Cheap literary thrills at a price that’s not too polpudo.
I am constantly on the lookout for something decent and not too expensive to read in New World Lusophone.
Brazil lacks the sort of developed publishing and book distribution industry that produces, for example, the likes of Penguin editions or those cheap newsstand thrillers you buy to read on the Acela “bullet train” to Boston — a trip that that always takes a lot longer than the brochure would have you believe.
LP&M, for example, fills a niche for pocket classics something like that pioneer by the Penguin imprint after WWII, but its catalog is limited, and for some strange reason (not that I am complaining, mind you — I am a member of the Bukowski Memorial Society for Classic Latin Studies) Charles Bukowski is considered a classic here in Brazil.
Publifolha now has its own line of affordable classics (Machado de Assis, Jorge Amado, Guimarães Rosa) that you buy at newsstands, recalling the business model pioneered by Charles Dickens and early 20th century “popular library” brands in the U.S.
The only comparable “pulp” genre that really sells like hotcakes, in the meantime, are the local equivalents of the Harlequin Romance and its many imitators. “She gazed into the plumber’s deep green eyes and felt a shiver run through her body. The oven mitt dropped from her hand without her even being aware that it had.”
This is mainly an effect of unchecked cartel behavior in the publishing industry, I would venture to guess. The Editora Abril, for example, controls 100% of print distribution in São Paulo, and not a peep out of the competition regulator, CADE, so far. Talk to local newsstand owners, though. You hear stories that remind you of that episode of The Sopranos in which the boys from the Bing try to extract protection money from a Starbucks. And worse.
I will have to see if there is anything on the CADE docket on the matter, though.
My wife, the short story hunger artist, will very likely be interested in this book. She has a mania for anthologies of genre fiction (her novel in progress involves UFOs and the forbidden dance, the lambada, among other colorful subjects.) And at R$20 for Vol. II, the price is notably reasonable by local standards.
Therefore I translate, draft-quality, the following review from the online Terra Magazine, which lives on the Terra (Brasil) Web portal and often has interesting things to say.
Roberto de Sousa Causo
Translated by C. Brayton
Pulp Fiction, Vol. I. Samir Machado de Machado, ed. Porto Alegre: Editora Fósforo, 2007, 131 pp. Cover art by Gisele Oliveira.
In literary terms, “pulp” refers to fiction printed on cheap paper, specializing in different genres whose common interest is to engaging the attention and play on the emotions of readers who are not afraid of a little adventure or melodrama, of the sensational or the marvelous. In Brazil in recent years, the notion of pulp fiction as a set of literary strategies and qualities has been revived and defended, becoming a sort of term of negotiation on the Brazilian speculative literature scene. Oddly, this is true not only in Brazil but in other countries as well.
What is so odd about that?
This week, we take a look at some examples in an attempt to understand this trend a little better.
Samir Machado de Machado, whom we interviewed here a couple of weeks back, has forced the issue with the publication of Pulp Fiction, Vols. 1 and 2, the first serial anthology of original Brazilian speculative fiction. He defines it, in his preface to Volume I, as “a collective efforts whose intention is … to promote and stimulate a speculative literature whose only agenda is to entertain the reader”, abandoning all “pedantic pretensions to assigning a greater signficance to fiction”. “What we really want”, he writes, “is, as American writer Michael Chabon says, ‘to blow the reader’s mind.’”.