Opening with the exotic Lady Death entering the gumshoe-writer's seedy office in pursuit of a writer named Celine, this novel demonstrates Bukowski's own brand of humour and realism, opening up a landscape of seamy Los Angeles.
Always the iconoclast striving for a kind of literary raunch, the internationally acclaimed Bukowski ( Ham on Rye ), who died recently, leaves us with this spoof of the hardboiled detective genre, featuring an L.A.-based private investigator named Nick Belane. As the title makes clear, this novel is dedicated to bad writing, and readers who choose to ignore this warning and plunge ahead will soon know why. A spoof should be funnier and sharper than what it is spoofing but, compared to Hammett and Chandler, Pulp is quite simply trash. In the opening pages, Belane is paid a visit by a lady in red named Lady Death, who turns out to be death itself looking for the French author Celine, who should have died a long time ago but hasn't. Belane's search for Celine leads him to some space aliens who have assumed human shape, and to some juvenile encounters with an unhappily married couple. Along the way, every woman he meets is a dish, and every man is a dumb thug. In every bar he visits, Belane is mistaken for somebody else, a mistake which invariably erupts in a murderous brawl. The prose is practically nonexistent, and you can forget character. All that's left is humor and philosophy, but Belane's humor is all bathroom and his philosophy can be summed up in the lines, "I wasn't dead yet, just in a state of rapid decay. Who wasn't?" Bukowski has taken the worst of the PI genre, stripped it bare, and added nothing but a dose of adolescent posturing. It's sad thatBukowski has left as his parting gesture a book so weak and thin.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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September 14, 2003
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