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Ray Bradbury, R.I.P.

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Ray Bradbury, the writer best known for his novels The Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451, as well as a hundreds of short stories, passed away on Tuesday, June 5 at the age of 91. With him we have lost not only one of America’s greatest writers, but also one of our last genuine writers.

However, I don’t use either of these words – genuine or writer – lightly. I say writer, because I most emphatically do believe that Bradbury, while certainly not one of the most “deep” or sophisticated writers of the past century, certainly came closer to capturing the Angst of our age better than just about anyone else.

I very deliberately did not call him a “science fiction writer,” either, since, as he himself once pointed out, the only one of his major works that could be accurately defined as science fiction is Fahrenheit 451, while the bulk of his work could more accurately be described as fantasy or horror fiction, with some mainstream works, such as Dandelion Wine, included as well.

As for “genuine,” I used that word for several reasons. One is that Bradbury was part of a vanishing set of writers who learned how to write before America became a post-literate, “information” society that looked to television and, later, the Internet rather than books for entertainment and social commentary. Another is that Bradbury, by his own account, became a writer because of an innate need to write – both because he felt he had a calling for it, and because he quite literally depended on his writing for his livelihood.

I remember reading him recount how, back in 1949 when he was staying at the YMCA in New York and desperately attempting to find a publisher for his short stories about Mars, an editor at Doubleday advised him to turn the book into a novel instead, as novels tend to be more marketable than collections of stories. Bradbury then stayed up all night at the Y, adding a superstructure to his Mars stories modeled on Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio, and thus The Martian Chronicles was born.

That used to be the crucible in which great writers were born. Writers were made of equal parts inspiration and determination, prepared to risk everything in the hope, often bordering on insanity, that someone else would actually like what they were doing. These days in America, if someone decides he wants to be a writer, he usually ends up taking creative writing courses at a college or university, and then, if he’s really driven, he’ll continue on to graduate school and get a Master of Fine Arts degree, attending endless “workshops” where teachers of less-than-dazzling talent of their own try to teach him how to write in a style that will appeal to the editors of the prestigious literary magazines – magazines that only a few thousand people nationwide actually read, but which count for everything in the world of academic literary writing.

If he perseveres and actually manages to publish a few things, and is a bit lucky, he can then find a cozy tenure-track position at some school, teaching writing to other writing students, and giving him the leisure time to write books that will only ever be of interest to other MFA students and professors of writing, since the incestuous world of academic writing is the only world he’s ever lived in. With a few exceptions, that is the state of the field of literary writing in America today. The only living American writers I can think of off the top of my head who I would term “genuine” writers of the same caliber as Bradbury would be Cormac McCarthy, Don DeLillo, and Tito Perdue. They are a vanishing breed.

One might ask why Bradbury should matter to readers of Counter-Currents. One reason is that Bradbury was one of the few people still engaged in a process that is fast becoming a rarity – namely, the actual production of “Western culture,” rather than mere lamentation at its absence. He was very much a writer in the Western, and more specifically American, literary tradition. There is very little overt political content to his work, however, and apart from his public objections to Michael Moore stealing the name of his 2004 film, Fahrenheit 9/11, from his book without permission (a complaint which Bradbury insisted was not politically motivated), as far as I knew, he had never done anything political at all.

In looking over the coverage of Bradbury’s death in the online media, however, I came across a tribute in the National Review entitled “Ray Bradbury, a Great Conservative,” which describes how he was initially a staunch Democrat but started to become disillusioned with liberalism during Lyndon Johnson’s administration, and became more and more of a conservative after that. The article quoted Bradbury as saying in 2010, “I think our country is in need of a revolution. There is too much government today. We’ve got to remember the government should be by the people, of the people, and for the people.” That’s good to know, but I still view Bradbury as essentially an apolitical man.

For me personally, the most relevant thing in Bradbury’s work is his anti-modern spirit. This is why it’s ridiculous to try to classify him as a science fiction writer. Bradbury made his bones as a writer in the 1940s and ’50s, at a time when the vast majority of science fiction was about one-dimensional characters serving as chess pieces in a game of depicting futuristic technology or some fantastic alien world. This is the tradition into which today’s “hard” science fiction falls – stories which are more about being scientifically and technologically plausible than interesting as literature.

Bradbury was never a part of this school. If a rocket appears in a Bradbury story, it’s just a rocket – he assumes you know what one is, and leaves all the technical details to your imagination. This isn’t just laziness on his part – in truth, Bradbury saw advancing technology as a threatening thing, and in his own life he was actually a technophobe who never learned to drive and who apparently refused to fly for much of his life. In the final years of his life, to his credit, he also resisted allowing his works to be turned into e-books, claiming that American life had become too mechanized – although apparently, he changed his mind about this, since Fahrenheit 451 was released as a Kindle in 2010 (ironically enough).

The most important aspect of a Bradbury tale is the depth of feeling and passion felt by the characters, and the uncompromising demand they make to remain human in the face of technology and other popular trends of modernization. Bradbury’s best stories are about solitary men who sense that their souls are being threatened by forces driven by the massive engines of progress, and who then embark on an insane battle which they know they cannot win, but which they also know is preferable to continuing to live as one of the mindless herd.

The quintessential character of this type in Bradbury’s corpus is Guy Montag in 1953’s Fahrenheit 451. In this future America (as I recall he never states exactly when it takes place), all books have been banned for decades, television has taken on the character of what is now termed “virtual reality” and dominates most citizens’ lives, presidents are elected on the basis of their looks rather than their policies, actual communication between individuals never rises above the banal, suicide and drug addiction are rife, and personalities never develop beyond childish immaturity.

