Re: RARA-AVIS: Nits Picked While You Wait....

From: Juri Nummelin (
Date: 06 Jun 2000

Kevin Burton Smith wrote:

> >In Tarantino's vocabulary I understand the word as anything that is
> >trashy and violent. But that's not the original pulp fiction.
> It isn't?

Well, you caught me in the act. Of course the original pulp fiction is trashy and - of-courser! - violent, especially the shudder pulps. But in Tarantino pulp seems also to include stuff like porn novels and bad Hongkong B-movies.

> I don't know, I always thought of pulp fiction as just a certain kind
> of writing, not limited by however it was actually bound.

You're probably right, but the usage of the word seems to have gotten out of hand. "The Caine Mutiny"? Why not "Gone With the Wind"? The editors of "Pure Pulp" (Pronzini, Greenberg, Gorman) claim that anything that is popular is pulp fiction. Do they mean that if Dostoyevsky is popular, he is pulp fiction?
(Well, he has this guy kill that guy with an axe...)

> Or that a John D. MacDonald story published in Black Mask is
> pulp fiction, but one printed in Manhunt isn't?

I've never been able to say the real difference between the pulps and the digests. MacDonald - yeesh, I just couldn't get through "Where Is Janice Gantry?" Booooring! (This was off-subject.)

> I mean, you say pulp fiction, you just think of a certain type of
> writing, that bears similarities to the early pulp mags. That's all.

The paperbacks of the fifties and sixties bear similarities to the early pulp mags, so do Hammett's, MacDonald's and Chandler's novels. But I just can't imagine how "The Caine Mutiny" bears any similarity to any pulp mag. It seems like Pronzini and co. are trying to elevate pulp fiction from its lowly status, but I think that's unnecessary. (Well, I don't know how high in the literary circles "The Caine Mutiny" or "Peyton Place" are, but I believe they have been upper than John MacDonald and others.)

But, well, maybe there must a good word for all this stuff we are talking. Why couldn't it be pulp fiction? What happened to hardboiled? There is so much pulp stuff that isn't hardboiled in any sense.


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