Tagged: literature

Yiddishkeit: Jewish Vernacular & The New Land

[[[Yiddishkeit: Jewish Vernacular & The New Land]]]
edited by Harvey Pekar & Paul Buhle with Hershl Hartman
Abrams Comicarts, 240 pages

It always seemed to me like mine was the last secular “Jewish generation” in America. Born in the mid-1950s, in the depths of Brooklyn in a neighborhood adjacent to the heavily Orthodox neighborhood of Crown Heights, surrounded on all sides by three generations of family, including grandparents and great-grandparents born in the old country, the entire world seemed Jewish. Even when my family moved (briefly) to West Virginia (population 5,000, only seven of which were Jews), then back to Brooklyn, to Canarsie and East Flatbush, the feeling of Jewishness never went away. The neighborhoods were now a mix of Irish, Italian, and Jewish, even a sprinkling of Afro-Americans, but when the family gathered, Yiddish was still spoken among the adults when the topic wasn’t fit for kinder, children. As a result, der kinder learned to understand, if not speak, just enough of the mamaloshen (the mother tongue) to get the gist of what we weren’t supposed to hear.

Popular entertainment was Jewish, too. The producers and writers behind many of the sitcoms were Jews and even if the characters weren’t Jewish (with the exception of The Goldbergs), the comedic sensibilities sure were. Ditto for the variety shows, where in addition to everything else, many of the hosts were Jewish as well. Milton Berle, Bob Hope, Jerry Lewis (although not Dean Martin), Sid Caesar. Allan Sherman sold millions of comedy albums in the early-1960s with song parodies that were flavored by schmaltz (chicken fat). Today, when he’s remembered, he’s remembered for his (mostly) WASPy “Hello Mudder, Hello Faddah.” Song-writing in the mid-20th century was so Jewish that according to ASCAP’s list of the top twenty-five most popular Christmas songs, twelve were written by Jews.

Even the Italians were Jewish in Hollywood. In The Detective, a 1968 mystery starring Frank Sinatra, Jack Klugman co-stars as one of Frank’s police colleagues who has a brief exchange with his wife in the sing-song cadence of Yiddish about whether or not he wants her to make him a “nice glass tea.” My great-grandmother drank hot tea out of a glass (never a mug), sweetening it with a cube of sugar between her teeth as she sipped.

Jewishness, if not Judaism, was everywhere. Hollywood is still a Jewish town, but the entertainment it now produces is far less so. Even the language of the Jews, Yiddish, has become somewhat catholic in appeal; every schmuck on the street thinks he’s a big macher because he knows a bissel Yiddish. And as the Jews have long known, there’s really nothing like Yiddish to make a point. As Neal Gabler (author of the excellent An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood) says in his introduction to Yiddishkeit: Jewish Vernacular & The New Land, “Yiddish is the most onomatopoeic language ever created. Everything sounds exactly the way it should: macher for a self-appointed big shot, shlmiel for the fellow who spills the soup and shlmazel for the hapless one (as in “poor shmuck”), shnorrer for a freeloader, nudnick for a pest. The expressiveness is bound into the language, and so is a kind of ruthless honesty….Yiddish has dozens of words for imbecile, a tribute to Jewish lucklessness…. There is no decorousness in Yiddish, nor much romance. It is raw, egalitarian, vernacular.”

Yiddish is an “amalgamated language, borrowing freely from German and Polish and Hebrew with its own unique constructions and confabulations,” and the people who speak it are the Yiddishkeit, or the Yiddish culture…although as Gabler points out, what the word encompasses is “so large, expansive, and woolly a concept that culture may be too narrow to do it full justice. ‘Jewish sensibility’ comes closer,” but, in the end, “You can’t define Yiddishkeit neatly in words and pictures. You sort of have to feel it by wading into it.” (more…)


TIPPIN’ HANCOCK’S HAT-Reviews of All Things Pulp by Tommy Hancock

(I would like to extend a personal apology to Jeff Deischer, author of the book reviewed below.  I intended to have this review posted last week, but due to issues far beyond my control, I could not.  Doesn’t mean it’s right to break a promise, My sincerest apologies, Jeff.)

