Pulp According to David Goodis starts with six characteristics of 1950s pulp noir that fascinated mass-market readers, making them wish they were the protagonist, and yet feel relief that they were not. His thrillers are set in motion by suppressed guilt, sexual frustrations, explosions of violence, and the inaccessible nature of intimacy. Extremely valuable is a gangster-infested urban setting. Uniquely, Goodis saw a still-vibrant community solidarity down there. Another contribution was sympathy for the gang boss, doomed by his very success. He dramatizes all this in the stark language of the Philadelphia’s “streets of no return.”
The book delineates the noir profundity of the author’s work in the context of Franz Kafka’s narratives. Goodis’ precise sense of place, and painful insights about the indomitability of fate, parallel Kafka’s. Both writers mix realism, the disorienting, and the dreamlike; both dwell on obsession and entrapment; both describe the protagonist’s degeneration. Tragically, belief in obligations, especially family ones, keep independence out of reach.
Other elements covered in this critical analysis of Goodis’s work include his Hollywood script-writing career; his use of Freud, Arthur Miller, Faulkner and Hemingway; his obsession with incest; and his “noble loser’s” indomitable perseverance.
Praise for PULP ACCORDING TO DAVID GOODIS:
“This was a fascinating read. [Gertzman] appears as an expert not only on Goodis’s body of work but on the pulp era of fiction in general, mid-twentieth-century American history, Philadelphia history, literary analysis, and a litany of other subjects. The book is stylishly written and well designed for reaching a broader, nonacademic audience interested in the pulp’s history, role in American culture, and meaning. Frankly, the crime fiction community needs more books like this!” —Chris Rhatigan, editor, publisher, and writer of hard-boiled and noir literature
“Jay Gertzman is one of those rare maverick critics with the courage to explore the dark alleys of American literature, and to report back with commendable honesty about what he has found. His book Pulp According to David Goodis is a perfect match of critic to author, and it belongs in the collections of universities hoping to be regarded as major.” —Michael Perkins, author of Evil Companions, Dark Matter, and The Secret Record: Modern Erotic Literature
“The most comprehensive Goodis study yet. Gertzman culls the files, brings everything together and then some. Not only essential reading for all Goodis obsessives but an excellent introduction to one of noir’s greatest writers.” —Woody Haut, author Pulp Culture: Hard-boiled Fiction and the Cold War, Heartbreak and Vine, and Neon Noir: Contemporary American Crime Fiction