New from Down & Out Books:
Pulp According to David Goodis
by Jay A. Gertzman
PULP ACCORDING TO DAVID GOODIS by Jay A. Gertzman Publication Date: October 29, 2018
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.Synopsis … 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
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Jay Gertzman issued the following essays prior to release of PULP.
GOODIS IN HOLLYWOOD.The high point of Goodis' career as a Hollywood screenwriter was his work on a project that was never filmed. In 1947, Warner Brothers' top producer, Jerry Wald, described a new film project he wanted Goodis to write. Wald favored socially conscious writers concerned with the political, class, and financial obstacles to progressive change. He had in mind a working-class version of the The Best Years of Our Lives (1946). That popular firm concerned the post-war adjustment of a group of vets, mostly upper middle class and highly educated. Goodis had been credited for the script of The Unfaithful, in which a returning husband was confronted with his wife's affair with a married artist while he was in the service.
Wald wanted Goodis to study the distrust of democracy among men and women who could to find jobs or opportunities for a better life. In 1946, many had returned from the service to find strenuous competition for jobs, high food prices, and wartime-subsidized factories no longer producing goods or jobs needed to win the war. The Fascists and Communists were working hard to take advantage of the disillusion. He submitted six versions of a script from February to May 1947. The working title of the screenplay was Up To Now.
This is Jerry Wald, premier idea-man and producer. For Goodis to be asked to write for him was an honor. The writer was well prepared. He was planning a novel to be called Brotherly Love, a story of the protagonist and his ill-fated brother (Goodis's own brother had emotional problems), and to the hard-won revival of faith in self and loved ones in the warren of row houses, small stores, and churches and factories of industrial Philly.
The story: Ralph, Dippy, Ken, and George, back from the war, are hanging around Silver's corner candy store on a cold Saturday night. Handsome, affable Johnnie, Ralph's kid brother, drives by. So does a Communist organizer, while a Fascist lurks in the shadows of a row house porch. Thus Goodis introduces his characters, and their milieu, one the writer himself had probably experienced in the pool halls, restaurants and clothing stores in his Logan neighborhood.
Ralph's job in a stock room was all he could get despite heroic service at Anzio and Normandy. His situation recalls, and also contrasts with, that of Fred Derry in Best Years. Fred, born in a shack and uneducated, seems to have no future, which is why Al, one of Fred's war buddies, does not want his sister to marry him. (See above: Dana Andrews as Fred--a character similar to Ralph). Both men did to take advantage of the GI Bill, because they did not feel they could succeed at college. Many working-class vets felt this way. They also were embittered by the betrayal of the Taft-Hartley Bill, dubbed the "slave labor bill" for its treatment of unions.
Johnnie joins a proto-fascist group, but when he refuses to take part in a terrorist at, he is killed. His father berates Ralph, who he thinks had Commie leanings, for not protecting Johnnie. The murdere, fearful of revenge, tries to push Ralph down an elevator shaft. Ralph saves himself by grabbing the cables. We have here a brief outline of those typical situations in Goodis novels: stored-up hostility, uphill struggle, and iron-willed perseverance despite physical suffering and emotional confusion. Resolution is effected by Ralph's inamorata, Ruth, a patient, spiritual, sensible woman. A "decent," "intelligent" working girls, she also has a practical and forward-looking nature and rock-solid self-respect. Jane Wyman was Jerry Wald's choice to play Ruth.
Bogart and Bacall (recently starring in Goodis' Dark Passage) protest HUAC's "Red Scare."
Jack Warner permanently selves the film in 1947, when the House Committee investigating "Unamerican Activities" opened its Hollywood hearings. Members of the Screen Writers Guild were prime targets for commie-hunters, and some did inform on colleagues, afraid that if they did not nae names, they would be fired and blacklisted. President Truman signed the bill requiring a loyalty oath in March. J. Edgar Hoover lent HUAC his bellicose support. Up To Now's "treatments" (Goodis wrote six of them) contained ones such as "The State belongs to the people." A similar line of dialogue, "share and share alike--that's democracy," would be, to HUAC, another example of the film studios' "propagandizing." Up To Now's sympathy for working men in itself was cause for alarm. Neal Gabler, in An Empire of Their Own, how one day Warner, nervously pointing to various writers he had hired to write socially conscious, progressive pictures, said he could do without them.