Former DVD Talk writer Jason Bailey has created a wildly entertaining exploration of Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction with this 200-page hardcover book. Covering all things Pulp and expanding into the surrounding Tarantino universe, "Pulp Fiction: The Complete Story of Quentin Tarantino's Masterpiece" is a must-have item for cinephiles that looks great on the living room coffee table or inside the home theater. Both incredibly thorough and easy to read, Bailey's book sports some impressive page designs. The numerous articles are surrounded by still images from the film, production photographs, poster artwork, and prints inspired by Tarantino's classic. Both casual readers and fans who have seen the film hundreds of times in the nearly twenty years since its theatrical release will appreciate this celebration of cinema.
The book opens with articles on Tarantino's early work, spotlighting several scrapped projects, Sundance hit Reservoir Dogs, and his writing contributions to True Romance and Natural Born Killers. Mixed in amid the colorful pages are "Pulp Facts" and "Frames of Reference," which provide valuable information about the terms and filmmaking techniques discussed in the book. A lengthy chart details Tarantino's favorite films, including Rolling Thunder and Taxi Driver, and their influence on his own projects. Tarantino fans know the director is highly influenced by ‘70s exploitation films, Asian cinema and Italian epics like The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, and Bailey presents clear, cogent evidence that Tarantino's own cinematic journey is evident in each of his films.
The book dives further into pulp cinema and Tarantino's proclivity for Mexican standoffs and a-typical narrative structures. Subsequent articles concern the film's script, production, and the character archetypes that inspired Vincent Vega, Jules Winnfield, Butch Coolidge and Mia Wallace. I particularly enjoyed the detailed account of filming with John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis and Uma Thurman, and learned much about the night shoots, improvising, and on-set mishaps that shaped the final film. Each section is accompanied by numerous illustrations and related graphs, which provide much amusement. An extended flow chart of the film's chronology accompanies a discussion of the out-of-order narrative, which is a key element of the film. There's also a filming locations map and discussion of the brands, props and themes that appear in multiple Tarantino films. Green Apple cigarettes, anyone?
Bailey clearly knows his Fiction and packs a ton of information into the pages of his book. The extra effort to create appealing page designs and interesting layouts is not lost on this reader, and I thoroughly enjoyed dissecting the various elements of the book. A discussion of the word "fuck" in the film? That's here. So is a list of projects clearly inspired by Tarantino's film. I'm not sure I ever realized how culturally significant Pulp Fiction truly is until I read deeper into its saturation into our society. What other violent, profane, R-rated film has had such an impact? The film's iconic soundtrack also receives its own article, as do the more mysterious elements of Pulp Fiction like the infamous briefcase with its contents unseen.
"Pulp Fiction: The Complete Story of Quentin Tarantino's Masterpiece" also touches on the auteur's other films, from Kill Bill to Inglourious Basterds and beyond. Handsomely illustrated and very well written, Bailey's book deserves a place in any home theater. Even after you've read the core articles there are plenty of sidebars and tangential discussions to keep you coming back to the book. This book easily earns its place alongside the film itself: DVD Talk Collector Series!
William lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.