I just got from the Sci-Fi book club "Brave New World." Never read it, but from what I gleaned off this website, it sounds like something I may like (then again, I like just about any genre, other than romance!). Once I get through the dozen books I have waiting to be read, I might just try to give 1984 another shot. Does it get better after the first 50 pages? Because that's about as far as I got before I was so bored with it I put it down!
TRANSLATOR! Sorry, I haven't gotten back to you in a while. I just opened a play so I've been busy. BUT in response to your post, no, I don't think the things you mentioned absolve Conrad or Shakespeare.
"What dost thou wrap and fumble in thy arms?"
"O that which I would hide from heaven's eye, / Our empress' shame, and stately Rome's disgrace...a devil."
"Why then she is the devil's dam: a joyful issue."
"A joyless, dismal, black, and sorrowful issue. / Here is the babe, as loathsome as a toad/ Amongst the fair faced breeders of our clime." --TITUS ANDRONICUS
"Her name that was as fresh/as Dian's visage, is now begrimed and black as mine own face." --OTHELLO
"Away you Ethiope!"
--A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM
These are just three passages that I could remember off the top of my head where they were at. Not to mention that the anti-Semitism in MERCHANT OF VENICE is absolutely appalling. There is actually very little doubt about Shakespeare's attitude towards race if only because he reiterates it himself time and again. Conrad even more than Shakespeare (who probably never even met a Black person) has passages in his literature that aren't even questionable. Trust me that I don't assume someone is racist just because they have white skin. Especially not a great artist. Conrad consistently implies if not says out right that Black people are less than white people and there way of life is not as valid as Western culture. Even in his life he was part of the colonialist surge into Africa. It is what it is. The danger from my end is too reduce them to that and cut myself off from what they have to teach me. It is important that I (and your friend) recognize that they are part of my heritage too. They have also fed in to your sense of who you are today. That's reality.
[This message has been edited by Beirut Wedding (edited 09-14-2004).]
I have been re-reading M.R. James's GHOST STORIES OF AN ANTIQUARY and MORE GHOST STORIES OF AN ANTIQUARY. After that it'll be Clarke's HAMMER OF GOD or Roger Peyrefitte's LES AMITI�S PARTICULI�RES. But I may well discover something else in the interim.
I just re-read "The Twelfth Planet" by Zacheria Sitchin for the third time. Now, if you really eant to stretch your mind a bit try Sitchin. Many answers to some really big questions there.
Actually, the book I'm reading right now is a trip along the lines of colonialism, race, war and just people being bad to each other. BLOOD MERIDIAN by Cormac McCarthy is one of the more intense (and beautifully written) books I've read in a while and nobody comes out looking good. Nobody.
Nuts, I had a good long response, but it got deletead. here is a summary of what I was going to say:
1) Othello was liking Des. name to his face because "a black smear" on someone's name is not a good thing to have. He mentioned his own face as a model for blackness for it was black. Finding racism here is reading too much into it (the only thing I can think of is to call the language inherently racist for having the word "black" designated as a negative).
2) I's like you to still answer some questions from my previous post (specifically, how can Conrad, who wrote about the plight of blacks under the European rule, be considered a racist)
3) I'd like you to comment on the distiction I'm about to make - that being racist and critisizing a style of living are two different things. One is often a result of the other, however, I believe that one can critisize a lifestye of certain people without necessairly being racist against them.
4) Anti semitism and racism are two wholly different ball games - they are not equal. Thus Shakespeare could certainly be an anti-semite without necessairly being very racist (which, in the historical context, is like saying he fought for black rights).
I recently finished THE COMING OF THE ROBOTS, an anthology chronicling the history of the robot in fiction from the time it was humanized and treated as something other than a menace. Every story was great. The original short story I, ROBOT by Eando Binder, not Asimov, was included.
I'm currently reading CLADE by Mark Budz and THE STARCHILD TRILOGY by Pohl and Williamson. CLADE is said to do for the Biopunk sub-genre what NEUROMANCER did for Cyberpunk. It's this guy's debut novel and I'm loving it. STARCHILD is good 'ol space opera with just enough hard science and sociology thrown in to please any SF fan.
Next up is Ian Macleod's THE LIGHT AGES.
I recently joined a SF reading and book discussion group. CLADE and THE LIGHT AGES are selections from that group. Join us at www.asimovs.com and see what's currently happening in SF.
Hey, 14 just to know. I am reading the Illustrated Man, it's great. I just finish The Martian Chronicals, and i hope to read in the near furture dandelion wine.
I don't know bro, associating black with bad or unfaithful or dishonorable and then having the character himself comparing it to his own face (therefore the skin of his own face is obviously not as desirable as say white skin) is something only a white writer would put into a Black man's mouth. But you're right in that it's not an example of Shakespeare's racism but his entire society's lack of social awareness along these lines.