Montag is a firefighter, but now that all buildings are fireproof, their only job is to show up whenever books are discovered so that they can be promptly burned. Montag grows curious, however, and eventually starts to read some of the books, and discovers the world that has been denied to him. Once exposed to it, he can’t go back to the mindless world he knew before. He ends up conspiring to destroy the firemen, leaves his television-addicted wife, kills the Fire Chief, goes on the run, and ends up joining a small, underground sect of derelict literati in the countryside who have each committed a book to memory, so that they can preserve some of them without fear of arrest. The book ends as America is destroyed in a long-anticipated nuclear war, and Montag and his fellows begin to walk back toward the ruins of the cities, determined to use their knowledge to rebuild a genuine civilization once again.

This is incredibly radical stuff. These are Evola’s “men among the ruins,” doing their part to save something of a genuine tradition even when all seems lost, in the hope that, eventually, a new world will arise. It’s amazing that Fahrenheit 451 is often required reading in public school courses, when you think about it, even though the popular wisdom is that the book is about the “dangers of censorship” – which is rather like saying that Moby Dick is a story about a man who is chasing a whale. The world Bradbury depicts says much more about the dark side of modern life, and is much more horrifying than mere “censorship.” He is a poet for the man who stands by tradition while being at war with the modern world all around. One of my favorite passages of the book has Montag attempting to read the Book of Matthew on a commuter train, while an obnoxious commercial for toothpaste blares in the background, making it impossible to think. Such moments remain strikingly relevant and symbolic.

I’ve always been struck that George Orwell’s Nineteen-Eighty-Four is held up as the classic dystopian novel. While Nineteen-Eighty-Four has considerable merit in its own right, it is also quite obvious by comparing the two that Bradbury had a much greater understanding of the real dangers lurking in Western civilization in the mid-20th century, and of how they would end up playing out in our time. Orwell’s dystopia is about a crushing, all-powerful government that rules with an iron fist, something that seems quite dated today.

Bradbury’s dystopia really isn’t all that different from the America we now inhabit, where the soft touch of commercialization and materialism is used to enforce state power instead. It’s true that books haven’t actually been banned, although they have been rendered irrelevant.

Another classic Bradbury tale of a man rebelling against the spirit of his times is “Usher II,” which was included in The Martian Chronicles and is in part an homage to Edgar Allan Poe, Bradbury’s literary mentor. In this story, we learn that America has imposed moral laws on its citizens, and as a result, nothing deemed disturbing is permitted. A man named William Stendahl, frustrated with the lack of freedom on Earth, goes to the fledgling colony on Mars, where he builds a massive, automated haunted house based on Poe’s stories. Hearing of it, government officials named “Moral Climate Monitors” are dispatched to investigate its decency.

When they arrive, they immediately decide to have the house torn down, but Stendahl convinces them to go through the house once before passing judgment on it. He also reveals that he has had android doubles of all the officials made. As they walk through the house, the officials see the android versions of themselves being killed, one by one, in particularly gruesome fashion, as Stendahl condemns them for their efforts to sanitize the human experience. Finally, when he gets the Chief Inspector alone, Stendahl reveals that it is the real officials who have been getting killed, while the android doubles were looking on. Stendahl traps the Chief Inspector behind a wall in imitation of “The Cask of Amontillado,” and then whisks away by helicopter as the house collapses into the surrounding swamp.

Although perhaps the simplest version of his “man among the ruins” character is the one in his story “The Pedestrian” (1953), which is about life in 2053, when television has become so predominant that no one leaves their homes at night. Leonard Mead takes a walk through his city, enjoying the solitude he finds and wishing to differentiate himself from those who are forever huddled in front of their screens. Crime, we are told, has disappeared, since television keeps everyone constantly amused. He is finally stopped by a police car on his walk, and when he can’t offer any explanation for why he is walking, he is arrested and told that he will be taken to a psychiatric ward. The crowning dénouement comes when Mead is forced into the car and realizes that there are no police officers, and that it is completely automated.

From these examples, it should be clear that Bradbury nursed a hatred for the modern world that bordered on the violent, as evinced by the extreme reactions many of his characters have to it. The modern world for Bradbury, as it is for the traditionalists, is a place of soulless materialism, sterility, and stupidity divorced from anything authentic, as well as from the past.

My personal favorite since childhood among Bradbury’s rebellious characters, however, is Spender, in “And the Moon Be Still as Bright,” from The Martian Chronicles. In this story, following the disappearance of several earlier expeditions to Mars from Earth, a large and heavily-armed group of astronauts lands on Mars, only to discover that all of the Martians have recently died as a result of being exposed to chickenpox by the previous expeditions from Earth, and against which their immune systems had no defense.

Spender is enchanted by the remnants of the Martian civilization, but his colleagues are mostly contemptuous of it, breaking things and spending their time getting drunk. Spender disappears for several weeks, exploring the Martian ruins on his own, and then returns, lulling his colleagues into a false sense of security and then gunning down six of them. He flees into the hills, where he is pursued by the commander of the expedition, Captain Wilder, and a large force of armed men.

Wilder approaches Spender one last time before he attacks him, to try to talk him into surrendering. The conversation they have has always been among my favorite passages, and I think it’s worth quoting in full:

The captain considered his cigarette. “Why did you do it?”

Spender quietly laid his pistol at his feet. “Because I’ve seen that what these Martians had was just as good as anything we’ll ever hope to have. They stopped where we should have stopped a hundred years ago. I’ve walked in their cities and I know these people and I’d be glad to call them my ancestors.”

“They have a beautiful city there.” The captain nodded at one of several places.

