Read a Pulp Novel & Have a Nice Day
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a good trashy paperback
We’ve all done it. Idly browsed through that section of the supermarket or display at the drugstore crammed with books that appear — ahem — perhaps a little less than erudite? Maybe some that are offshoots of once beloved television shows and others that make no qualms about displaying bare pectorals? Perhaps a few that truly belong deep in the fan fiction recesses of the internet?
Even if you might not have perused with any genuine interest in making a purchase, you’re at least familiar with the general selection. Those shelves have caught your eye more than once.
I think, the next time you should happen across them, you should consider looking a little closer.
You should maybe even consider taking one home for good.
No, it’s probably not going to give you a great deal of insight into life and the world around you. No, you probably will not emerge with a daring new interest in five star cuisine or guided meditation or starting a new business venture.
But you just might gain something else.
Maybe you’ll find a rare gem. After all, such time tested classics as Tarzan of the Apes and Jurassic Park were originally published as pulp novels, as were widely popular favorites like The Pelican Brief and Fight Club. Even The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is considered by many to have at least started off as pulp.
And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that.
Alfred Hitchcock’s iconic Strangers on a Train was based on a pulp novel of the same name. Leigh Brackett, the creative brain behind such screenplays as The Empire Strikes Back and The Big Sleep, not only claimed a book debut with No Good from a Corpse, her own trashy crime thriller, but she also adapted pulp to film by writing the screenplay for Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye.
Even if you don’t happen across a book quite as well-known or as put together as these, you might still enjoy whichever dime store paperback you pick up. Maybe you’ll laugh. Maybe you’ll become invested in the characters and discover a new series to love. Maybe it will be so glaringly inconsistent and horrible, you’ll never dare to peruse that section of the grocery store again.
That’s okay, too. You will have given it a shot, and you will grow to better understand what you do and don’t love about storytelling.
I’ve written before in defense of young adult literature, and I stand by my everlasting affection for the genre. I think far more people should expand their reading tastes into YA.
I feel similarly about pulp. Just because a tale wasn’t picked up by a big publishing house doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth publishing. And if it’s worth publishing — at least in the eyes of every person whose hands it passed through to make its way onto the Walgreen’s shelf — it must also be worth reading.
And maybe the John Carter books (widely regarded pulp) aren’t your thing. Maybe sci-fi spin offs or twisting mysteries are a touch off base from your usual interests. Pulp fiction is as varied and diverse as any other genre, and is worth diving into deeper if you’re on the hunt for something out of the normal realms of your typical nightly chapters. It naturally holds a world of its own in romance (look for the covers with a man resembling Fabio and you’re on the right track), and it never lacks for a bit of tasteless fantasy, but there are some historical treasures hidden throughout as well. It’s not going to be the first pick at the book club, but you’re still on the library’s waiting list to finally catch up on Where the Crawdads Sing anyway, right?
Three bucks for a space age trope about some shape shifting aliens will certainly keep you occupied until then.