Conrad for instance consistently refers to Blacks as savages and niggers. His concern at the behavior of white people has less to do with the inherent humanity of the victims then it does with the detrimental effect of that same behavior on white people. I could kill a cat and that would make me a bad person but it wouldn't make the cat a human being. Conrad is concerned with the killing making me a bad person.
Lifestyles of a society count. The question of abortion for instance is still being fought in this country. One day it will be resolved and the people of the future will look back on our society and hold us accountable accordingly. Where we stand today as individuals will tell people who we were and they will be right. Shakespeare always upheld the status quo. Whatever that was that has to be acknowledged. If the society was racist and he held that up rather than say argued against it well, that is that.
I have a tough time with the anti-Semitism is different than racism argument. When we allow ourselves disclaimers in that way we open the door for a host of other evils. To me racism is the denial of a people's inherent humanity based on their bloodlines. Anti-Semitism is about hating somebody because their language, culture, religion and yes, race are different from one's own. The primary difference as I see it might be one of power (racism implies the power to affect the oppressed in a way that the oppressed can't effect the one in power--i.e. not letting them have jobs, denying them education, telling them who they can marry, by force of law denying their humanity) but that is almost strictly a semantic difference and man, hate is hate.
However, I should say this as well: with both the two writers we're discussing I think there was an awareness that there was more going on then the simplistic ways their society was telling them to see the world. Shakespeare was as good at seeing and presenting all sides of the story as anybody out there. But even in OTHELLO when I read it I see Shakespeare feeling (as O'Neill would later in THE EMPEROR JONES) that Black people when pressed would resort back to their "savage" ways. Within this I still think it's a piece worth exploring and hope to with my own theatre company. The thing that would turn it for me is if Iago is a Black man as well. That would explain to me more clearly why Othello, a man whose survived war, slavery, and politics could be so easily brought to a murderous rage by a handkerchief. If the person telling him these terrible things about his wife was the only other Black man...
I'm enjoying this conversation. Thanx.
This conversatin matured into a deconstructionist sort of thing. It's the first non-political one here. Cheers to that.
I don't know bro, associating black with bad or unfaithful or dishonorable and then having the character himself comparing it to his own face (therefore the skin of his own face is obviously not as desirable as say white skin) is something only a white writer would put into a Black man's mouth.
---it is - but come on, the play was about a black man in white society, and was targeted at white people in the 16th century. it's quite obvious that the black man will say something that is out of the ordinary if the black man was speaking in real life. You have to let shakespeare have that little quirk,for I'm pretty sure that outside of the few "trophy" blacks in the king's court he saw none too many black.
"But you're right in that it's not an example of Shakespeare's racism but his entire society's lack of social awareness along these lines."
---I'm glad you agree with me here.
"Conrad for instance consistently refers to Blacks as savages and niggers."
---it comes with the times. During those times the word "nigger" did not have quite the same negative connotation as it does today. Hell, they even named a country by that name - Nigeria (or the Niger river) (I should probably find out when that name came by, but I'm assuming soemtime around that time). By calling them savages he calls them by what they were - for they were savages (at least the ones he sometimes described). Also, his notion of a savage wasn't quite all that negative, for he always did exhibit a longing for the return to a natural state of being.
"His concern at the behavior of white people has less to do with the inherent humanity of the victims then it does with the detrimental effect of that same behavior on white people.I could kill a cat and that would make me a bad person but it wouldn't make the cat a human being. Conrad is concerned with the killing making me a bad person."
---I tend to disagree. What you're trying to imply is that all those people who advocate for the stoppage of cow slaughters do so only because they want the slaughterers to attain a higher understanding of the world and not resort to killing other animal, as opposed to actually being concerned with the pain and sufferijng the cows go through as they're being slaughtered. Although I may agree with you that some abolitionist may actually think that, i would think that Conrad was not one of them. The reason why not was because I simply did not gather that from his stories, and because the above suposition has cows as the main idea, and here the topic are humans. It would be quite hard to ask people to stop killing people so that those who are doing the killing can "better" themselves; I would think that those who ask for the killings to stop do so predominantly out of compassion for the ones beig killed.
"Lifestyles of a society count. The question of abortion for instance is still being fought in this country. One day it will be resolved and the people of the future will look back on our society and hold us accountable accordingly. Where we stand today as individuals will tell people who we were and they will be right. Shakespeare always upheld the status quo. Whatever that was that has to be acknowledged. If the society was racist and he held that up rather than say argued against it well, that is that."
