Friday, May 10, 2019

Ed Wood's ANGORA FEVER: "Never Look Back" (1973)

Ed Wood was sort of the anti-Proust.

NOTE: This article continues my coverage of Angora Fever: The Collected Short Stories of Edward D. Wood, Jr. (BearManor Bare, 2019).
An issue of Fig Leaf.

The story: "Never Look Back," originally published in Fig Leaf, vol. 2, no. 1, January/February 1973. Credited to "Ann Gora."

Synopsis: Terry, 17, is the most popular girl at her high school, thanks to her good looks and her habit of going to motels with different boys. As she lies in bed, Terry thinks back over the last few years. She's been sexually active (and a smoker) since the age of 14, and her parents were very forthcoming with the facts of life. They were just insistent that she not become pregnant and that she make her boyfriends use protection. Other than that, she was encouraged to have fun while she was still young. Robbie, her latest boyfriend, is the first she's allowed to make love to her without a rubber. They're both concerned about Terry becoming pregnant, but Robbie has some other pertinent medical information that he's keeping from our heroine.

Wood trademarks:
  • Title beginning with "Never" (cf. "Never a Stupid Reflection," "Never Fall Backwards")
  • randomly CAPITALIZING words (cf. "Witches of Amau Ra," "Captain Fellatio Hornblower," "Unfriendly Persuasion," "The Exterminator")
  • phrase "between her legs" (cf. "Invasion of the Sleeping Flesh," "Never Up - Never In," "Tears on Her Pillow," plus Eddie uses "between your legs" in "Howl of the Werewolf" and "Mice on a Cold Cellar Floor")
  • pink angora sweater (cf. "Try, Try Again," "Where Did Charlie Get on the Train")
  • motel (cf. "The Fright Wigs," "Cease to Exist")
  • fear of pregnancy (cf. "Taking Off")
  • sexually-transmitted diseases (cf. "The Whorehouse Horror," "Mice on a Cold Cellar Floor")
  • post-coital conversation (cf. "The Hazards of the Game")
  • missionary position (cf. "The Exterminator," where it is again italicized)
  • creeps (one of Eddie's favorite words, cf. "Gore in the Alley," "Bums Rush Terror," "Blood Drains Easily," "So Soon to be an Angel," "Mice on a Cold Cellar Floor," The Devil Collects His Dues," "Dial-A-Vision," "Howl of the Werewolf," "Filth is the Name for a Tramp," "Closet Queen")

Excerpt: "They knew she was going to probably make it with the boys and they wanted her to have a full life. They had read all the stories about the sexual revolution, and that the girl and perhaps the guy who didn’t make out simply wasn’t with the IN CROWD. All the kids wanted to be with the IN crowd, otherwise they would be what used to be called a WALLFLOWER. Nobody wanted to be a WALLFLOWER. Terry certainly could never be called a WALLFLOWER."

Reflections: Look, after reviewing 75 short stories by the same author, you begin to notice certain patterns in the way he treats his characters. A story like "Never Look Back," then, becomes something of a ticking time bomb for the knowledgeable reader of Ed Wood's fiction. When is Terry's sexually promiscuous lifestyle going to blow up in her face? You know it's coming sooner or later. When does she get her comeuppance for her sinful ways?

There is no chance that Ed Wood will let this story simply be a portrait of a young woman who has taken control of her own sexuality and experiences pleasure on her own terms. That's not how Ed operates. Early on in "Never Look Back," he expresses grave misgivings about parents supplying their teenage children with accurate information about sex. "Perhaps all that explaining," he writes, "was what turned her on to the boys so heatedly." Terry's own smug self-confidence throughout the story also reflects poorly on her. Pride goeth before a fall.

One could argue that "Never Look Back" is simply a cautionary tale about the importance of using condoms and that Ed is warning young women about the dangers of unprotected sex. But this story isn't aimed at teenage girls. They weren't buying issues of Fig Leaf in 1973. Ed Wood's readers were grown men who were invited to fantasize about a 17-year-old sexpot. Eddie even lingers on the "soft angora-like qualities of [her] golden pubic hairs." Maybe exposing Terry to VD at the end of this story was Ed's way of imposing a little old-fashioned Poughkeepsie morality on this tale of wantonness.

Next: "Those Long Winter Nights" (1972)