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

From: Juri Nummelin ( jurnum@utu.fi)
Date: 07 Jun 2000

Kevin Burton Smith wrote:

> >But in Tarantino
> >pulp seems also to include stuff like porn novels and bad Hongkong B-movies.
> Does he? I know they've influenced him, but has he actually said
> they're pulp fiction?

I don't know if he has said exactly that but they show through.

> Is PURE PULP a new collection, or one I missed?

It was edited by Gorman, Greenberg and Pronzini and published by Carroll & Graf at the end of 1999. There are 25 stories, from such writers as Evan Hunter, Fredric Brown, Algis Budrys and Block - practically from anyone who is someone. Included also is Peter Rabe's "The Box", the whole novel. I haven't yet had time to read the mammoth of a book, but I will soon! I believe the book was sold out pretty quickly, but a friend of mine was able to purchase a copy via Abebooks.

> What do they
> actually say? Without hearing their actual argument, and possible
> justifications, it's hard to really argue their conclusions.

"The Maltese Falcon, The Ox-Bow Incident, The Caine Mutiny, Peyton Place, The Godfather, The Silence of the Lambs - to me [who? this is signed by all three - Juri] these are all examples of pulp at its highest levels. Pulp raised to the level of literature - minor literature, in some cases, but literature nonetheless." Earlier they write: "..what was called "slick magazine" fiction back then was really a just more stylish form of the pulp. And the majority of movies and bestsellers - then and now - were also pulp fiction. It is, in its broadest reach, the form of fiction that most Americans prefer, whatever its packagers choose to call it."

> I already think Pronzini, at least, is a little wonky when it
> comes to some of his pronouncements. Remember, he also said
> hardboiled lit is dead...

Yes, he did and raised hell.

> But I think something like PEYTON PLACE might qualify. Remember that
> the pulps never consisted primarily of cheap, trashy crime fiction --
> they also consisted of cheap, trashy tales of romance, science
> fiction, sports, westerns, fantasy, horror and everything else.

Yes, you're right. There were even pole-vaulting stories! But I'd still like to point out that if Gorman et al. are saying that everything that is popular is pulp fiction, they are wrong. What if a piece some South American surrealist novel turns popular in American? Is it pulp fiction then? It's just not good enough to say that something is pulp because it's popular. And when they say that slick fiction is a stylized form of pulp fiction, then what is not pulp fiction? Hemingway started later than Hammett and he must've read him, so is Hemingway pulp fiction? And then if he is, what about Fitzgerald, John O'Hara and Irwin Shaw? But notice that Gorman et al. don't include any science fiction or fantasy novels in their short list. If they want to broaden the limits of pulp fiction, they should've included Isaac Asimov, Frank Herbert and the like, who started in the pulps! And someone like Michael Moorcock who so clearly is influenced by pulp writers such as Robert Howard and Clark Ashton Smith. (So, I am saying that the pulp fiction is defined too broadly and then I'm saying that it's defined too narrowly?! Don't shoot me yet.)

> And
> just like the crime pulps, most of it was crap. It might be fun,
> entertaining crap, but most of it was still crap. Writers like
> Chandler and Hammett were (are) very rare.

That's right. There are surprisingly few good writers.

Juri jurnum@utu.fi

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