---yes, but did he? I'm quite aware of the fact that he did not like to make the bad guys win - there was always some due that was given to the villains - but by depicting othello as he did I'm simply not convinced that he showed in himself the typical bigoted citizen of the Elizabethean times. Othello, according to shakespeare, was a great man tricked by both his best friend
and his own mind (though notice how long it took him to act. That again is proof that he was a man heads above heals of everyone else). As such, then, shakespeare was not with the status quo, but rather quite against it in some respects.
'I have a tough time with the anti-Semitism is different than racism argument. When we allow ourselves disclaimers in that way we open the door for a host of other evils. To me racism is the denial of a people's inherent humanity based on their bloodlines. Anti-Semitism is about hating somebody because their language, culture, religion and yes, race are different from one's own. The primary difference as I see it might be one of power (racism implies the power to affect the oppressed in a way that the oppressed can't effect the one in power--i.e. not letting them have jobs, denying them education, telling them who they can marry, by force of law denying their humanity) but that is almost strictly a semantic difference and man, hate is hate".
---Ok, some of what you say is true. I'm trying to differentiate anti-semtism and racism because the two arose from different issues - jews were the "christ killers", pople who "ate babies in their rituals", "moneylenders", and generally despicable conniving old bearded farts (according to the typical englishman at the time). There was no such history with the blacks. hatred against them would be purely because of their appearance. But remember that Shakespeare learned a lot of ancient history, and knew all about the ancient egyptian kings and queens (even wrote about them he did). Obviously knowing that egyptians are more black than not, and obviously having a lot of respect for some of them (Cleaopatra, etc), he wrote othello free from most of the predjudices his uneducated fellows held. Hence, the two are different to me - anti-semitism was cultural, and racism was purely physical, and while shakepear exhibited one, he did not much of the other.
"However, I should say this as well: with both the two writers we're discussing I think there was an awareness that there was more going on then the simplistic ways their society was telling them to see the world."
---I should think so as well.
" Shakespeare was as good at seeing and presenting all sides of the story as anybody out there. But even in OTHELLO when I read it I see Shakespeare feeling (as O'Neill would later in THE EMPEROR JONES) that Black people when pressed would resort back to their "savage" ways."
---As opposed to the white folks in his other plays who always behaved in their civilised ways? (A crack at sarcasm, sorry). I say that Othello, even while killing Desdemonda, was much more honorable than anything Mcbeth ever did. I did not take out of Othelllo the idea that Othello did what he did because he was black, I took from it the fact that he did what any man whose love flaunted him in the face would do. His action was completely outside of race.
" Within this I still think it's a piece worth exploring and hope to with my own theatre company."
---Where abouts are you playing? Send me some info. I would appreciate that.
"The thing that would turn it for me is if Iago is a Black man as well."
---I would think that the worst thing ever. Seriously, I would consider that a travesty. I have this thing about leaving things as they are, and since I think Othello is one of the best plays ever simply becayse no additions or subtractions are needed, I would consider it a crime if you did what you did. But then again, I'm quite eccentric in what I hold sacred and what I don't, so don;t mind me.
" That would explain to me more clearly why Othello, a man whose survived war, slavery, and politics could be so easily brought to a murderous rage by a handkerchief."
---Not a hadkerchief - a lying best friend. Kind of like Ceaser by Classius and Brutus.
"If the person telling him these terrible things about his wife was the only other Black man..."
---we would have comments such as "look at the blacks - one can;t let the other have anything of value. Always trying to kill the other black guy, always being selfish...etc, etc" But we'll see.
"I'm enjoying this conversation. Thanx"
---hey man, no prob. I'm enjoying it more than you are.
Just finished A Medicine for Melancholy (and it lived up to its promise). Reading Fahrenheit 451 now - at last, that was about time... After that, there are several books in waiting: I Sing the Body Electric for one, Tr�st (Consolation) by Stefan Stenudd, and - as soon as it will be available - the long-anticipated sequel The Runes of the Earth (Vol. 1 of The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant) by Stephen R. Donaldson.
Gothic, M.R. James is one of my favorite writers as well. His well-written ghost stories retain their power and ability to frighten a century after they were written. (For movie buffs, the 1958 film, CURSE OF THE DEMON, directed by Jacques Tourneur, was based on James' story, "Casting the Runes". It was a fine film, except for the cheesy puppet-like monster inserted into the film by the studio over the director's wishes, who wanted the presence of the creature to be suggested rather than explicit. I can almost hear the studio heads now: "But we need a MONSTER in this picture...")
[This message has been edited by Richard (edited 09-17-2004).]
Reminds me of a section of "Tyrannosaurus Rex" :
"Another thing." Clarence put the creature on the floor and walked around it. "I don't like the way this monster shapes up."
