Readers weigh in on pulp fiction week.

What's happening in our readers' forum.
May 26 2006 8:41 PM

Paperback Writer

Readers weigh in on pulp fiction week.

Despite Slate's generous week-long tribute to pulp fiction, from Terry Castle's discovery of an erotic lesbian thriller to Christopher Benfey's discussion of Edgar Allan Poe's lasting influence, many fraysters were left seeking some basic clarity on "pulp" as a literary genre, with Jaque and PulpsGuy making their own enterprising efforts to fill in the lacunae with links to a Wikipedia entry and this reference site.


Typical was sfdoddsy's complaint:

I couldn't help noticing that in the many articles so far under the aegis of 'pulp fiction', there has been very little discussion of any actual books that most people would place under the moniker.

A James M Cain mention today, Parker yesterday, but the rest seem to be attempting to shoehorn regular lit into the pulping machine, as exemplified by the pulp covers for The Iliad and the attempt to classify Tobacco Road as pulp simply because it came out in paperback.

BronxBoy answers the call for a canon with this list, followed by some professorly commentary on pulp fiction as

…the logical conclusion to the post WW1 pessimism in novels by Farrell, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Dos Passos that were a direct result of the 1st wars shattering of any illusions that society was moving toward a more "utopian" platform.

With [Raymond] Chandler and [Dashiell] Hammett social mores and moral clarity in society are in great upheaval and distress. Into this vortex moves "Gray Knights" of justice (Marlowe; Spade; The Continental OP)...seeking not truth or enlightenment but control over a world blinded by its own misguided light of right and wrong

anyway...great stories, terrific writing and truly a part of the canon of American Literature.

Ted_Burke makes an even grander claim for "pulp fiction and its film noir offshoot" as "the nearest thing America has produced as truly self contained as Tragedy." Read his mini-treatise here. itchybrother makes his case for classifying Gustave Flaubert's Salombo as a 19th-century antecedent to pulp. lump516 thinksMadame Bovary should be included too.

Attributing the demise of pulp to what she calls the "English major syndrome," oldie asks

why is most of the cheap fiction stuff written today so stilted and boring?

Yes, for the most part, today's stuff is better edited, the sentences are more carefully worked over, but the pure joy of telling the story, of spinning the yarn, just isn't there…

My off the cuff explanation: the cookie cutter approach to good writing taught in most writing classes ruins spontaneity and fun.

Happy Memorial Day Weekend to all! My compatriot Geoff has invited anyone with relevant thoughts on this holiday to contribute them to War Stories. AC5:32pm PDT


Friday, May 26, 2006



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