“It’s not that alone. Yes, their cities are good. They knew how to blend art into their living. It’s always been a thing apart for Americans. Art was something you kept in the crazy son’s room upstairs. Art was something you took in Sunday doses, mixed with religion, perhaps. Well, these Martians have art and religion and everything.”

“You think they knew what it was all about, do you?”

“For my money.”

“And for that reason you started shooting people.”

“When I was a kid my folks took me to visit Mexico City. I’ll always remember the way my father acted – loud and big. And my mother didn’t like the people because they were dark and didn’t wash enough. And my sister wouldn’t talk to most of them. I was the only one really liked it. And I can see my mother and father coming to Mars and acting the same way here.

“Anything that’s strange is no good to the average American. If it doesn’t have Chicago plumbing, it’s nonsense. The thought of that! Oh God, the thought of that! And then – the war. You heard the congressional speeches before we left. If things work out they hope to establish three atomic research and atom bomb depots on Mars. That means Mars is finished; all this wonderful stuff gone. How would you feel if a Martian vomited stale liquor on the White House floor?”

The captain said nothing but listened.

Spender continued: “And then the other power interests coming up. The mineral men and the travel men. Do you remember what happened to Mexico when Cortez and his very fine good friends arrived from Spain? A whole civilization destroyed by greedy, righteous bigots. History will never forgive Cortez.”

“You haven’t acted ethically yourself today,” observed the captain.

“What could I do? Argue with you? It’s simply me against the whole crooked grinding greedy setup on Earth. They’ll be flopping their filthy atom bombs up here, fighting for bases to have wars. Isn’t it enough they’ve ruined one planet, without ruining another; do they have to foul someone else’s manger? The simple-minded windbags. When I got up here I felt I was not only free of their so-called culture, I felt I was free of their ethics and their customs. I’m out of their frame of reference, I thought. All I have to do is kill you all off and live my own life.”

The captain nodded. “Tell me about your civilization here,” he said, waving his hand at the mountain towns.

“They knew how to live with nature and get along with nature. They didn’t try too hard to be all men and no animal. That’s the mistake we made when Darwin showed up. We embraced him and Huxley and Freud, all smiles. And then we discovered that Darwin and our religions didn’t mix. Or at least we didn’t think they did, We were fools. We tried to budge Darwin and Huxley and Freud. They wouldn’t move very well. So, like idiots, we tried knocking down religion.

“We succeeded pretty well. We lost our faith and went around wondering what life was for. If art was no more than a frustrated outflinging of desire, if religion was no more than self-delusion, what good was life? Faith had always given us answers to all things. But it all went down the drain with Freud and Darwin. We were and still are a lost people.”

“And these Martians are a found people?” inquired the captain.

“Yes. They knew how to combine science and religion so the two worked side by side, neither denying the other, each enriching the other.”

“That sounds ideal.”

 …

Spender led him over into a little Martian village built all of cool perfect marble. There were great friezes of beautiful animals, white-limbed cat things and yellow-limbed sun symbols, and statues of bull-like creatures and statues of men and women and huge fine-featured dogs.

“There’s your answer, Captain.”

“I don’t see.”

“The Martians discovered the secret of life among animals. The animal does not question life. It lives. Its very reason for living is life; it enjoys and relishes life. You see – the statuary, the animal symbols, again and again.”

“It looks pagan.”

“On the contrary, those are God symbols, symbols of life. Man had become too much man and not enough animal on Mars too. And the men of Mars realized that in order to survive they would have to forgo asking that one question any longer: Why live? Life was its own answer. Life was the propagation of more life and the living of as good a life is possible. The Martians realized that they asked the question ‘Why live at all?’ at the height of some period of war and despair, when there was no answer. But once the civilization calmed, quieted, and wars ceased, the question became senseless in a new way. Life was now good and needed no arguments.”

“It sounds as if the Martians were quite naïve.”

“Only when it paid to be naïve. They quit trying too hard to destroy everything, to humble everything. They blended religion and art and science because, at base, science is no more than an investigation of a miracle we can never explain, and art is an interpretation of that miracle. They never let science crush the aesthetic and the beautiful. It’s all simply a matter of degree. An Earth Man thinks: ‘In that picture, color does not exist, really. A scientist can prove that color is only the way the cells are placed in a certain material to reflect light. Therefore, color is not really an actual part of things I happen to see.’ A Martian, far cleverer, would say: “This is a fine picture. It came from the hand and the mind of a man inspired. Its idea and its color are from life. This thing is good.'”

There was a pause. Sitting in the afternoon sun, the captain looked curiously around at the little silent cool town.

“I’d like to live here,” he said.

“You may if you want.”

“You ask me that?”

“Will any of those men under you ever really understand all this? They’re professional cynics, and it’s too late for them. Why do you want to go back with them? So you can keep up with the Joneses? To buy a gyro just like Smith has? To listen to music with your pocketbook instead of your glands? There’s a little patio down here with a reel of Martian music in it at least fifty thousand years old. It still plays. Music you’ll never hear in your life. You could hear it. There are books. I’ve gotten on well in reading them already. You could sit and read.”

“It all sounds quite wonderful, Spender.”

“But you won’t stay?”

“No. Thanks, anyway.”

“And you certainly won’t let me stay without trouble. I’ll have to kill you all.”

“You’re optimistic.”

“I have something to fight for and live for; that makes me a better killer. I’ve got what amounts to a religion, now. It’s learning how to breathe all over again. And how to lie in the sun getting a tan, letting the sun work into you. And how to hear music and how to read a book. What does your civilization offer?”