"You don't like what?" Terwilliger almost yelled.
"His expression. Needs more fire, more... goombah. More mazash!"
"The old bimbo! Bug the eyes more. Flex the nostrils. Shine the teeth. Fork the tongue sharper. You can do it!
I appreciate your reticence to change things from what they are. Believe me, I've seen Shakespeare absolutely trashed. On the other hand the thing that makes Shakespeare possibly the single greatest artist in history to this point is that his work moves and changes with the times. Our current conversation is a case in point. The fact is that it's hard to know exactly what Shakespeare thought about race, religion, or many of the "big" themes. And I'm not sure it matters. Do I think Shakespeare probably had specific ideas about race? You bet I do. But you disagree and this discussion has centered primarily on one play with which both of us make our arguments. This is more important to me than his specific attitudes on race. I'm a playwright myself and I don't take different takes lightly and I think I can explore what I want to explore with this play if I approach it with intelligence and integrity. I think this is how and why Shakespeare stays alive for us today. Cuz right now everything is changing faster than it ever has before and he stays abreast of it because different people can look at his work and have it speak to them in a different way and find something unique that they want to say. It's patently obvious that Shakespeare was sexist, and he's consistently harangued by feminists and actresses for his lack of female roles. On the other hand I don't know any actress of any race who wouldn't like a shot at Juliet, Rosalind, Cleopatra or Lady Macbeth. And plays like ANTHONY AND CLEOPATRA, TWELFTH NIGHT, THE TAMING OF THE SHREW, A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, MEASURE FOR MEASURE and AS YOU LIKE IT all offer ample opportunity to explore issues of sexual politics. They do not offer opportunities to argue any one point of view definitively. Though, again, guessing what Shakespeare "probably" thought is fairly easy. Kate is nothing short of "tamed" in TAMING. Hippolyta is conquered by force and falls in love with her conqueror, Titania is upbraided and taunted at Oberon's pleasure before she gives up her nurse's child, etc. There's way too many times when Shakespeare compares Blackness to ugliness or savagery to make me think that anything but negative connotations came into his head when he thought about Black people. Certainly white people act brutally toward each other but there's also numerous examples of them acting nobly, romantically, wittily, honorably, so on and so forth. The only two expressly Black characters in the entire Shakespeare canon a)are involved in disastrous relationships with white women, b)are murderers or become murderers and c)are sacrificed at the end to restore the natural order. But again, if I were to produce either of the plays in question it would be with an eye to what I want to say in this day and time and actually I feel that is most honored by honoring the text.
As for Conrad, I don't know, man, you're eloquent but not entirely convincing. Don't get me wrong I'll go back and look at some of the stuff I have but I tend to think that Conrad's racism was similar to Abraham Lincoln's. Slavery was wrong -- because it was wrong -- but not because Lincoln thought Black people were equals as human beings. Conrad recognized the viciousness in what he was witnessing but not the inherent humanity of the victims. And I would argue that "savage" always has a negative connotation because it's natural opposite is "civilized". Therefore if one is a savage than he is not a member of civilization and this is what I mean. Africans are and were civilized. Certainly there civilizations looked different than Western civilizations (for example they were generally operated under the principle of adapting the people to the environment whereas Western culture adapts the environment to the people) but that makes it no less valid. This is what Conrad did not recognize and this is what makes his racial attitudes questionable. His moral ambivalence and questioning are admirable and his ability to express the torment of his soul and the soul of his people is high art but for me it doesn't change who I think he was. It does change how I, as a twenty first century man of color, approach his work and that is with a willingness to hear what he has to say and to be expanded by it.
Interestingly, I am even now working on A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM and two thirds of the cast is from Viet Nam and say their lines in Viet Namese.
[This message has been edited by Beirut Wedding (edited 09-17-2004).]
I am currently reading "Contact" by Carl Sagan. I had seen the movie several years ago, with Jodie Foster, et.al., and enjoyed it very much. Now I am trying to see how closely they folowed the book when making the movie.
The one time that I got to attend "The Tonight Show" when Johnny Carson had it, Carl Sagan was a guest. Very interesting as they were showing photos just back from one of the planets, which one I honsetly do not recall.
Of course I read "The Cat's Pajamas" as soon as I had purchased it. I now have the comprehensive "A Life of Fiction" which I haven't really gotten into.
I also enjoy spy and murder mysteries via James Patterson, Alistar McClaine (Spelling??) etc.
Reading is a passion of mine, and my wife jokes that I have to read the ingredient labels on bottles if I don't have a book or newspaper at the table.
And, of course, I should be reading the Bible each day, but have been remiss in this respect.
[This message has been edited by biplane1 (edited 09-17-2004).]
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