Read Spring Fire by Vin Packer Online


Her silky black hair. Her low-cut gown. Her sparkling sorority pin. It's autumn rush in the Tri Epsilon house, and the new pledge, Susan Mitchell—"Mitch" to her friends—trembles as the fastest girl on campus, the lovely Leda Taylor, crosses the room toward her for a dance. Will Leda corrupt Mitch? Or will the strong and silent Mitch draw the queen of Tri Ep into the forbidHer silky black hair. Her low-cut gown. Her sparkling sorority pin. It's autumn rush in the Tri Epsilon house, and the new pledge, Susan Mitchell—"Mitch" to her friends—trembles as the fastest girl on campus, the lovely Leda Taylor, crosses the room toward her for a dance. Will Leda corrupt Mitch? Or will the strong and silent Mitch draw the queen of Tri Ep into the forbidden world of Lesbian Love?Spring Fire was the first lesbian paperback novel and sold an amazing 1.5 million copies when it first appeared in 1952. It launched an entire genre of lesbian novels, as well as the writing career of Vin Packer, one of the pseudonyms of prolific author Marijane Meaker, whose acclaimed memoir, Highsmith: A Romance of the 1950s, told the story of her own forbidden love. Now available after forty years out of print, Spring Fire is both a vital part of lesbian history and a steamy page-turner....

Title : Spring Fire
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781573441872
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 160 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Spring Fire Reviews

  • KV Taylor
    2019-05-03 12:00

    Don't let the rating fool you: I think this is a great read for anyone interested in LGBTQ issues, history, and lit. It's particularly insightful when it comes to the lives of queer women in the collegiate setting, on old school sororities and fraternities, and biases and prejudices both within and without the queer community. The particularly difficult bits were the ones dealing with campus rape culture (which is at least coming to light these days, though, yeah, still a huge thing...) and the twisted perspective that held homosexuality as a disease of the mind. But no one goes into these lesbian pulp novels expecting rainbows and glittery unicorns. Can't have a happy ending--as was the rule back in the day, per the publishers.While it's worth a read for history's sake and the writing does have moments of excellence, the plot is an absolute mess. It doubles back on itself, repeats its own points, and though the conflicts do raise in terms of tension and importance in a vague way, the whole thing falls apart instead of going anywhere in particular. That'd be all right if the character arcs... existed. Mitch and Leda both reach their apex of character development (which isn't saying much) in the middle, but thanks to editorial/publisher directive, Packer was forced to completely undo any progress they'd made.So a difficult read, but an okay one, and interesting for sure.

  • Alex
    2019-05-18 16:14

    In 1952 author Marijane Meaker, using the pen name Vin Packer presumably because she won the "Invent a gay male porn star name" contest, wrote what's credited as the first lesbian pulp fiction novel. That's a very specific thing to be first at, but there are a lot of books so okay. She and her publisher had to be careful: to escape censors, everyone had to end up (view spoiler)[either straight or institutionalized.(hide spoiler)]Meaker was unhappy with the book partly because of that ending - which she wrote so tepidly that no one could have failed to read between the lines - and partly because she was young and the book is fairly awkward. Which is partly the fault of the '50s, honestly; everyone was such dorks back then. The action is set (of course) in a sorority house full of terrible repressed young women who sing to each other a lot and dream of being "pinned" by hulking fraternity brothers. The brothers sing a lot too, wanna hear a song?We are the great big, wow!Hairy-chested men, wow! Hairy-chested men!See what I mean? Dorks. (All the songs, in Meaker's hands, develop a menacing tone; that's a nice trick.)Dangerous dorks. I read this under the misapprehension that it was noir; it is not noir, but very bad things happen. (view spoiler)[Mitch's sisters passively arrange for her rape as punishment for her nonconformity. This is nightmarish, obviously, but I don't find it particularly unbelievable. (hide spoiler)] And there is a femme fatale of sorts. (view spoiler)[Poor weak Leda, who sacrifices Mitch to save her own social image, is a pitiful and believable betrayer. (hide spoiler)]The story has its roots in Meaker's life, as I learned from her penetrating and self-deprecating introduction. She explored her sexuality at boarding school; (view spoiler)[a girlfriend's mother found a letter she'd written; she was punished. (hide spoiler)] It was dangerous to not conform in the 50s, and particularly dangerous to be gay. And sororities and fraternities are still extremely dangerous places.Meaker somewhat reluctantly agreed to let Spring Fire be republished ten years ago, and I'm glad she did. It feels like an honest document: these are the feelings that gay people had to wrestle with in the '50s, and the dangers they faced. (Obviously I don't know for sure - but Meaker does, that's the point of books.) It sold 1.5 million copies when it came out, a surprise smash hit; Meaker talks about the fan mail they got from lesbians across the country who recognized their own experiences. They're all doddering old people now, and I bet they were psyched to see this back in print. I'm psyched I got to read it, too. I'm not sure I'd go so far as to say it's important, but it's interesting. I like it.

