RE: RARA-AVIS: The '50s and similar thoughts (among them, the abu se of "pulp fiction")

From: Todd Mason (
Date: 03 Oct 2003

-----Original Message----- From: Michael Robison [mailto:]

Mario Taboada wrote: Depending on who you listen to, the fifties were either an age of innocence and prosperity or one of decadence and change of the guard. For example, Halberstam's history of the decade oscillates between one and the other view.

--Kind of hard not to have all of this at all times somewhere in a society.

I see a three-way tug of war going on here with Meaker's first book. Gold Medal wanted something sensationalistic. Growing conservatism demanded moral themes. And Ms Meaker wanted to write something true and honest. It's incredible that somebody could write under that kind of pressure.

--I'm not sure we were seeing "growing" conservatism, Mike. The reactionaries were simply flexing more of their well-financed muscle. After all, as Meaker has pointed out, any upbeat lesbian-themed paperback was likely to be seen as propaganda for lesbianism, and therefore obscene and not legally mailable (male-able and malliable. Not what a paperback publisher wanted to see. And not a new development in the early '50s.

In an odd bit of synchronicity, Marty Halpern sent this link along to FictionMags for a p/r for a new series of feminist-press reprints of "pulp fiction" novels...

...and featuring not a bit of other ignorance about the subjects at hand:

What is scheduled for publication in early November are Dorothy B. Hughes' In a Lonely Place, Valerie Taylor's The Girls in 3-B, and Faith Baldwin's Skyscraper. While some might be a bit surprised that the press is publishing pulp fiction, others might wonder whether Hughes' harrowing 1947 novel -- which is narrated by a male serial killer and rapist -- is appropriate for Feminist Press' raison d'괲e, Casella said. "I think it's going to be controversial. I'm sure there will be people who don't think this was appropriate for the Feminist Press to do. But I think the distinction that should be made, and that's made almost from page one, is that this is about misogyny, as opposed to books by Jim Thompson, which are misogynistic."

Casella explained that Hughes offers plenty of commentary in the novel through its main character. "Why else would she have named him Dix Steele?" she queried.

A number of today's leading women mystery authors, including Sarah Paretsky and Marsha Muller, have agreed to write blurbs for In a Lonely Place.

"Dorothy was like their grandmother," said Feminist Press associate publisher Lisa London. "They're thrilled that she's getting her due and being brought back to print with a very serious emphasis. We're not just going for the fact that this is pulp. It's also literature."

Backing up London's point is Lisa Maria Hogeland's afterword to A Lonely Place, which features this quote from Erin A. Smith's study of hard-boiled fiction: "Reading these texts [pulp fiction at large] as classics is not at all the same as reading them as trash." Hogeland continues, "This reissue of In a Lonely Place invites us to read its feminist work."

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