THE WAY THEY WERE: The Histories of Some of Adventure Fiction’s Most Famous Heroes and Villains

By Jeff Deischer

Published 2011 by Westerntainment

One of the many fantastic things about literature in general and about Pulp specifically is the richness and variety woven into the novels, stories, and tales that make up the genre.   Not only are heroes good and larger than life and villains evil and over the top, but there is a depth to these characters and the events creators thrust them into, a depth that over years has been explored in a myriad of ways. 

One of the most fun of these, in my opinion, is the work of creators and scholars to not only establish timelines for these fictitious creations and their marvelous escapades.   Although many people might find actual history boring, there’s something inventive and exciting about taking a literary character and matching their exploits to a particular year or event, tying our fantasy into our reality.  And an even cooler step beyond that is finding connections between one character and others, connections that given the right phrasing and tweaking become familial or uncover possible links that could lead to here to yet untold adventures.   Several works of this type have been written in the last several decades, including chronologies, timelines, or just full on stories bringing characters you’d never imagine being drawn together into the same realm.

Jeff Deischer, author THE WAY THEY WERE, is one of those writers and creators who not only imagines the possibilities, but sets out to establish them, not simply by telling tales, but by providing thought provoking articles and essays.  Drawing first from his own interest as a fan and reader, Deischer adds in research and analysis as he takes on several questions that have plagued Pulp fans for years and, in other articles, he poses brand new theories and brings characters to mind that at least I as a reader hadn’t given much thought to in a while.

Deischer tackles well-traveled ground by covering points various and sundry about Doc Savage and The Avenger.  He also takes on famous characters from horror literature, tying Dracula and Frankenstein and the Phantom of the Opera to timeframes and situations.  Surprises lurk within these pages as well, including a multi article study of the works of Jules Verne and a most excellent essay about the use of Antarctica and Mars in early Pulp fiction.   Regardless of it being James Bond or Gullivar of Mars, Deischer brings new life to old characters, breathing into them questions and theories that show a different light on them.   One of Deischer’s strongest points is his willingness to present ideas that run totally the opposite of established concepts and then go on to back them up.   Add to that a writing skill that is both engaging and entertaining, THE WAY THEY WERE reads as much like a multi chapter pulp tale as it does a collection of essays.

FOUR OUT OF FIVE TIPS OF HANCOCK’S HAT-Insight and detail add to the education into these fantastic characters that THE WAY THEY WERE provides.


Readers of ALL PULP saw it announced here first.  An initiative to bring creators and publishers of what many consider the modern version of Pulp fiction together under one banner, a branding plan that would make Pulp publishers and creators easily identifiable, regardless if it was a Western pulp tale or a sci fi pulp opus, something that would link these various modern Pulpsters together.  A way to advertise, to unite, to push what Pulp is today without concerns of competition, sales, and who writes what for who.  A true recognition of ‘If it helps one of us, it can help all of us.’ that was first expressed in a statement on ALL PULP and not only gained quick support, but led to a brand that is now sported on books from various publishers, including Moonstone, Airship 27, Pro Se Press, Pulpwork Press, and others.  A brand and an idea that has grown quickly into a Movement.

New Pulp.

In an effort to capitalize on the support and involvement New Pulp has garnished since the man who initiated the organization of the Movement, Tommy Hancock, announced it, Hancock announces today a next step in the evolution of New Pulp.  While in many ways nothing will change, in other areas, improvements are being made and plans moving forward to insure that the New Pulp Movement isn’t just something among like minded fans, but a major part of literature and social consciousness.