This is the crux of the traditionalist argument in a nutshell. I would add, however, that while it can be beneficial for a Western traditionalist to look to the other traditional civilizations of old for instruction and inspiration, the past of our own civilization is just as alien to modern man as a Martian civilization would be. The real battle is not that of the “West” versus the intrusion of outside elements, because even the “West” of today is not really Western anymore. The battle of our time is, at essence, really about the traditional versus the modern. Everything else is just a manifestation of this basic struggle. And this is a war that is happening everywhere. And it begs the question: what, exactly, are we fighting for? For the traditionalist, at least, the fight must, and can only be for our souls.

Spender adopted the Breivik approach in his war for the traditional, sparking violence that had no chance of success (in the story, he is killed). We can understand the motives and frustrations that lead to such actions, but ultimately, they don’t get us anywhere. The more correct approach, however, is Montag’s – of going underground, and trying to preserve our traditions, until the moment arises when more is possible. As Evola put it, one must become one of “those who have kept watch during the long night [so that they] might greet those who will arrive with the new dawn.” I doubt whether Bradbury had ever heard of the traditionalists, but he was certainly one of them in spirit, if not in doctrine.

I’ll end a bit indulgently and mention the one time I met Bradbury face-to-face. It was in 1996, and he was on a book tour promoting his latest book (Quicker Than the Eye), and he made a stop at the Borders in Ann Arbor, which is where I was living at the time. He had been scheduled to give a reading followed by a book signing, but so many thousands of people came that the reading was abandoned and the poor man simply sat and signed books for seven hours. I got there early and only had to wait for three. When I finally got in front of him and plunked my stack of books down for him to sign, I could feel the air as if it were charged with electricity. I was standing in front of a man who had been as much a part of my childhood as my friends and relatives. Even though I must have been indistinguishable from the legions of other drooling fans to him, he was a perfect gentleman, and I was even able to engage him in conversation for a few moments. I admitted to him that, when I made my first attempts at writing as a teenager, many of my early stories were blatant imitations of his own themes and style. He just waved his hand and said, “That’s OK. All these years, I’ve just been ripping off H. G. Wells!” And he even wished me luck in my own writing career. That will always be how I’ll remember him – every bit as legendary as I had imagined he would be.

The thoughts and feelings which Bradbury’s work inspired in me as a youth have become part of the fabric that underlies my mental and emotional makeup to the point that I can’t even recognize it anymore. He helped to show me what is truly important in life, what is going wrong with the world and what needs to be done about it. Everything else I’ve done since then has just been a continuation of this crusade. There is a direct line between my reading of Bradbury’s works as a child and the urge that has led me to my present-day engagement with Arktos and Counter-Currents. I know that, whatever else happens, he will always be a part of my own being.

Thank you, Mr. Bradbury.

 

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31 Comments

  1. rhondda
    Posted June 6, 2012 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for this. Bradbury is one of the few so called ‘science fiction’ writers that I read. After reading Fahrenheit 451 I started hoarding books. It is so true about writers nowadays going to writer’s seminars or schools which have a publishing off shoot.
    A friend of mine was so pleased to find a book called the right to write. I wondered if the follow up would be the right to be published and then the right to make people read you.

    I was quite thrilled when my sons found Bradbury on their own. (well he was on the shelf.)
    Yes, thanks Mr. Bradbury.

  2. UFASP
    Posted June 6, 2012 at 11:57 pm | Permalink

    I am very pleased to see a tribute to this man on this site.

    I have fond memories of reading Something Wicked This Way Comes and Dandelion Wine (genuine Americana stuff), Fahrenheit 451, and my favorite of his, The Martian Chronicles. Although it’s easy for some people to dismiss some the more “pulpy” writings of his that came out of a generally “pulpy” era for science fiction or any such related genre, the further the West gets from the spirit Bradbury embodied in his writing, the more and more attractive his work becomes to those who have a memory. He wasn’t Philip K. Dick but that’s okay. He had his own style. Though Fahrenheit 451 is not at all really dated and is a genuine classic, some of his tales from The Martian Chronicles are very dated but strangely enough this feature only adds to the book’s beauty. It’s not unlike the nostalgia one feels for the old Superman or Dick Tracy. It’s a quaint and charming (if a bit hammy) world he paints and when combined with the genuine feeling he seemed to put into his work (I still remember him getting mad at Michael Moore for “stealing” his title), it’s easy become attached to some of his work.

    • Jaego Scorzne
      Posted June 7, 2012 at 1:27 am | Permalink

      Yes Dandelion Wine and The Martian Chronicles were very beautiful. I picked up his sequel to Dandelion Wine and couldn’t go on, it was just so inferior and I didn’t want to ruin the feeling I had for the original.

      • Posted June 7, 2012 at 1:53 am | Permalink

        You’re right, Jaego, Bradbury’s later work left a lot to be desired.

  3. UFASP
    Posted June 7, 2012 at 12:27 am | Permalink

    Also, the genius of Orwell is how he perceived language (political correctness) as being used to control thought and rule over people. To my knowledge, he was the first writer of fiction to really grasp its full implications and illustrate its evil in such gripping detail and horror. That’s why his name is an adjective. The Stalin-like government in the story itself is dated, but I never saw that as being the essence of the book. In some ways, it’s an unfortunate distraction.

    In other ways, both Bradbury and Huxley made more accurate predictions with respect to the cultural scenery and its dangers on the minds within such a culture. But I have to defend Orwell’s reputation. Perhaps it would be fair to say that Orwell was not prophetic so much as insightful with respect to human psychology (as political correctness to one degree or another has always existed and always will) while the other two writers were perhaps actually better able to see the cultural trajectory. Just a thought.

