Vintage Pulp Nov 17 2014
LAND OF 1,000 DANCES
Notice how the guy goes from an early, enthusiastic attempt to glumly watching from the sideline—that’s how it works for us too.


We’ve seen these paperback covers in different places around the internet and thought they’d make an interesting collective post showing the progression of their dance-themed covers. The first is from 1950 with art by Rudolph Belarski, the next is from an unknown who nonetheless painted a nice rear cover as well, and the last is from Harry Shaare. Macamba concerns a group of characters in Curaçao, and how one in particular struggles to deal with his biracial background as he grows to manhood. He first tries to become a witch doctor, then excels at conventional learning in university, and eventually ships off to World War II and becomes a hero. Returning home, he has many romances and seeks to find his place in the world. You may wonder if there’s any actual dancing in the book, and indeed there is—the main character watches a performance of the tamboe or tambú, a native dance and music that the Dutch colonizers of Curaçao had made illegal.  

Lilla Van Saher captures certain aspects of indigenous culture in Curaçao, even sprinkling the dialogue with some Papiamento, but the book is not derived directly from her personal experiences. She was born Lilla Alexander in Budapest, lived an upper class life, modeled, acted in French fims, married a Dutch lawyer named August Edward Van Saher, and through him was introduced to Dutch culture and its island possessions. During her first trip to Curaçao she claims to have been imprisoned by natives in a church because they thought she was a local saint.

In private life, she was a close friend of Tennessee Williams, traveling with him aboard the S.S. Queen Federica in the early 1950s, entertaining him in New York City, and accompanying him during a press junket of Sweden, acting almost as an agent and introducing him to the upper crust of Stockholm, where she was well known. During this time she was Lilla van Saher-Riwkin, and often appears by that name in biographies of Williams as part of his retinue of admirers and associates, though not always in a flattering light. Later she did what many globetrotting dilletantes do—published a cookbook. Hers was called Exotic Cooking, which is as good a description of Macamba as we can imagine.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
August 24
1954—Communist Party Outlawed
In the U.S., during the height of the Red Scare, President Dwight Eisenhower signs the Communist Control Act into law. The new legislation bans the American Communist Party, and prohibits people deemed to be communists from serving as officials in labor organizations.
1968—France Explodes Nuke
France tests a two-stage nuclear weapon, codenamed Canopus, on Fangataufa, French Polynesia.
August 23
1942—Battle of Stalingrad Begins
The Battle of Stalingrad, perhaps the most pivotal event of World War II, begins. It lasts for more than six months, spread across the brutal Russian winter, and ends with two million casualties. The Russian sacrifice reduces the powerful German army to a shell of its former self, and as a result Nazi defeat in the war becomes a simple matter of time.
1979—Alexander Gudonov Defects
Russian ballet dancer and actor Alexander Borisovich Godunov defects to the U.S. The event causes an international diplomatic crisis, but Gudonov manages to win asylum. He joins the famous American Ballet Theater, where he becomes a colleague of fellow-defector Mikhail Baryshnikov, and later earns roles in such Hollywood films as Witness and Die Hard.
August 22
1950—Althea Gibson Breaks the Color Barrier
Althea Gibson becomes the first African-American woman to compete on the World Tennis Tour, and the first to earn a Grand Slam title when she wins the French Open in 1956. Later she becomes the first African-American woman to compete in the Ladies Professional Golf Association.
1952—Devil's Island Closed
Devil's Island, the penal colony located off the coast of French Guiana, is permanently closed. The prison is later made world famous by Henri Charrière's bestselling novel Papillon, and the subsequent film starring Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman.
1962—De Gaulle Survives Assassination Attempt
Jean Bastien-Thiry, a French air weaponry engineer, attempts to assassinate French President Charles de Gaulle to prevent Algerian independence. Bastien-Thiry and others attack de Gaulle's armored limousine with machine guns, but after expending hundreds of rounds, they succeed only in puncturing two tires.
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