REVIEW: Pulp, Robin Talley

Wednesday, 26 December 2018

In 1955, eighteen-year-old Janet Jones keeps the love she shares with her best friend Marie a secret. It’s not easy being gay in Washington, DC, in the age of McCarthyism, but when she discovers a series of books about women falling in love with other women, it awakens something in Janet. As she juggles a romance she must keep hidden and a newfound ambition to write and publish her own story, she risks exposing herself—and Marie—to a danger all too real. Sixty-two years later, Abby Zimet can’t stop thinking about her senior project and its subject—classic 1950s lesbian pulp fiction. Between the pages of her favorite book, the stresses of Abby’s own life are lost to the fictional hopes, desires and tragedies of the characters she’s reading about. She feels especially connected to one author, a woman who wrote under the pseudonym “Marian Love,” and becomes determined to track her down and discover her true identity. In this novel told in dual narratives, New York Times bestselling author Robin Talley weaves together the lives of two young women connected across generations through the power of words.

Do you remember the moment after the first episode of the American Horror Story election!season when everyone paused, looked at one another and wondered if Ryan Murphy was taking the piss out of us? Pulp felt like that.
This is primarily because, the modern-day sections of the novel were so overtly millennial that, in some moments, they began to feel like a sort of parody. I almost know for certain that this was unintentional on Robin Talley’s part but, that didn’t stop it from edging that way. The characters were name-cards who went to pro-choice rallies, and wrote feminist essays, and voted for Bernie Sanders, but weren’t fleshed-out enough to have enough opinions and agency to be able to carry those thoughts.
Another way that the novel could be interpreted is that, the novel feeds into the discussion surrounding such authors as Becky Albertalli - that the sheer number of references will seriously date the book in a couple of years and that the presence of them sometimes makes it close to unreadable. It was like she was trying to give her audience the perfect book (a venture which never goes as well as it sounds). Like she was trying too hard; as though she was the slightly-out-of-the-loop older cousin trying to fit in with the teenagers.
See, I know what instalove is, see?
See, I know what hurt/comfort fan fiction is, see?
It crossed over into cringey. Almost like, your dad calling someone his OTP.
Pulp would have been far better off just focussing on the fifties, because the framing device of the modern-day really sucks.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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