Friday, October 16, 2015

AN APPALLINGLY BAD BOOK ON A GREAT SUBJECT--Molly Guptill Manning on the American Services Editions

This book is on a great topic, but it is the worst book I have ever not been able to read. Anyone teaching how to write elegantly could use it as a textbook for unspeakable and unspeakably bad opening sentences of paragraphs.

I select this from p. 124:
"Servicemen were sexually frustrated, but the idea of providing that catered to such books prurient interests flustered some of the council's staff."

I waive the possibility that only 82.4% of servicemen were sexually frustrated (Molly Guptill Manning knows so many things at others are uncertain of) and just ask you to read the words quoted.

What a shame that Paula Rabinowitz's excellent AMERICAN PULP came out the same year as Manning's WHEN BOOKS WENT TO WAR. Rabinowitz is a real writer, and her book deftly puts the American Service Editions in relation to the larger topic of American pulp.

I can't resist giving further samples from p. 80.

"One of the most remarkable aspects of the council's ASE endeavor was that it set broad benchmarks and worked to avoid censorship of the soldiers' reading. . . . When Zane Grey's Riders of the Purple Sage (a western whose heroine befriends gunslinging cowboys who urge her to break away from the evils of the Mormon Church) was on the verge of being printed, a reader objected to it because of its 'bitter attack on the Mormons.'"

Has Manning read any novel she writes about, one wonders? Read with understanding?

Even in the expurgated version available until recently, The Riders of the Purple Sage deserved much better that Manning's flippant dismissive summary. Did she read any of the novels she writes about? I wonder again.

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