  • John
    2019-05-21 11:17

    Susan "Mitch" Mitchell goes to university and, despite her gauche ways, is accepted into the snooty Tri Epsilon sorority bevcause her daddy's rich. There she rooms with campus belle Leda Taylor, who one night seduces her -- even though Leda refuses to admit she's a lesbian and stubbornly maintains a guise of bisexuality by continuing to sleep gleelessly with her ghastly frat boyfriend Jake. The two girls succeed in keeping their affair secret for some while, but when they're finally caught in flagrante Leda lies through her pretty little teeth to put all of the blame on Mitch. Luckily the wise old College Dean suspects this may not be the whole truth . . .I became interested in Packer's work because of her pulp crime fiction, so thought I'd give this a try. Despite the horrendous cop-out at the end -- forced (and probably wisely, in that era) on Packer by her editor -- I found the lesbian-novel aspects of the book to be a bit pulpish but nonetheless quite interesting: its elements are, after all, those of many other romance novels, whatever the gender of the participants. On the other hand, I found the descriptions of sorority life in all its infantility, spitefulness and cliquishness so revolting that I almost abandoned the book on occasion; even rape is something to be glossed over if it might embarrass the sorority or harm its relationship with a powerful fraternity. (Toward the end I discovered that Packer's views on sororities were the same as mine, that she'd intended to revolt us!)Packer manages to slip in the occasional subversive line that her editor may not have noticed. For example: "And Travis King had false teeth, which only made her more beautiful and which she talked about, often, in mixed company."Thankfully we've moved on a bit since those days -- or, at least, most of us have -- and at least in developed countries people are generally (though to our shame far from always) able to be open about their sexuality. That said, as an item of historical interest, Spring Fire is certainly well worth reading -- and, as it's fairly short by today's standards, doing so doesn't take too long.

  • Lark Benobi
    2019-05-16 14:02

    At first I enjoyed the ridiculousness of the prose ( little Leda grew fast and fully and richly. She had long black hair that shone like new coal, round green eyes, a stubborn tilt to her chin, proud pear-shaped breasts that pointed through her size 36 sweater, and long graceful legs.) but soon I just felt abused by the many scenes of women getting date raped with the approval of their sorority sisters. Nothing happens to the rapists, but a woman who confesses to the crime of lesbian feelings gets institutionalized. Ok. I was looking for campy fun, along with a sociologically interesting study of early lesbian fiction, but I discovered that I wasn't up for the grotesque misogyny I found here along with the campy fun and sociologically interesting bits. It's a good measure of the progress our culture has made, though, since the novel was written.

  • Nick Guzan
    2019-04-27 15:04

    More historically significant than it is a satisfying story, though author Marijane Meaker ("Vin Packer" herself) unapologetically explains the censorship forces at work in the book's stirring introduction that was added much later: "We did what we had to do, informed by the times."Spring Fire (not her intended title either!) does indeed make for interesting reading as Meaker deftly recreates the world of a typical 1950s co-ed college campus. The censorship-dictated ending is an obvious disappointment, but at least Patricia Highsmith's masterful The Price of Salt exists for a more satisfying story and conclusion.

  • Wendy Rouse
    2019-05-21 10:01

    Spring Fire by Vin Packer (Marijane Meaker) is considered the original lesbian pulp novel. Meaker's work reveals the cultural anxiety and curiosity about lesbianism in 1950s-era United States. The story follows Susan "Mitch" Mitchell as she begins her freshman year at Cranston University and joins a sorority. She quickly becomes infatuated with the sorority queen, Leda, who likewise falls head-over-heels for Mitch. Reader beware though. Consider the historic context of the era in which it was written - this story has no happily-ever-after, fairy tale ending.

