Monday 2 February 2009
Booktown was pre-empted again, this time for a KVMR membership drive (please join up if you're not already a member). I had planned to feature the paperback reprints of two books that deal with the convolutions of American popular culture: David Hajdu's The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America and Al (formerly A.) Alvarez' The Biggest Game in Town, a 1983 portrayal of the World Series of Poker (both published by Picador).

Both books are informative and fun, especially if you want to believe that comic books and poker are peculiarly American phenomena. Alvarez describes the four weeks he spent in Las Vegas in 1981 and provides backstories for most of that year's major competitors. Hajdu is a little less focused. His summary of the rise of comic strips and comic books is brisk and entertaining, but his rundown of the captains of the industry in the late 30s and early 40s seemed both overly detailed and a bit sketchy to me (many of his mini-biographies went nowhere). It was only when he got to the demise of the gruesome EC comic books and the rise of Mad that he drew me back in. By then it was 1955, I was turning ten and it was my story.

To imagine this program, smoke this.

posted by Eric Tomb and others 7:13 PM

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