Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: James M. Cain

From: Lawrence Coates (
Date: 01 Oct 2007

I wish I could be of more help on censorship in those days. I only have a memory of a documentary about film and the Hays Act, and how alcohol stood in for the taboo topic of sex.

A couple of things from fiction generally, though not necessarily the pulps. You probably know that in Hemingway's "For Whom the Bell Tolls," he resorted to using locutions like "I obscenity in the milk of your obscenity." And Norman Mailer, some years later, used "fug" in
"The Naked and the Dead." I was also re-reading Faulkner's "Dry September," a great short story about a lynching. The characters are dropping the N-bomb all over the place, of course, but when it came to using "black son of a bitch," it was shortened to "black son." Whether it was because of publishing standards or self-censorship, I don't know.

But that's all more about language than actually leaving sex out and dry martinis in. Henry Miller had trouble getting published, as I recall, and much of his work appeared first in France. But that's not the kind of writer Rara Avis usually talks about. Maybe someone out there knows the rules for publishing, and whether the pulp novels were able to duck them in some way.


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>Date: 1-Oct-2007 14:51:00 -0400
>From: "jacquesdebierue" <>
>Reply-To: <>
>To: <>
>Subject: RARA-AVIS: Re: James M. Cain
>--- In, "Lawrence Coates" <coatesl@...> wrote:
>> I've heard that all the drinking, at least in the movie versions of
>The Thin Man, was a
>> substitute for the sex that would have been censored out.
>Lawrence, what do you know about censorship (self-imposed, implicit or
>overtly enforced) in the pulps of the twenties and thirties? That's
>something I've often wondered about. As some here know, I have a sweet
>tooth for the cruder forms of the pulps (not just crime pulps) and
>sometimes I wonder how those writers (Bellem, for example, and not
>only in the spicy pulps) got away with publishing certain things that
>more respectable American novelists couldn't say and that American
>film-makers absolutely could not show or sometimes even suggest.
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Lawrence Coates Associate Professor of Creative Writing Bowling Green State University

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