  • Hex
    2019-05-23 11:19

    This was a book I originally read as an assignment for my Queer Lit class in college. This book is a milestone as the first lesbian "pulp" novel ever written. It was published in 1952, and the earmarks of the period are all over it, especially in the ending that was forced into it. Spring Fire was published under the name Vin Packer, a pseudonym for Marijane Meaker. The story is somewhat based on an experience that she had in boarding school, where she originally wanted it set, like many of the stories we read or see in movies nowadays. However, here is where the executive meddling started. They demanded the story be moved to college, as boarding school would make the girls seem too young. Thus, it was moved to a sorority. The original title "Sorority Girl" was pre-empted in an attempt at confusion marketing, hoping that people that wanted to buy "The Fires of Spring" might buy "Spring Fire" instead.The story is somewhat familiar to those of us who read a lot of LGBT literature. Mitch is a tomboyish girl who gets into the exclusive Tri Epsilon Sorority at a fictional university through a legacy and promises of alumni gifts. She is drawn to the beautiful, fiercely independent and wild Leda Taylor. They become roommates and Leda draws her into double-dating, which goes horribly, and leads to the sorority being blackballed.Giving into peer pressure, Mitch agrees to go to a fraternity party, where she is raped by the fraternity president. Leda finds her in shock and calms her down by confessing her love for her. The two begin a secret, passionate relationship, despite publicly dating boys. Leda pushes how they must follow men and how they must keep themselves secret, even turning from ignoring to affectionate depending on who if anyone is present (most notably her mother.)And again, we see where the executive meddling changed everything. Here, the writing tenor changes, like the ending was pasted on. In 1952, the ending had to be changed because the post office wouldn't send anything that made homosexuality seem "normal" "healthy" or "good." So, this happens:Mitch tries to sleep with the boy she's dating, but he can't perform, and Mitch blames herself. She tries to leave the sorority, convinced that Leda is somehow affecting her, or infecting her, but Leda tries to seduce her again. They're caught by the sorority. Leda turns on Mitch and reads a love letter aloud, trying to convince them that Mitch attacked her. Mitch is interrogated by the college, and guilty, Leda falls into a drunken depression. Leda crashed on the way to her interrogation, and is found calling out for Mitch in a drunken, injured, delirious state, and is sent to a hospital. Mitch visits Leda once, leaving her former lover a sobbing mess in a complete breakdown, before heading back to the sorority, where she starts new friendships, realising she never loved Leda at all, and that Leda was mentally ill. It's a good read for the historical view of how things have changed and how much acceptance the LGBT people have today, even if there is much yet to do.

  • Amy Rae
    2019-05-03 17:11

    This is a weird one to rate. As the first lesbian pulp ever written its story is obviously shackled to the mores and expectations of the times. Homosexuality is painted as a sick obsession that (view spoiler)[lands a character in an asylum (hide spoiler)], and the book literally ends with the words (view spoiler)[she had never really loved her (hide spoiler)].But this isn't really a book that you run across by chance, and if you have a modern edition, you have Vin Packer's foreword, which sets up the historical context in clear, concise terms. You don't need me to tell you that a book about lesbians written in 1951 is dated as hell. The book is over sixty years old, for fuck's sake.Setting aside the incredible cultural baggage, both negative and positive--again, Packer's foreword gives a good idea of how Spring Fire's popularity was something important--this is a fun pulp piece. My pulp tastes run more towards the scifi/fantasy end of things, and specifically to my buddies C.L. Moore and Henry Kuttner, but I can definitely appreciate this one. While the prose isn't exactly amazing, I've read worse (I love Kuttner, but some of his stories have been forgotten to time for understandable reasons), and I found myself drawn into the characters' lives enough that I finished it in a day. (That it was short also helped.)Packer was working within clearly defined limits, and if she had defied them, the book would never have been published. She still manages to get some sweet scenes into the book before (view spoiler)[breaking Mitch and Leda up, putting Leda into a car crash and then an asylum, and having Mitch convince herself none of it meant anything (hide spoiler)], and it's not hard to see how queer audiences of the time could read selectively for the book's truth.I read this book for a few reasons: One, because I'd just read another book by the same author (I Stay Near You: One Story in Three) and wanted to explore more of her range. Two, because I love culturally important books, and it's not every day a novel launches an entire subgenre. Three, pulp appeals to me, though I find pulp novels about manly men doing manly men things boring. I enjoyed myself thoroughly. I'm giving it a middle-of-the-road score, however, because it feels weird to rate it higher or lower. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  • Pamela
    2019-05-23 16:13