    • Daniel
      Posted June 7, 2012 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

      I would agree, Orwell shouldn’t be sold short. He saw where the abuse of language by the elites would eventually lead. His vision of a totalitarian world order wasn’t that far off either, though it is not the hard totalitarianism of Big Brother and The Party, but the soft totalitarianism of cultural Marxism now found in Washington, London, Brussels, and elsewhere that demands ideological conformity, he was right about the future being the a face of humanity being stomped, but not by a Soviet-style jackboot, but the feminist high heel of people like Hillary Clinton and Angela Merkel.

      I would say that George Orwell, Huxley, Bradbury, Dick, and the other were all ultimately right in terms of the essence of what they warned against in liberal modernity.

    • Lew
      Posted June 7, 2012 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

      Good observations. I think hard totalitarianism is still with us. It just doesn’t require as much manpower, When you have the US government’s survelliance capabilites and can send a drone to kill pretty much anyone in the world, anywhere, anytime, you don’t need the CHEKA on every corner.

      • Daniel
        Posted June 8, 2012 at 4:14 am | Permalink

        Exactly! We do have ever growing elements of hard totalitarianism being quietly implemented. Think of the NDAA which allows for indefinite military detention of American citizens, think of Obama ordering the assassination of American citizens without evidence or trial, think of the ever growing surveillance state, think of the TSA regime which humiliates supposedly “free” Americans (including children and the elderly) on a daily basis as if they are all potential criminals or enemies of the state.

  4. Jaego Scorzne
    Posted June 7, 2012 at 1:25 am | Permalink

    I spoke of his story of the alien taking over a boy’s nervous system to a Jew the very day he died – without knowing he had.

  5. Posted June 7, 2012 at 1:52 am | Permalink

    UFASP, I really don’t see Bradbury as a science fiction writer, as I said, but I do understand your point. But if we see “The Martian Chronicles” as a fantasy story, like Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Mars, then it doesn’t seem quite so dated.

    And you’re right, Bradbury was no Philip K. Dick, but then, if someone had given me a copy of “Ubik” to read at age 10 instead of “The Martian Chronicles,” I really doubt it would have had the same impact on me. Bradbury is best savored when one is very young. I still enjoy reading some of his work today (as long as it’s not his later work, especially his godawful poetry), although it’s his writing style that appeals to me today, more than the stories themselves.

    I think you’re right about Orwell as well. The book is a wonderful allegory about psychology and religion, and he did capture the quintessence of totalitarianism, but I think Bradbury came far closer in the “guess the future” category, in a sociological sense.

    • UFASP
      Posted June 7, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

      I think you’re right to not see him as a science fiction writer as well for the reasons you’ve stated. It’s probably the people who get hung up on that label when opening one of his classic works who cannot appreciate him.

      I, unfortunately, didn’t read Bradbury at such a young age. But I can remember reading Dandelion Wine and The Martian Chronicles (in college) and sort of getting that he wasn’t trying to be Gene Roddenberry and liking that despite the section of the bookstore I had to venture to to get his books. It was nice to read something with a bit of spirit that is often lost on “sci-fi thriller” novels like Neuromancer and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (even if they have their own merits). And you’re right about Ubik. It’s hard for an adult to grasp that one; it would be absolutely impossible for an imaginative child to do so.

      It’s been a while since I’ve read Fahrenheit 451; what all did Mr. Bradbury predict?

      You alluded to a few things when you described the world of Fahrenheit 451, but specifically I can remember him describing what essentially was a Walkman or an Ipod, reality television (COPS, in particular), and the rise of pharmaceuticals (which Huxley also predicted a few years before with striking accuracy). Perhaps heavy commercialism? Devolution of the humans soul? Heh. I know I’m missing quite a few other little gadgets, but that’s what I remember, at least.

      Where I live (Houston), there was actually a story on the local news a couple of years ago where some redneck guy was trying to get the book banned from his daughter’s school. It was a swear word like “damn” or something of all things that set him off. “Cuss words” like “hell.” That sort of garbage. Needless to say, the man had never read the book. But as you can imagine, the media talked about the irony of banning a book that was “about book banning.” And, of course, they do have a point. But as you’ve rightfully mentioned, it’s a very shallow understanding of Bradbury’s message which is more about human nature. That scene where Montag confronts his boss (who I recall quoting Shakespeare) still sends chills up my spine. In other words, they aren’t asking WHY “censorship” is a danger. These armchair academics and liberals just treat it like they treat “violence”– as some rain cloud that just settles over a people. They just know in their own sort of Animal House logic that “censorship” (which they perceive to be not getting what they want) cramps their style. They don’t want to go the extra mile and ponder the heavier questions that tend to make a person more misanthropic. I don’t think Bradbury was too sympathetic toward the liberal conception of “freedom of expression.”

      You’ve also got me thinking that I should give Don DeLillo another chance. I can remember reading White Noise and hating it. But that was years ago, around the time I got into Bradbury, actually.

      • Posted June 11, 2012 at 3:43 am | Permalink

        UFASP,

        I think it would be a mistake to see William Gibson, and Philip K. Dick especially, as mere thrillers. Their work goes much deeper than that.

        It’s also been a long time since I read F451, so I can’t give a complete summary of all the things that Bradbury predicted in it that came true. For me, however, the interesting thing is not the gadgetry that he predicted, but rather the American social situation as it was to develop over the next 60 years. It’s really strikingly accurate. The America of F451 is a shallow, soulless, commercialized, nursery-like place completely dominated by the media. Sound familiar?

        The censorship story you recounted could only happen in America.

        I like DeLillo. An enjoyable first read might be “Running Dog,” a fairly short novel from the 1970s about several people independently searching for a legendary film of Hitler that was made during his final days in the Bunker. It’s quite a good one.

  6. Posted June 7, 2012 at 5:55 am | Permalink

    John,

    Great tribute, many interesting points.

