Camp: The Lie That Tells the Truth by Philip Core

 “They repelled them, not with knuckle dusters or karate chops but with hand-bags.”

As the preface to Camp: The Lie that Tells The Truth explains, this book is a “Who’s Who and a What’s What” of Camp. The section “Camp Rules” is followed by a splendid introduction and explanation of Camp by author Philip Core. The substantive section of the book takes an encyclopedic approach to the subject. Entries range from personalities–famous, infamous, and long forgotten, to films, and even patterns (Zebra print is the Camp “battle flag”). It’s easy for any lover of Camp (me) to go through these pages and discover hideous omissions–in my case, I’m devastated by the absence of director John Waters. While JW’s muse–Divine–claims an entry, JW–the maniacal genius behind many camp films–is missing. Since director Doris Fishman is also absent, I can only conclude that the book’s emphasis in on Camp cultural icons–rather than Camp films. So if you’re looking for a definitive book on Camp film, this is not it.

While some of the entries are notorious amongst Camp lovers (Danny La Rue, Dame Edna Everage), many of the entries here offer new horizons of exploration (the obscure Dancing Marquess of Anglesey, for example). There’s a generous bibliography to guide Camp addicts for further reading, and gorgeous black and white photographs are scattered throughout the text. If you’re a Camp lover like me, this book is well worth adding to your shelf, and the author’s witty tongue in cheek style make every entry a pleasure to read.

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