    Good lord, what a read. I can see how this book would have been disturbing on many levels when it was released in 1952, because it still carries quite an impact. College freshman Susan "Mitch" Mitchell falls in love with her sorority roommate, the promiscuous Leda Taylor, who uses sex to distract her from her pain. Mitch is sheltered and naive, but smart enough to know when she's being taken advantage of by a fraternity president, and astute enough to realize she's in love with Leda. For all her worldly ways, Leda can't defog herself long enough to know what she wants from her boyfriend (which is to be rid of him), or from Mitch when Leda realizes she's falling in love with her as well.There are some passionate and frightening scenes that still carry quite a bit of power, even to a modern reader. Vin Packer did an admirable job addressing conformity and the expectations of an impossibly perfectionist society in her novel. This version has an introduction written by Packer in 2004 where she explains that she resisted re-issuing this book because she was embarrassed about the ending. Indeed, the ending is so abrupt and unexpected, and unlike the previous entirety of the book, that I liken it to the reader being almost able to see the staples and Scotch tape over where the real ending was supposed to go. However, it's important to note that Packer's editor instructed her to make the resolution unhappy or the US postal service would send the books back to the publisher. This book will push and hurt you, but don't put it down, and don't dismiss it. It's worth your attention. If you're sharp enough, you can learn from the characters and their trials. One of the most disturbing aspects of the book may be realizing how much of Packer's world in 1952 isn't too different from ours.

  • Mel
    2019-05-03 14:08

    Originaly published in 1951 and captioned as the first lesbian pulp. The introduction of this book by the author comes out as an apology. In it she quotes a conversation she has with her publisher about how she wants to write a story about her experiences at boarding school, he tells her she can write the book as long as it's set in college, not school, and that it's very clear in everyone's minds that Lesbian is a BAD THING, and that there is no happy endings. Despite this the book still sold 1.5 million initially, much better than the estimated 400,000. The book is quite terrifying. I think I much prefer Radclyff Hall. But I think that's because 50s sorority girls might be everything I despise most. The book describes the young (butch) girl joining the sorority, they don't think much of her looks but because her dad's a millionaire they decide to let her in anyway. She quickly falls in love with the house queen, who it turns out is also gay but hides it by sleeping with her boyfriend. There are some really horrible parts to read in here, from the required date rape the pledges go through, to the attitudes towards sex, the veiled references to sexual abuse and the breakdown of the main character. All told though the writing style is not as open or as honest as Ann Brannon. I felt sorry for the characters living in that hell and I found it quite moving. I ended up feeling very sorry for the sorority queen, or anyone stuck in that lifestyle and culture. She should have moved to Greenwich and hung out with the other lesbians and the beats.

  • Caitlin
    2019-04-28 11:23

    This book gives the reader an interesting glimpse into a life that was strictly forbidden at the time of publication, and the picture painted is very fascinating and controversial. It isn't particularly well-written, and there are clearly problems with the way it ends (see the author's introduction to the book for more on that), but its value as a piece of history is high.

  • a
    2019-05-22 18:05

    As a contemporary reader this book is horrible(!!!!), but it is a fascinating snapshot of its time. The very definition of a lesbian pulp.And that last line. Oooh boy. lol.

  • Rebecca
    2019-05-02 18:12

    If you're looking for a lesbian romance because you're lonely and gay, don't read this. But, if you want a fascinating historical glimpse into attitudes towards homosexuality and fraternity/sorority culture in 1950s America, absolutely read this. It doesn't have much worth as a work of fiction, read purely on those merits it's not that interesting. But I learned so much about college life in the 1950s and honestly the book kept me engaged and I can see why it became a lesbian classic and so many latched onto it. If you're interested in LGTBQ history and lesbian history specifically, definitely check this book out.

  • carlageek
    2019-05-02 10:07

    My comprehensive study of lesbian life in the McCarthy era must obviously include the profoundly influential and popular works of Vin Packer and Ann Bannon. I'll write here about the former's Spring Fire and the latter's Odd Girl Out together, and post my comments on the pages for both books. The two are strikingly similar; Bannon has of course acknowledged her debt to Packer but even knowing that had not prepared me for the identical match of setting and characterization of the principals: the sorority house; the popular, beautiful, mercurial senior with anger issues; the innocent bumpkin of a pledge who happens to be her roommate, and in whom she sparks feelings the poor girl struggles to understand and yet cannot resist. Both authors were constricted by their times, by popular mores and more practically by federal obscenity laws, and at the same time encouraged by editors to skirt the lines drawn by these constraints as closely as possible.If only they had been encouraged to write better. Some people find these books don't age well because of their terrible endings, in which young lesbians either generally either go completely insane, or are cured by psychiatry or by the love of a good, strong man. I find the weak prose far more objectionable than any of that. To be fair, each of these was a first novel for its respective author. And dime-store pulp novels, which is what these were, were not known for their literary quality; indeed that wasn't what their audiences wanted. And yet I know for a fact that both of these authors are capable of much, much better. These books would have had a very different history had they been written with a more literary approach. But I cannot begrudge them the history they did have, which is remarkable. And I cannot begrudge the millions of readers who were touched by them, and who might never had read them if they had been written with more literary craft. They are what they are, and they are interesting in their own right for that.

