By Alison Gaylin
They crop up in New York City’s public parks when the weather gets warm: clusters of bold young women, poring over volumes of crime fiction, horror, sci fi, erotica— whatever books they can get their hands on—chatting, snacking, soaking up the sun. All of them are completely naked from the waist up.
The group is known as the Outdoor Co-Ed Topless Pulp Fiction Appreciation Society. It’s just three years old, but continues to grow exponentially, in both notoriety and numbers. To date, OCTPFAS has swelled from around a dozen to 100 regular members, while its blog has racked up more than 8 million hits. They’ve received fan mail from columnist Dave Barry (who also blogged about them) and a carton of free books from the late Elmore Leonard. They’ve dined with authors Lawrence Block and Christa Faust, sparked newspaper headlines and myth-like rumors (Did Bob Dylan really paint one of their meetings in Central Park?) and have found themselves, more than once, playing the role of muse. “Authors have written about us,” says the group’s founder, an avid reader who goes by the name Alethea. “One wrote us a poem recently. It’s fun.”
It all started with Getting Off. Back in 2011, Alethea was talking to her friend, publisher Charles Ardai, about Lawrence Block’s steamy new crime novel, an upcoming release from Ardai’s company, Hard Case Crime. Getting Off was causing some in-house concern because of its cover. “Is it too much?” Ardai asked Alethea, holding up the proposed book jacket, which depicted a completely naked woman walking in on a lover, long dagger clasped behind her back. “Would you read this in public?”
It was a legitimate question for Ardai to ask a female reader. This was 2011 – the same year that Fifty Shades of Grey first leapt onto the scene and skyrocketed, largely due to the fact that, as an e-book, it lacked a cover. As numerous breathless articles pointed out, Fifty Shades could be safely read anywhere: on a commuter train, waiting for your kindergartener’s school bus, working the cashbox at a church bake sale – anywhere. And no one would be the wiser.
More in the original article at nerve.com.