    I want to write more later, and certainly don’t want to appear argumentative, but I have a question about your criteria for a ‘genuine writer.’

    I can think of two writers who, like Bradbury, were traditionalists, wrote horror and/or fantasy, were technophobes, etc., but who very much did not ‘depend on writing for their livelihood': Lovecraft and Tolkien. Lovecraft had a delusional fantasy of himself as an 18th century ‘gentleman’ who wrote mere trifles for his friends’ amusement — in Bradbury’s place, he would have — and did!– put whole novels in the drawer, never to re-appear, rather than resubmit or alter them for publication; it drove his writer friends — including I think Bradbury? — nuts. And Tolkien at least had an ‘acceptable’ sort of job — Professor of Anglo Saxon at Oxford no less — which I assume provided a living wage outside of writing. Would you exclude them from ‘genuine’ writers, in preference to say Cormac McCarthy?

    BTW, the most recent review of 451 at Amazon is from someone who bought the Kindle version after hearing about Bradbury’s death, and turns out … it’s really [editing-wise] bad! Guess Ray was right.

    • Jaego Scorzne
      Posted June 7, 2012 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

      The movie version of Farenheit 451 was quite good. The portrayal of Ingsoc (English Socialism) and it’s implicit Homosexuality were chilling. The camraderie of the men at the firehouse was contasted to a hell at home with the drugged out Mrs. Montag, manly in a sincere and soft way, was irrestible to the hardened and wise Captain who told him that wisdom wasn’t in books – but in his own Person? Shades of Malone? He escaped this fate by the lure of the pretty blonde book person and retained his Manhood by burning the Captain to ashes. Every man must kill his father in way or another – or Manhood is denied.

      The Village was also a superb look at Ingsoc. But number 6 was very masculine and already a “made man” so he didn’t face the same personal threat but “only” the general smothering represented by Rover. Wait, was that the name of the mechanical dog in Farenheit too?

      In any case, Ingsoc says there can only be one Male, the State. And the Rovers and Firemen are the enforcers, in the worst cases, trying to turn the most sensitive men into Hierodules or involuntary Dog Priests.

      • Posted June 7, 2012 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

        Jaego,

        That’s very interesting. I never recalled the Firemen as a male society, but of course they are. In the terms I developed in my review of The Untouchables they are a Bad Mannerbund — they enforce social conformity– which Montag must reject. Structurally burning the Captain balances the earlier scene where Montag begins to have doubts when the Captain orders the old woman burned with her books.
        The Book People at the end are not really a Mannerbund, since women are included, but the long sequence where the old man is teaching the boy to recite David Copperfield [? — I’m going on memories of the film, is it in the book?] evokes that vibe.

      • Posted June 11, 2012 at 3:48 am | Permalink

        Jaego, I must admit that I didn’t see the homosexual overtones among the firemen in the film of F451 that you observed. As depicted, life there seems as soulless and empty as all other aspects of that society. There’s not much camaraderie shown among them, apart from Montag’s rivalry (which is the opposite) with one of the others for promotion. Also, the Fire Chief never tells Montag to look inside himself for wisdom instead of books – the implication is that one should stop thinking altogether.

        You also may be right about the symbolism of Montag killing his surrogate father in order to get the girl in the film of F451, although in the novel, Montag never sees her again after she is arrested along with her family, so that interpretation only holds true for the film.

        Interesting comparisons to “The Prisoner.”

        I assume you wrote that deliberately, but Ingsoc is from 1984, not F451.

      • Posted June 11, 2012 at 3:52 am | Permalink

        James, the David Copperfield scene is only in the film, not in the book. In the book, the “book people” are made out more like vagrants than as the well-functioning micro-community depicted in Truffaut’s version. And as I said above, Clarisse, who is much younger in the novel than Julie Christie’s version of her in the film, disappears after she and her family are arrested, and she never comes back into the story after that. In fact, at the end, as I recall, Montag imagines that she is killed along with everybody else when the city is nuked.

  7. Posted June 7, 2012 at 7:03 am | Permalink

    Best piece on Bradbury I’ve seen so far. I’ve comment on and linked to this here:
    http://ex-army.blogspot.com/2012/06/more-on-ray-bradbury.html

  8. Posted June 7, 2012 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    Dear James,

    Thank you! I was worried that my side-comment about “genuine writers” might get me into trouble. I didn’t intend to set it up as an absolute rule, that all writers who have independent means or who teach must be bad, or the reverse, that all writers who have to struggle are good. Really, my major beef is with the “writing industry” that has arisen in America in recent decades. I speak as someone who nearly got sucked into it myself. When I went to the university in 1991, my intention at first was to major in Creative Writing and then go into an MFA program. However, after my first two writing courses, I very quickly realized that I was wasting my time, and that I wasn’t interested in writing the way these people were teaching that we should write, and that academia wasn’t the key to becoming a writer. I’m sure it has worked for some people, but I really think that the factory-like system of “writing workshops” that has sprouted up everywhere does more harm than good. It’s the final democratization of the writing process.

    • Posted June 7, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

      John,

      Yes, I thought your real target was the “academic” writers, professors and critics, as opposed to people who just write, one might say. As Saul Bellow said, “Critics and professors have declared themselves the true heirs and successors of the modern classic authors” Critics, for example, like S. Sontag, who in turn disparaged writers like Bellow [and you could imagine what scorn she would have for a Bradbury or Tolkien!] because “they are essentially unconcerned with the problems of the novel as an art form. Their main concern is with their ‘subjects’.” The scare quotes are priceless! I get both quotes, btw, from an essay by Gore Vidal, who’s written several typically funny and vicious essays on the decline of writing in favor of academic pseudo-scientific piffle.

