My first time posting; I'm a middle-aged married man, working professional, living in the Midwest. Yes, I read RB long ago: DW, F451, The MC, etc. Found some of it good and some so-so. RB is not the soundtrack of my life, but in general I thought he was innocuous.
That changed considerably about one month ago when I read in the NYT (yes, I read it every day, both the paper edition and the online edition, which carries the articles the "national edition" does not) that RB had hopped on the bandwagon blaming Israel and its supporters for all the turmoil in the Middle East and saying the Jews should never have settled in present-day Israel, but instead should have "settled in S. Florida." To my (yes, Jewish, I am I am I am, and I'm not ashamed of it) mind, it sounded like a despicable stereotype, but then what do I know? Since last reading RB more than 30 years ago in H.S. and seeing the highly disappointing film adaptation of MC (with Rod Steiger, one of my favorite actors), I hadn't thought much about RB (in debates about free speech, censorship, and govt. monitoring of private lives the names Orwell, DeLillo, Lucas (his first feature-length film, THX 1138), and some others come to mind, but not RB, at least for me). It seemed to me that Mr. Ray was referring to Jews as spoiled, sun-loving, Miami-beach dwelling, bignosed whiners, vulgar money-obsessed turd-nosed parvenu tourists straight out of T.S. Eliot's most despicable poetry (see, e.g., "Burbank With A Baedeker: Bleistein With A Cigar"). And his sense of Middle East history seems, to put it mildly, wildly inaccurate and frustratingly one-sided.
Needless to say, I no longer have a benign or innocuous view of Mr. RB or his nature as a human being; no doubt many on this board dedicated to his greatness will feel differently. Maybe they can enlighten me: what in blazes did he mean? I'm Jewish, American born and raised mye entire life, and have been to Southern Florida exactly once in my life, for four nights and three days. Can you RB acolytes, or RB himself, tell me why I or "my people" should have such an affinity for it?
I understand I agreed to terms of this board and have refrained from "defamation," bad language, etc. But I notice nowhere in the registration agreement was a ban on anti-Semitism, racism, etc. mentioned.
I�m a WASP but I�ll stand up for any Jewish person who wants to defend the concept of a homeland in Israel and the decision was made and you�re in it now so on and on it will go until concluded. But�there should have been an alternative, one that was the path of least resistance and that might have worked out to everyone�s mutual benefit, and that alternative might have been Florida. I don�t pretend to know what Ray�s reasoning is but I bet you it turns out to be fair-minded.
This was only a knee-jerk reaction to your thoughtful and reasonable question. I wish you the very best.
If this offers any enlightenment, Bradbury says he hated Eliot. "Hated" was his exact term when I asked him if Eliot was an influence on him. Thomas Wolfe, on the other hand, was a great influence Bradbury loved, and he really caught it for anti-Semitism, most notably in "Of Time and the River," which I am currently reading and finding very tough going. Do yourself a favor and DON'T read this book. If you do, don't say I didn't warn you. (Bradbury rarely pronounces anything okay, not great, or the like. He loves things or hates them, including authors.)
"Of Time and the River" is about a character closely based on Wolfe who has a bit of a downer attitude on most of the people he runs across, but seems to reserve a special hatred and contempt for all of the Jewish persuasion--even those who were his friends!
If you ask me, politics are not Bradbury's strong suit. They are just one of many areas where he offers an absolute pronouncement on a subject which may have many facets and he latches onto his "take" on it and may come across as not completely informed. He is NOT good at listening to and weighing different viewpoints, just makes his pronouncements and that's it, end of story. Once in awhile he may be persuaded to rethink a subject but that is not common with him.
When questioned, he is good at saying one of two things:
1. "That's not what I said."
2. "That is what I said, but you totally misinterpreted what I meant."
Take him or leave him, I mostly take him but it's uphill going when I find an experience, insight, or belief of mine opposed to his pronouncements. One can take consolation, though, that occasionally his pronouncements prove contradictory.
To Chapter 31 and Dandelion:
Thank you for your thoughtful replies. I had heard about Thomas Wolfe's racial/ethnic views in the past (not too out of line for white working class fellows from the South at the turn of the (20th) century, not that that excuses them; writers and artists, in my opinion, are supposed to transcend their narrow prejudices if they are to strive for universality and therefore a literature or an art that is timeless) but was never able to get far into Look Homeward Angel, not because of the prejudice but because of the density of the prose. I purchased Of Time and the River years ago in a used bookstore in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago and there it sits, years later, part of the wall of reproach of purchased but unread literature (now numbering well into the hundreds of books) which I am always assuring myself and my skeptical wife I will get around to reading, perhaps in retirment (I should live so long). I find Wolfe harder slogging even than Joyce, and you have my sympathy trying to get through the book.
Although Wolfe's writing displayed some attitude problems relating to Jews, (I find "Of Time and the River" FAR more objectionable than "Oliver Twist") after many visits to Germany, where he himself was well-liked and well-treated, Wolfe found himself outraged by the treatment of Jews there in the late 1930s. It's been argued that these experiences of his there wiped out his earlier prejudice toward Jews. http://www.missq.msstate.edu/sssl/view.php?pid=4702
Two of the stories he wrote condemning Nazi Germany are "The Spanish Letter" and "I Have a Thing to Tell You."
I agree with you about the density of the prose. Some of it is beautiful, with traces of what inspired Bradbury, but for the most part way heavier! Reading Wolfe is NOT for anyone in need of fast-moving action and cohesive plot! "Of Time and the River" is difficult also because it can be viewed as rather a downer. The Jews were the only group towards whom Wolfe's writing seemed to express actual contempt amounting to hatred, though he had no use for people of African-American heritage, either. In this way he was different from Bradbury, who has been occasionally accused of stereotypes but who expresses little, if any, scorn based on ethnicity or mostly even gender, at least in his stories.
Bradbury mostly comes across as a people person, Wolfe does not. "Of Time and the River" is the story of a young man who traveled to many different places among many groups of people and scarcely got along with any of them, at least in the story so far. I'm up to the part where he's in France. He befriended crazed drug-addicted drunks pursuing a suicidal course, who may have added some interest to his travels but make for a discouraging read.
Finally, I finished reading "Of Time and the River" on May 28. I don't mean to put it entirely down. The whole part about the father's condition and the family's reactions to his illness and death was very relevant. Never saw a fictional character take so long to die--about a book and a half of LONG books--very drawn-out.
After his father's death, Eugene goes to the city--New York--where it seems he hates just about everyone, then blunders about Europe for way too long. The book was originally about twice the length, and I thank Mr. Maxwell Perkins for its coming to an end when it did.
You are to be commended for completing, and thinking deeply about, Time and The River. It can't have been easy.
Peace to you.
Thanks. It's a 50-50 chance of my mom completing it. She hasn't hit the bad spots yet.
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