Hannah Sternberg, at PJ Media, thinks it’s pointless to assign too much significance to every work of fiction, as academics are wont to do:

Schools never assign the books you actually want to read. Or, if they do, they don’t read them the way you want to. Recently, pulp fiction seems to have been getting a bit of an airing on campuses, in classes with names like Pop Literacy and Cultural Trope Analysis, classes I took enthusiastically when I was in college. Still, they seem to miss the point. I’ve written papers trying to find the deeper intellectual elements of a pulpy book that prove, in the accepted academic terms, why it’s as great as I’d always suspected.

The problem, I realize now, is that the reason pulp fiction is great is because it’s fun, and fun is not something you can intellectualize very far. We study classic novels because they unlock deep, serious emotions or reveal uncomfortable truths about the human condition or represent a significant period in history. That is the stuff of seminars, theses and entire departments. We read pulp fiction because it’s fun.

She then briefly surveys five pulp writers and their best works:

– Gaston Leroux and The Phantom of the Opera: “It’s just a cracking story from a person unafraid of telling a cracking story. No histrionics are too shrill, no mysterious pits too deep, no tortured antiheroes too twisted for Gaston Leroux.”

– Bram Stoker and Dracula: “. . . Stoker’s novel has been gaining academic respect for all the wrong reasons: themes of sexual politics or death-fetishism or something like that. We’d all be better off if our [college] classes just sat down and had a good old-fashioned gush about how much fun it is.”

– Douglas Adams and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: “The Hitchhiker’s Guide is emphatically a book that should not be read for school, but is often read while at school, maybe inside a bigger more impressive-looking book.”

– Wilkie Collins and The Woman in White: “We praise a variety of modern writers for their ability to evoke emotions such as soul-boredom or existential angst. Don’t undervalue the author who succeeds consistently in evoking pure delight.”

– Edgar Rice Burroughs and A Princess of Mars: “ERB is not the master of prose. He does not have an elegant hand with, well, anything. But he has a firecracker imagination and he’s fearless in his quest for more action, more suspense, higher stakes, longer shots. Unabashed larger-than-life storytelling like that takes guts, and in Burroughs’s world, only pansies cover their asses by claiming at the end that it was all ‘ironic’.”

Read more of Sternberg’s “Top Five Nasty Scary Good Pulp Fiction Writers” here.