Books and literature

I am not sure how this connects to the debate mentioned below but it seem germane. The New Republic is starting a series called “Pulps.” The first is a review of Brad Meltzer’s The Zero Game. An editorial aside, which precedes the actual book review, describes Pulps this way:

[What Is Pulps? The criticism of literature has always been one of the fundamental tasks of The New Republic, but there is a difference between the criticism of literature and the criticism of books. Not all books are literature. Yet it is a fundamental fact of American life that large numbers of Americans read books that are not literature. Even if some of those books do not warrant literary examination, they certainly warrant cultural examination. A nation’s highest and lowest notions of itself may be found in its amusements. Thinking about America’s popular books is a way of thinking about America. In the 1950s and 1960s, critics such as Robert Warshow and Mary McCarthy and Dwight Macdonald taught by example how, and why, intellectual seriousness may be brought to bear upon things that are not intellectually serious; and, in recent decades, with mixed results, the discipline of cultural studies was established on this premise. The aim of this feature of TNR Online will be to toil in the same vineyards, though rather more snappily. Pulps will regularly visit the best-seller list and linger over thrillers, romances, fiction, non-fiction, and even (as The New York Times puts it) “advice, how-to, and miscellaneous” books, as documents of our time, for the purpose of a brief but undoubtedly penetrating exercise in cultural anthropology. After all, influential ideas have a way of turning up in the strangest places. A warning: Pulps will give away the books’ plots. Critics have a way of spoiling all the fun.

Is this a surrender to the triumph of low culture or a way to critique it? Or neither? I am not sure but my gut feeling tells me both. It is a way to talk about pop culture while still maintaining some critical remove; a more intellectual demeanor. Why else the mention of anthropology? This is really outside of left right questions as conservative online magazine like National Review having been mining pop culture for years. Heck, what is Jonah Goldberg if not serious intellectual conservatism communicated through the language of pop culture?

Call me elitist, but I am still not sure this is wise. But of course I will read Pulps religiously . . .

About the author

Kevin Holtsberry

I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season - oh, and watching golf too).

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