August 7, 2002 2:08 PM   Subscribe

"Pulp" means a lot of different things today. To many people, "pulp"means something lurid, sleazy and sensationalist. That's what Quentin Tarantino meant when he called his movie "Pulp Fiction," a violent and outrageous look at the seedy side of American life. "Pulp" refers to something thrilling and low-rent at the same time - that, at least, is a common definition of the term. "Pulp," however, can refer to something more specific, a certain kind of magazine. [more inside]
posted by mooseindian (15 comments total)
"The pulps" were fiction magazines, printed on rough wood-pulp paper, written largely for working-class readers between the turn of the century and the mid-1950's. The pulps earned a poor reputation in those years; they were seen as cheap, lurid, and sensationalist, a connotation, as we've seen, that survives to this day. To some extent their reputation was well-earned, but pulp writing, at its best, had a great deal to recommend it: boundless imagination, quick-paced narrative, and clear, unpretentious, idiomatic prose styles. These are genuine literary virtues, and they were characteristic of pulp writing. The pulps pioneered many of the genres that we take for granted today, such as science fiction and hard-boiled mystery stories. For better or for worse, contemporary popular culture is a direct descendant of pulp fiction.
posted by mooseindian at 2:08 PM on August 7, 2002

Hmm, and I thought pulp referred to the fact that the plot of Pulp Fiction was ripped apart (chronologically) and stuck back together seemingly, though not really, haphazardly. Oh well. . .
posted by recklessvisionary at 2:13 PM on August 7, 2002

Great links, mooseindian.

A lot of classic film noir was based on, or heavily influenced by, pulp fiction. In fact, the way that "film noir" is used today as a descriptor, not techincally accurate but an indicator of a certain style, is analogous to the way that some modern fiction is described as "pulp."
posted by bingo at 2:22 PM on August 7, 2002

I had no idea that a pulp novel inspired a classic '30s film.
Great links.
posted by me3dia at 2:33 PM on August 7, 2002

I always liked these old magazine. This site has a nice collection of some more. Thanks for the link!
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 2:39 PM on August 7, 2002

Pulp is a good band.
posted by donkeyschlong at 3:32 PM on August 7, 2002

Pulp was also Bukowski's last novel.
posted by Kafkaesque at 3:47 PM on August 7, 2002

The queer pulp stuff is my favorite. Anyone else have the gay pulp covers address book? It's by the director of S.F.'s GLBT Historical Society, who's also written an artsy historical look at queer pulps. It just doesn't get more hilariously tawdry than this.
posted by mediareport at 3:48 PM on August 7, 2002

Well, as you can see by the links, the best part of the pulp magazines was the wonderful cover artwork.
[ Warning: Amazon Assoc. book link ]
posted by jca at 4:41 PM on August 7, 2002

I just read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon. Set in the 1940's, it tells the story of two boys who transfer the characters and stylistics of pulp novels into comic books, an emergent art form at the time. It is an interesting study of the time period and touches on all sorts of issues (it's a very long book) from the USA's entrance into WWII to the congressional actions that quashed comic books. It's rather funny in parts and reads quickly.

So, as someone who has never, ever posted here, I offer my highly-trusted opinion to you.
posted by toothless joe at 5:08 PM on August 7, 2002

Stanley Donwood of Radiohead cover-art fame has written a new novel, Catacombs of Terror!, in the pulp tradition. Here's a quotable book blurb if I ever saw one: "One hundred and forty-four pages of unmitigated pulp trash! Printed on 100% watermarked cannabis-content hemp paper! A cover with the words 'GUNS! DRUGS! PIGS!' written on it!"
posted by josephtate at 6:04 PM on August 7, 2002

Pulp was instrumental in the development of at least one modern genre.

Hmm. Anybody for steampulp?
posted by dhartung at 6:10 PM on August 7, 2002

My grandfather and his brother William wrote quite a few pulp stories.
posted by atom128 at 6:19 PM on August 7, 2002

Just to second toothless joe's comment about Kavalier and Clay - it's a ridiculously good read that won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2001 and is absolutely worth checking out.
posted by vito90 at 5:50 AM on August 8, 2002

I keep thinking pulp is the stuff inside of a tooth.
posted by drstrangelove at 6:14 AM on August 8, 2002

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