Monday, November 14, 2011

Pulped Fiction

From: Cover Browser




"In the spring of 1935, the famous novelist Maxwell Bodenheim crashed the New York City welfare office and begged for relief after five years of the Great Depression. His career had stalled, and Bodenheim hadn’t earned a dime since his final novels had flopped. He was working on a manuscript called Clear Deep Fusion, but he would never finish it. His visit to the relief office was his last stand before he was edited out of literary history.
     The New York Herald Tribune mocked Bodenheim’s ragged demonstration: 'he wore high shoes without laces, his shirt was dirty and the rest of his clothes needed cleaning and pressing. He was unshaven, very pale and his hair was mussed.' He brought along five Writers Union activists and a squad of reporters in an effort to inspire other writers to go public with their struggles to survive. One activist waved a sign that read 'starvation standards of Home Relief make real ghost writers.' During the thirties, the rate of newspaper closings rose to 48 percent and magazine advertising plunged 30 percent. Publishers Weekly noted book production had been slashed from nearly 211 million to 154 million books during that period: 57 million books evaporated into thin air.
     Bodenheim’s Slow Vision explored a miserable relationship during the Great Depression, showing the effects of unemployment on a young couple. I paid more than $50 for a copy at a rare books site; not because Bodenheim’s work is highly valued, but because it is nearly extinct. I’ve checked out every single Bodenheim book I could find at my local libraries. At the Los Angeles Public Library, the checkout sleeve for his poetry collection still held an obsolete computer punch card, the brittle cardboard only stamped once since 1930: May 15, 1981. I found more of his poetry in a rare archive of the New Masses magazine, whose 75-year-old pages crumble when you touch them. [...]
    The loss of these radical works is part of a larger loss for print culture, of course. In his book Double Fold, Nicholson Baker investigated the destruction of thousands of newspapers by libraries in a bid to create microfilm archives. In 1997, the San Francisco Library pulped 250,000 forgotten books to make room for computers and reading spaces, consigning works by authors like Bodenheim to oblivion. A group of rogue librarians bucked these orders, stashing books in safe nooks and stamping them with imaginary checkouts to keep them in circulation. They called it 'guerrilla librarianship.' In 1997, The Atlantic Monthly defined the term as 'the use of surreptitious measures by librarians determined to resist the large-scale 'deaccessioning' of rarely used books … [It] can also involve such tactics as transferring endangered books from one department to another and hiding books in lockers, to be reintroduced to the collection.' "
— Jason Boog, Los Angeles Review of Books
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Read more about Maxwell Bodenheim here...
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