I don’t want to tell you about Jeremy Holt and Chris Peterson’s Pulp. I really don’t. Is that because it’s bad? Oh no. In fact, it’s pretty goddamn excellent. I just don’t want to ruin this book’s significant unravel. See, Pulp is an exercise in restraint; it’s 24 pages of hush, and as such, I’ll try to maneuver around any spoilers accordingly. As regards plot, I’ll simply say that Pulp ostensibly tells the story of aspiring, reclusive writer John Merchant and his dealings with George - his larger-than-life publisher - as well as his assistant Jane, who is rather ... easy on the eyes.
That’s it. That’s all I’m willing to give, and while such a simple premise may not immediately inspire, I urge you to plunder the secrets in this story, as its apparent banality belies the depths of its totality. At its heart, Pulp is a story of dizzying invention, told in a way that may be chronologically discombobulating, but one that never feels disjointed. It's measured march is tranquil but unnerving - like footprints in a secluded wood or a fevered sleep - with an ending that is both haunting and haunted.
As I alluded to earlier, perhaps the thing about Holt’s writing in Pulp that immediately resounds is how painstakingly removed it is. In this book, he employs absence like a silencer, reserving the bulk of its chatter for brief narrative punches, using the ominous quiet to better host the perforations of his limited dialogue or the chorus of sound effects he uses almost as a foreshadowing slight-of-hand.
There is this inescapable tension in Pulp, but you’re not entirely sure why it crackles so palpably until its conclusion, which itself demands that you immediately re-read the book twice (or even thrice), just to appreciate the satisfying process with which Holt has fucked your head space.
Complementing this process beautifully is the understated art from Christ Peterson, whose work I’ve enjoyed thoroughly during his recent Dark Horse outing, Grindhouse: Bee Vixens From Mars. While it’s perhaps less-polished in Pulp, taking on a great, Michael Walsh sort of harried approach, his style here also adopts simplicity by way of seduction.
Particularly in allowing his thick and furious line work to be unwashed in a muted series of tones, the overall effect of the story is suitably foreboding without feeling addled or rushed. At the same time, Peterson shows his breadth of ability in limited, yet gorgeous pastoral scenes, focusing entirely on a remote home somewhere in the woods - the literary escape of our main character.
Pulp is one of those books you will read in one way and - quite suddenly - understand and appreciate in another, cantering somewhere in the spaces between The Shinning, American Psycho, Memento and a few other places I’m not willing to divulge for want of not ruining the story. It may not be the first of its kind to do this, but it does so to great effect.
If you’re like me, Pulp is not a book you will expect; that’s a very good thing, and the fundamental reason why I’ve been so cagey in this review. Don’t let that stop you, though, because as short as it may seem, as smothered as it is in emptiness, Pulp will burden your thoughts for a very long time, no matter how quickly you fire through it.
Writer: Jeremy Holt Artist: Chris Peterson Price: $4.99 or Pay What You Want Website