“New Pulp is still New Pulp,” Hancock states, “just as it was outlined in my original statement and just as its sort of organically developed since then.   It’s that development, that growth, that has sort of spurred the next step.  We could let New Pulp basically remain this open source thing that just anybody can pick up and use as a brand on their products and have a ‘New Pulp’ project here and there and most likely it would limp along forever and be okay that way.  But that’s not what this whole thing was about, jsut sort of doing it halfway.  It’s about getting recognition for creators and publishers of modern Pulp.  It’s about increasing awareness, readership, and involvement in New Pulp, so creators can get their stories told, publishers and producers can get their product sold, and society as a whole can experience some of the best durned literature for the masses anyone could read.

“What’s going to be happening as far as the Movement is concerned is some extra hands have been brought on and given formal positions within New Pulp to help facilitate more exposure, more material, more chances for New Pulp and all of us involved to get noticed, and more ways to make any creator’s or publisher’s association with New Pulp a positive and successful experience.  One thing New Pulp is committing to is that New Pulp will attend all three major Pulp Cons next year-Pulp Ark (The only official New Pulp Convention’Conference), Windy City, and Pulpfest.  Also, since people pretty much have already been asking me before they can use the New Pulp logo, that’s a practice we’re going to formalize for a couple of reasons.  One, so we can keep up with everybody who is involved in New Pulp and two, so we can at least have a say in quality control and make sure that the New Pulp logo is being applied appropriately.  It’s still free and being a part of the whole New Pulp Movement still doesn’t require you to take on extra work (unless you want to help out) or to sign your first born away.   This is just part of the evolution.”

Provided below is the roster of Staff of the New Pulp Movement.  Hancock points out that, “This list is incomplete, although that’s only by one or two spots.  And there can be more of almost everything on here as well, so if you want to help out, we can put you somewhere.  But remember, even when we start selling merchandise or producing books or whatever, that money doesn’t go into anyone’s pockets.  It goes back into New Pulp or to a charity New Pulp has partnered with.”

Tommy Hancock-Coordinator
Megan Smith-Coordinator’s Assistant
Sean Ali-Design/Advertising
Barry Reese-Online Promotions
Joshua Reynolds-Recruitment
Derrick Ferguson-Recruitment
Andrew Salmon-Merchandising
Mike Bullock-Editor in Chief, www.newpulpfiction.com
Columns Editor – Hank Brown
Columnists –
Michael May “Pulptacular”
Jim Garrison “Pulp Magnet”
Sean Ellis – Title to be determined
Reviewers –
Andrew Salmon

The New Pulp Movement also has a Staff of Advisors, a board of three that will provide advice and insight to Hancock as needed and provide a vital support in that fashion.   Two of the three positions have been selected and accepted.

Ron Fortier
Wayne Reinagel

“New Pulp is about the creators and publishers that make it up,” Hancock states.  “We’re just trying to make it something they benefit from and are glad they are a part of.”

Anyone interested in helping out with New Pulp or using the New Pulp logo can email Hancock at proseproductions@earthlink.net


Theater of Vampires, a Jason Dark Supernatural Mystery by Guido Henkel

by Suzanne Fuller

Having enjoyed Demon’s Night despite not having much of an emotional connection with the investigating Protagonist Jason Dark, I was looking forward to reading Theater of Vampires. Already comfortable with Henkel’s writing style, I was excited to see his take on everyone’s favourite creatures of the night. So I dived head first back into his dark, foggy world. With familiar characters reappearing for your nostalgic pleasure and new ones shuffling their way in. I was left feeling pleasantly surprised and sad that it ended so quickly.

The second book in a Series is a hard one to tackle. There’s the worry of not being able to keep up the excitement from the first or keep the characters true to themselves without endangering the plot. And to tackle possibly the most over-done creature in horror literature takes guts.

The story was fast paced and hard hitting. The characters were all believable and fear quickened the pace of my heart when the creatures of the night appeared from behind their human masks.