  • Michelle
    2019-05-11 10:17

    A vividly written novel, though rather badly afflicted by the curses of 1950s lesbian pulps: one lesbian is revealed to be not a lesbian at all, and the "real" lesbian ends up in a mental institution. Set in a Midwestern sorority; Leda, the femme seductress, confuses and entices Mitch, the gender-ambivalent innocent. There are some sweet moments between them before the obligatory tragic ending. I should also warn that there's also a great deal of sexual violence and abuse (including a fairly graphic rape) and a non-graphic implied suicide. I ended up feeling rather sorry for everyone involved.

  • Kat
    2019-04-25 18:00

    I have mixed feelings on the stars for this-- I mean, the writing is crap and the ending is a horrible, conservative cop-out. That said, it's one of the first lesbian pulp-fiction novels of the 1950s; these novels gave voice to many closeted lesbian writers of the time. This book tells the story of a girl pledging a sorority, and the diabolical (cough) upperclass woman who woos her. Don't worry, the girl realized she's straight after all, and the evil temptress gets in a car accident, goes crazy, and is institutionalized. Uhhhhh... Yeah.

  • Nicol
    2019-05-20 12:11

    This is my first lesbian pulp fiction, and honestly i was not sure i would like it because i knew that tragedy would have to strike, but I did enjoy it and at least with this story line felt room to imagine a happier sequel - in which Leda finds a new girl in the asylum, they leave and live as "roommates," Mitch and Robin, even though married, are together. - it has to be realistic for the time right? For what it is, pulp fiction, i enjoyed, even with the less than perfect ending and the no way believable end that Mitch is straight.

  • Kyle
    2019-05-02 11:24

    Classic lesbian pulp novel originally published in 1952. I got a recent reprint by Cleis Press, 2004. Rich glamorous, sophisticated Leda and tall, athletic, awkward Mitch are sorority girls and room-mates. They have an affair in which both experience conflicted emotions about being lesbians and date men all the while. Ends tragically as the publishers would not have published it otherwise. Still a pretty cool read.

  • Ellie
    2019-04-23 16:04

    I was actually surprised at how erotic this was. I liked it! Ignoring the end of course, which is good for a laugh I suppose. Of course Mitch hadn't loved Leda the entire time! That's why they had erotic passionate sex that was a million times steamier than any description of any of the guys. Of course Mitch had just been duped, that's why she'd always only had crushes on girls. Of course!

  • Courtney Stirrat
    2019-04-28 13:18

    I understand why, in order to even get these published, they had to end as they did. But I am seriously considering putting out a reward for one happy ending. Or at least one book in which everything didn't end so badly! I know, its a fairy tale, but still!!

  • Bogdina
    2019-04-25 16:15

    The writing isn't great but it's kind of fun. A good one to pick up if you're interested in reading the genre (lesbian pulp novels).

  • Sarahabest
    2019-05-18 17:10

    Not the greatest...disappointed in the ending

  • Bridget
    2019-04-23 17:08

    Another quick-read/guilty pleasure/indulgence of my fascination with the past. There's a spoiler in the intro- read it after you've finished.

  • Shannon
    2019-05-20 10:05

    I met this man named Kurt in the street who does a seminar at the Y on lesbian pulp fiction. So I started reading some. This one ended badly and I don't recommend it to anyone.

  • Victor Whitman
    2019-05-20 14:20

    This is one of the first lesbian pulp paperbacks. While I have to credit the author for being a pioneer it is horribly dated.

  • Danielle
    2019-05-13 16:06

    You can tell that the ending is forced, and doesn't fit with the rest of the story. It's interesting to read in context, knowing that she had to create this ending to get passed the censors.

  • Bookend McGee
    2019-04-29 11:58

    Can't get over how depressing and backward the 50s were... don't know whether to give this one star or 4/5.

  • Elizabeth
    2019-05-12 17:02

    you know that song by the Bee Gees, "Tragedy"? This book is kind of like that.

  • AJ
    2019-04-28 14:14

    It's too bad that, in order to get a book published about lesbians in the '50s, they had to end this way.