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Big Books Intro

Pulp Revisited

Logan Hicks

Big Books Issue 2002

The Mobtown Connection Was H.L. Mencken the Godfather of Hard-Boiled Fiction? | By Tom Chalkley

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun Confessions of a Sweet Valley Scribe | By Lizzie Skurnick

No More Heroes Comics: The Latest Medium to Test Fine-Arts Waters | By Christopher Skokna

Everybody Must Get Stoned Mass-Market Paperbacks Lull Our Reviewer Into Submission | By Wendy Ward

Dazzlement, Enchantment, and Trash Alfred Bester, Philip K. Dick, and the Apotheosis of Pulp Science Fiction | By Mahinder Kingra

Pulp Revisited Hardly anyone starts his or her reading life with Remembrance of Things Past, To the Lighthouse, and...

Posted 9/25/2002

Hardly anyone starts his or her reading life with Remembrance of Things Past, To the Lighthouse, and The Invisible Man. We start off as kids with kid stuff--adventure stories, comic books, tales of adolescent trauma and romance--and like as not, we move on to the most approachable adult novels on the bookshelves at home or at the library (hello, Jackie Susann). Even the most avid adult readers keep coming back to books that demand something less than full senior-seminar brain potential, that pull us in and drag us along with irresistible efficiency, that perhaps we'd be embarrassed if certain friends or colleagues saw us reading--something, well, fun.

We know that we've always loved sneaking away from the tonier end of our bookshelf now and then for a rat-a-tat hardboiled thriller, a goopy romantic melodrama, an outlandish science-fiction epic, a striking and oh-so-serious graphic-novel yarn. And we've become less and less apologetic about it. After all, who's gonna be better company at the beach, Euripides or Patricia Cornwell?

Today, junk, trash, crap--in other words, pulp--is already undergoing a rethink. Formerly maligned kid-stuff genres such as sci-fi and comics are undergoing a major critical renaissance (as we shall see, perhaps to the latter's detriment) and have had a significant effect on contemporary popular culture. And while the vast majority of mass-market bestsellers are soon forgotten by the millions who consume them, millions consume them nonetheless. For our second annual Big Books Issue, we decided to take a loving look at pulp literature in its myriad forms. We questioned received wisdom about shiny-ink bestsellers, re-evaluated pulp-genre specialties, and investigated how quick-and-dirty lit has intersected with the lives of Baltimoreans in the past as well as the here and now. Hopefully it'll make for a quick and entertaining read that might offer something to think about.

The Big Books Issue was edited by Lee Gardner. Anna Ditkoff provided invaluable editorial assistance, as did interns Amy Bruce, Amelia Morris, Debbie Niemeyer, Troy Hopper, and Kathleen Ruck. Logan Hicks provided the pulpy cover image. And special thanks are due to Mahinder Kingra and Laura Lippman.

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