The setting was indeed creepy but I was beginning to worry that it sounded an awful lot like a particular vampire story many of us know. The last half of Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire took place in a theater, where Armand and his un-dead family tricked their human audience into believing the death performed on stage was acted, when in fact it was not. But, just before the book takes a turn away from following Rice’s footsteps a comment from Selene, the supposed master of the vampires, says, “I swear, I couldn’t bear another one like that insufferable blonde French guy De Lioncourt.” Which, of course, is a nod to Lestat. I had to place my cup of tea on the bedside table very carefully and hope that I didn’t choke on the gulp I’d just swallowed. There was another nod to a classic vampire at the very end but I will not say for fear of giving away anything inside the plot. All that will be said about it is it was a very, very good last line. One that left a mark, so to speak.

If there was any complaint to be had about this novella it’s that Sui Lin, Dark’s young, beautiful accomplice is so skilled in the art of fighting that it almost seems as though Dark himself falls behind. It happened in Demon’s Night and again in Theater of Vampires and no matter how much I love the strong, female character I worry that the series should be renamed A Sui Lin Supernatural Mystery.

With a great twist at the end that leaves you with many questions, for Dark’s future, moral rules and how the rest of the stories will unfold if the conflict were to raise it’s head once more. That is the wonderful thing about a series of stories, when you read the next instalment it’s like slipping into a pair of comfy slippers.

The Un-Ethics of Watchmen, Part 1: A Bird’s-Eye View

Editor’s note: With the imminent release of Watchmen, we thought we’d try and get a different perspective. So we asked Alexandra Honigsberg, a professional ethicist and genre author, to read the book for the first time and delve into the ethos of the world created by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.

If super-hero comics are the literature of ethics, then Watchmen is the literature of un-ethics. It is the template for what not to do and makes Batman look like a Boy Scout, even at his darkest Dark Knight. They make Dirty Harry look clean. There’s a new saying on the street that Bitch is the New Black, it Gets Things Done. Well, these guys and gals are certainly the biatch. But is there any way to redeem their actions so that the ends justify the means? Or, more importantly, that even the most inhumane or inhuman retains some sense of what it means to be human?

The study of ethics is the exploration of the good life and how to live it. Now by the “good life” I don’t mean the bling life. I mean a life that is honourable, virtuous and, on a profound level not shaken by the winds of change, happy. Happiness (or pleasure or joy or The Good). That’s the end, the ultimate goal, or what Aristotle calls “that at which all rational beings aim.” Ari makes a fine distinction between the acts of a man (animal, non-rational) and the acts of a human (rational) or what some of us might term the mensch (gender neutral). One of the biggest invectives that Laurie hurls at Dr. Manhattan/Jon Osterman is that, after working for so long in the lab and being so all-powerful (the man not only to end all wars, but end all worlds), he ceases to be human. Moore emphasizes this with quotes from Nietzsche, who claims that when we become evolved enough we will not need rules, we will have become extra-moral – the superman (not the Nazis’ bastardization thereof) who has no need of ethics as we now know them. But are we still human? Extreme means change the agent and therefore change the end (e.g., The Comedian’s total amorality). Can we still give a damn if we’re all god-like? Or in the midst of so much horror that no human could reasonably be expected to survive unscarred (think of the Holocaust), are we still human? What’s human? What’s life? What’s good and who decides? Who gives authority to whom and why?



‘Watchmen’ Atop Amazon Fiction Sales

From a Wired article about the excessive success of this year’s Comic-Con is a little tidbit about the success of comics: Watchmen is now sitting at the top of Amazon’s fiction and literature sales list.

DC has been printing up copies like mad to meet the demand, which is of course churned up by the upcoming Zack Snyder film adaptation.

From the article:

Last week’s release of the movie’s trailer sent sales of a paperback collection of Alan Moore’s original Watchmen comics through the roof. The graphic novel now sits at the top of Amazon.com’s literature and fiction sales list.

"That’s never happened before," said DC’s Levitz. "We literally can’t print enough…. I don’t think we’ve been able to kill any more trees fast enough."

Comics and Chris Ware in Virginia Quarterly Review

Comics have long battled against proponents of "serious literature," who have often decried comics as a less intellectual medium than prose.

