- Paperback: 240 pages
- Publisher: Serpent's Tail (April 1, 1996)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1852423196
- ISBN-13: 978-1852423193
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,446,617 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Pulp Culture: Hardboiled Fiction and the Cold War
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From Publishers Weekly
In Pulp Culture, Haut sacrifices his purported subjects?crime fiction (of the lurid paperback variety) between 1945 and 1963 and the culture it arose from?to his own tedious and blinkered political agenda. Among other topics, he examines the paranoid fiction of David Goodis, Chester Himes and Jim Thompson; the private eye; women and female writers in hard-boiled fiction; and the crime novel as social critique. While decrying "the tediousness of mainstream literary criticism," he unrelentingly (mis)uses its most cliched buzzwords, especially narrative. His sometimes ungrammatical writing veers from self-conscious cleverness to turgid gobbledygook. His plot synopses are unreliable, his reasoning doesn't follow from one sentence to the next, and his judgments and interpretations are often bizarre-and no wonder. Throughout his analysis, he covertly holds writers to a standard made explicit only near the book's end: "pulp culture crime narratives generate interest in so far as they reflect state crime?consumerism, militarization, economic and social inequality, the centralization of power." Few writers fit this procrustean bed. While Haut knows his subject and has worthwhile things to say about the genre's debts to proletarian writing and about its attacks on conformist culture, most of this book is warped by his coy and dreary politics.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
Forget the snappy but misleading title: Haut focuses on the paperback originals that took the place of pulp magazines in the period from 1945 to 1963. Contending that hardboiled fiction has rarely been taken seriously by literary criticism ``precisely because it is a class-based literature,'' Haut wants to establish the newly fashionable political credentials of hardboiled writers who, considering American society to be inherently criminal, focus on ``capitalism's relationship to crime, corruption, desire and power.'' Hence the darkness of noir fiction echoes the dark underside of the fractured American '50s. Haut, an American journalist living in London, is not especially original about Raymond Chandler, Chester Himes, Ross Macdonald, Jim Thompson, or Mickey Spillane, all of whom have been put through these paces before. He's much more revealing when he discusses more neglected writers like Leigh Brackett, Dolores Hitchens, and Dorothy B. Hughes (all of whom managed to create complex heroines ``within a culture intent on rendering them powerless''); William McGivern, Gil Brewer, and Lionel White (whose underworld novels mask critiques of the dominant social order); Charles Williams and Charles Willeford (whose later novels subvert the false optimism of the emerging '60s, when pulp fiction would be overtaken by the real-life nightmare of current events). Even here, however, Haut too often strains to pair key novels with irrelevant historical events (McGivern's Odds Against Tomorrow appeared the same year Sputnik was launched) and presses extended plot summaries into service to support historical generalizations as wordy and dubious as anything in the academic criticism he lambastes. Surprisingly, Haut makes a sounder case for pulp fiction's political analysis of American culture than for its central importance to that culture. -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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