Saturday, July 9, 2016

What’s In the Box?

Pulp magazines have been out for a long time.  Plenty of people have noted that they provide a glimpse into the culture of days gone by.  Surely there are multiple books out there on the subject – why not just read one of those?  It would be trivially easy to “cheat” and go look up the answer first.  At its heart, this series is more about the journey than it is the destination.

That isn’t to say that a history of pulp magazines won’t make an appearance.  If one crosses my path, I’ll give it a shot with a skepticism chaser.  Such a text may provide some valuable insight, but experience indicates that it is just as likely to engage in the same sort of historical revisionism and political axe-grinding as the conventional histories of the more fantastic magazines.  The field of literary criticism these days wallows in the same sort of mire as literature itself.  Writers in a field, and the critics who criticize them, are generally cut from the same cloth, it’s just that the critics rarely have the talent to produce content of their own.
The heavy dose of irony that results from a guy engaged in literary criticism suggesting critics have no talent is obvious, but only strengthens my case.  The whole point of this exercise is that the survey of men's adventure magazines is expressly designed as an exercise in becoming a better writer.  That I have aspirations of adequacy is neither secret nor shameful. 

That I have to go back to my grandparent's culture to find a model to emulate is an indictment of the modern world, but one made without malice.  The answer to how we got here interests me less than the answer to how to write in a way that isn't tainted by the modern Oprah Book of the Month style faux-intellectualism.

Tor the record, it seems to me that the Baby Boomers rejected the simple appeal of the plain spoken tales of their fathers in favor of a more high browed literary attempts at uncovering the deeper meaning of human life by investigating the strange and often obscured corners of the world.  They looked to counter-cultural forces and sought meaning in things like the drug culture or eastern mysticism or any other rejection of the typical culture in which they lived.  The belief that the answers to ordinary life can only be found by seeking out extra-ordinary circumstances makes no sense to me. 

But then, I unapologetically think, act, and write, as a normal guy - not a special snowflake whom the world does not and cannot understand.  It is for this reason, that I look back to the stories told by regular guys meant to appeal to regular guys, in an attempt to understand how to replicate their work.  If that results in a bit of encouragement for others to read these readily accessible and freely available works, so much the better - they are worth it.

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