally there is no index to the individuals quoted. Since several persons are cited more than once, an index would have been a simple, yet helpful addition. All in all, Parted Lips is a fun little volume and could make a nice gift book, although it is a tad expensive for its weaknesses.
-MJ Lowe