Thursday, April 16, 2015


The vigor of pulp prose

While rereading Nick Tosches' remarkable biography The Devil and Sonny Liston, I stop and marvel at some of his passages. This isn't pulp writing in its purple form we readers of outlandish fringe fiction are accustomed to. This is the fierce poteen of nonfiction prose distilled from documented facts, historical hindsight and interviews that percolates in the boiling stewpot of writer Tosches' skull. This is the kind of writing that brings a smile to an appreciative reader's face. (Or at least to his mental mouth--if you can have a mind's eye, can't you have a mind's lips?)

Liston's rise through the amateur ranks had been so fast and so fulminous--such a sudden, attention-commanding burst of neon lightning and Shango thunder--that the price negotiated for his professional debut was two hundred dollars, about four times the going rate for a preliminary novice.

Fulminous: a word you don't see very often unless you're a chemical engineer in a niche career or a backyard pyrotechnist, ala George Plimpton. Or, perhaps, a meteorologist. But it's a word I like, perhaps all the more so because of its rarity.

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