      • UFASP
        Posted June 7, 2012 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

        I know you were addressing Mr. Morgan, but if I may, what do you think of Vidal? I know he is praised for his historical novels and was a self-described “conservative” who nonetheless backed socialist candidates. I have a copy of Empire sitting on my shelf that I never got around to reading. Incidentally, I know he ran with Vonnegut a bit. I enjoy some Vonnegut even though he was a humanist. (At least, Slaughter-House Five to me is a genuine classic. Breakfast Of Champions, not so much.)

  9. Posted June 7, 2012 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    Dear Rex,

    Thank you very much!

  10. Petronius
    Posted June 7, 2012 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

    The Truffaut movie also shows a dictatorship which is rather “politically correct” in nature: the books are banned because no emotions shall be aroused, no questions asked, no bad feelings articulated, no differences noticed, everybody should be the same as everybody else…

    Aside: Casa Pound of Rome has Bradbury listed in their famous Pop-Art “Hall of Fame” hallway; there is another squatted house in Rome called Casa Montag, and the activists frequently use the number “451” on their posters, flags and emblems.

    • Posted June 8, 2012 at 6:33 am | Permalink

      Petronius,

      The Folio Society put out just last year one of their very good but alas very expensive editions of, of course, 451. Intro by Michael Morecock. The description on their webpage is surprisingly serious and gives a clue as to why Bradbury is a more subtle writer than thought of by those, mostly Leftist or Liberals, who use him as a stick to beat “censorship”:

      “Bradbury’s bleak admonitory vision is not of a tyrannical government, but of people who did this to themselves. His fictional dystopia began with a wave of political correctness that censored and silenced uncomfortable opinions; then interactive, reality TV swamped critical thought; and finally, each individual’s ‘right’ to the pursuit of happiness removed any sense of responsibility and even emotion itself. ”

      Could have been written by Benoist or Greg Johnson!

      I’m reminded of the work of that Bohemian Tory, Huysmans, who describes the protagonist of A Rebours as having tried and dismissed “the free-thinkers who loudly demanded total freedom for themselves so as to silence everyone else.”

    • Posted June 11, 2012 at 3:58 am | Permalink

      Petronius, I agree that the film is excellent in its own right, even though it differed from the book in a number of significant ways. I also feel that moving the setting from the US to the UK altered the meaning of the story in some ways. Bradbury was always a very American writer, and it seems as if he took the worst aspects of America in the 1950s and extrapolated them out into the future. The society in Truffaut’s film, whether it’s the UK or wherever, seems more like a European totalitarian state, and Truffaut admitted that his experience of the occupation of France influenced his depiction.

  11. Petronius
    Posted June 7, 2012 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

    A German New Right publisher has adopted Bradbury/Truffaut as well:

    http://www.shop.edition-antaios.de/product_info.php?info=p695_Postkarte—451–Fahrenheit-451-.html

  12. Jaego Scorzne
    Posted June 7, 2012 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

    The Mannerbund is the begining but they better “get with” girls fairly quickly or the end is nigh. Yes Malone is a good Father and the Fire Chief a bad one – a Chronos if ever there were. Some men are excited by seeing other men with their wives. Dan Savage thinks that it goes back to caveman days. Perhaps your Mannerbund can incorporate girls into your orgies somehow…. See what Jack thinks. I mean when the Prana is flowing who knows what can happen in the circle. Read one of Avalon’s translations – the Kulvarna I think. Why should str8 men do all the stretching towards the androgynous Adam Kadmon? You guys got to do your part too. Look at what gay Muslim Men have to go through – marriage is almost obligatory over there.

    And if there is a real and deep relationship between Homosexuality and Aristocracy, then the duty becomes all the more necessary: the good genes must be passed on. Either that or set up a Gay Pioneer Fund, a sperm bank so you don’t have to deal with the untouchable “fish”. From the point of view of the Spearpoint (one of Jack’s “hangouts”), it makes sense anyway since marriage has been degraded and men’s rights thrown to the winds.

    Just watched The Untouchables last night. Remember Capone’s slim dandy assasin in white? Waiting outside Ness’s house he calls to him “It must be nice to have a wife” his face contorted into an unspeakable leer. The assasin is not overtly gay but he doesn’t seem str8 either – maybe because he has ceased to be human? Thus Capone, the bad man, employs infrahumans (to use Arthur Versilius’s term) as well as commonplace subhumans. The very forces of hell are arrayed against the Untouchables and like the Pandavas, they must use questionable means to win the final battle – at Krishna’s suggestion. Evil hates nothing more than when Good adopts pragmatic means. There goes their advantage.

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted June 8, 2012 at 2:08 am | Permalink

      I think you are somewhat misunderstanding the whole Mannerbund idea here.

      Every society with a future holds the heterosexual family to be normative and grooms young men for marriage and family life. But if that grooming process is all there is, then we would still be living in grass huts, occupied solely with reproduction and food. This is what Plato describes in The Republic as the “city of sows” (sows as a tip to the myth of primitive matriarchy, which must have existed even in his time).

      The question is how, if we start in the city of sows — or, to appeal to another myth, Tolkien’s Shire — do we arrive at high culture? The answer is that young men do something between being ruled by their mothers and being ruled by their wives and children: they go off and have adventures together. They hunt, they camp, they play sports and games, and they go to war. This is the bonded male group, the Mannerbund.

      Civilizations begin with war and conquest, in which other peoples are subjugated and put to work doing the necessary things, giving the conquerors the leisure to explore and invent unnecessary things, such as luxuries (non-necessities) and games and sports (non-work). At first these are crude, but over time they become more and more refined, giving rise to high cultures, which are the products of refined, aristocratic, non-egalitarian social orders. The foundation of such orders is the Mannerbund.