In the past few years, comics have become increasingly accepted into popular culture, and now it seems they’re well established in the literary world too.

The Virginia Quarterly Review, one of the elite literary magazines, ran a special comics issue this spring, which I just happened across on a recent trip to the bookstore.

It features a cover by Art Spiegelman (seen at right) and, best of all, a new story from Chris Ware. The fictional biography of Jordan W. Lint shows the character’s life through a glance at single days of his existence.

You can see a preview at the VQR Web site, right here.

Editorial Cartoon Investigated as ‘Hate Literature’

Editorial Cartoon Investigated as ‘Hate Literature’

Nova Scotia newspaper The Chronicle Herald has vowed to defend an April 18 editorial cartoon by award-winning cartoonist Bruce MacKinnon after police received a complaint that the cartoon could qualify as "hate literature."

The cartoon (pictured here) depicted the wife of Qayyum Abdul Jamal, who was arrested in 2006 on terrorism-related charges that involved an alleged plot to bomb targets in Toronto and Ottawa. Jamal’s wife, Cheryfa MacAulay Jamal, told The Herald that she intended to sue the federal government after the charges against her husband were stayed.

According to various reports, the cartoon was reported as potential "hate literature" to local police, but law enforcement officials are still determining whether a crime actually took place.

According to Dan Leger, director of news content for The Herald, "We will vigorously defend (the cartoon) and it would be an abuse of process for them to even contemplate initiating any type of action against the newspaper."


(via Journalista, ComicsReporter and just about everywhere, really)

MOVIE REVIEW: Harry Potter and the Profit of Cash

MOVIE REVIEW: Harry Potter and the Profit of Cash

I just came out of a screening of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the fifth installment of the series, and before I go spouting off my likes and dislikes, I wanted to forewarn anybody reading this review that my expertise is vastly limited in the world of J.K Rowling. While I’ve never read the books, and it’s not due to a disliking or laziness, I just find the concept of visual storytelling much more effective than having me conjure up images from the deep and dark recesses of my imagination.

With that said, I want readers to understand that I’m reviewing this film as just that, a film, and not so much a visual appendage of the book. So please keep the hate mail that starts off with “You ignorant twit…” to a minimum.

Now that that is out of the way, I loved the film. It had all of the visual aspects and plot maturity that the previous films were leading up to, and I know we are only going upwards from here. The last film left us with the big reveal of nose-less Ralph Fiennes as our quintessential baddie Lord Voldemort, and Harry taking his first step of many into adulthood. There lies my biggest problem with the film, but we’ll take it slow, as per usual.

Putting our best foot forward, the visual effects never cease to amaze me in each of these films. Each director (in this case, BBC veteran David Yates) has brought a different look and feel to the film they were charged with, and gave the film an entirely fresh feel, without diverting too far from the original text. In this film, we get more special effects than any of its previous predecessors. Between CG’d giants, to CG’d fireworks, even to Ralph Fiennes CG’d lack of a nose, there is certainly more computer graphics in this film than you can wave a stick at. Though through all of this, not once was I taken out of the mythos by a lack of belief, all thanks to the superior visual effects.

By far my favorite aspect of the film to talk about, and probably the one that will get me in the most trouble, is the undertone used throughout the first and second act. That undertone being the same thing that has fueled some of the most important science fiction and fantasy films of our era, and probably before that. This message of course is essentially “Damn the Man!”


F&SF News & Links

F&SF News & Links

Colleen Mondor has a long essay about mysterious houses in various genres. (That picture, by the way, is the very first result for "mysterious houses," though they don’t look terribly mysterious to me.)

SF Signal thinks about who the next Grand Masters of the Science Fiction Writers of America should be.

Cracked lists the seven lamest Transformers of all time. Oh, yeah…as if being a giant killer robot who can turn into something else isn’t pretty damn cool no matter what… [via Extra Life]

The UK SF Book News Network reports on the launch of Galaxiki – a wiki-editable virtual galaxy intended to become a gigantic collaborative writing project.