      The Mannerbund is bonded together with love of comrades, which is not and need not be a sexual form of love, although it sometimes can be.

      The bonded male group is still at the core of our civilization, whether it be the military, the fire department, the police, or the priesthood — any endeavor in which cohesive, hierarchical groups of men work together for common goals, testing themselves in hardships and dangers. Sports is just the play version of this.

      This is why the enemies of our civilization wish to inject women into all areas of life, to make male bonding and hierarchies impossible, lest they threaten our masters. Every Cub Scout den or Little League team, after all, carries within it the seeds of fascism.

      The other way in which bonded male groups are undermined is the specter of homosexuality, and it goes deeper than merely controversies about integrating open homosexuals into such groups. Even if no overt homosexuality is present, the enemies of our civilization stigmatize all-male groups as quasi-homosexual in order to chill the male bonding process. The question is how to halt this chilling effect.

      Excluding homosexuals does not really solve the problem, because even when they are not around, the “specter” of homosexuality still haunts all-male groups. The deeper solution may be to attack the stigma connected to homosexuality and indeed the whole concept of the “homosexual” as a different sexual subspecies (which is actually a relatively recent invention).

      James O’Meara is right that historically speaking, homosexually-inclined men are overrepresented among the guardians and creators of culture. Which is not to say that most homosexuals play such roles. I think that part of this phenomenon is simply freedom from wives and children, but whatever the source, he is right that this is a role that, by its nature, is Right-wing because it is inherently elitist and conservative.

      The present day association of homosexuality with the Jewish anti-white, anti-civilizational coalition is of fairly recent vintage (following on the heels, and on the model, of black lib and women’s lib). I think writers like James O’Meara and Jack Donovan reveal the fault-lines in that coalition and might help break it. That is a good thing for whites.

  13. Posted June 8, 2012 at 6:57 am | Permalink

    UFASP,

    Bill Kauffman has frequently written about Vidal as what Kirk calls a “Bohemian Tory.” I’ve used the same phrase [well, I got it from someone writing in the 60s in the Intercollegiate Review of all things] to describe Noel Coward in my piece that appeared here and now in NANR Vol. 1. The idea, I think, is someone who feels an attachment to his country and its history that transcends any personal or transitory grievance. The Judaic-Left’s modus operandi has been to “expose” and inflame [or invent] such grievances to peel off various “victim groups” such as women, blacks, “gays”, etc.

    Jews as a group can never get beyond such “alienation” as they would call it, hence can be never more than “neo” [i.e., fake] conservatives. Regarding Empire and his other historical books, Vidal feels a need to narrate his country’s history. He tells of describing his novel on the Civil War to Podhoretz Pere and the latter wondering why he would bother with such “ancient” material: “America before Ellis Island is as remote from me as the War of the Roses.”

    Given the need to narrate, Vidal can’t countenance diddling away with “academic” or “arty” writing, unlike the “workshop” writers John contrasts with Bradbury.

    Interesting that you mention Vonnegut. I found and put on my website awhile back a posed photo of Vidal, Vonnegut and Mailer that represents a kind of triumvirate of American writers of anti-establishment but not “liberal” or PC ideas and non-academic or avantgarde style, who are consistently ignored or treated as embarrassing old men by the Times, etc. Although Vonnegut just slipped into the Library of America…

    • UFASP
      Posted June 8, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

      “The idea, I think, is someone who feels an attachment to his country and its history that transcends any personal or transitory grievance. The Judaic-Left’s modus operandi has been to “expose” and inflame [or invent] such grievances to peel off various “victim groups” such as women, blacks, “gays”, etc.”

      This reminds of me Spengler’s critique of modern liberalism in The Hour of Decision. The idea of the gemeinschaft is completely out of the picture due to agitators and demagogues. So it’s a case where Vidal is talking completely past everyone.

      I remember some time ago seeing Vidal on the cringe-worthy show Real Time With Bill Maher. He really seemed out of place there. As far as I can tell, he was just there to Bush-bash to a mob of morons that had no idea who “grandpa” was nor could they ever understand in all likelihood where he was truly coming from. He’s been on uber-Marxist shows like Democracy Now as well and seems to be misrepresented in essence. Even more thoughtful Jewish liberals like Chomsky seem out of place on such programs, actually (but much less so).

      I can remember Fox News saying something along the lines that Vonnegut had “fallen out of relevance long ago” or something to that effect when he died. It’s a truthful statement but largely because we’re less literate rather than the reasons the Fox correspondent had in mind.

      The feud between Vidal and Mailer seems to be the stuff of legend.

      Yeah, I’ve heard the idea before that those three constitute a sort of block or triumvirate for post-war American literature. Thanks for your response.

  14. Jaego Scorzne
    Posted June 8, 2012 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    Homosexuality will tend to have a chilling effect on all male groups and institutions however the Jews spin things. Homosexuals are a gifted group of course, but even mediocre Homosexuals will gravitiate towards all male environments. And traditionally, the have wreaked havoc in the Seminaries. A very important Renaissance Order, the Piarists, was destroyed by it. See “The Fallen Order”. They were renowned for their influence in teaching, the arts, and sciences. But the Vatican suppressed them nontheless. They Have and they do force themselves on young boys and persecute seminarians who resist their advances. See “Goodby Good Men”. All of which (and personal experience) is why I appreciate Jack Donovan’s article about Gay Ethics in regards to str8’s so much. Thank you for publishing it. And traditionally, Gays have felt very alienated from Society and thus were attacted to sabotage. The “Souls” of Oxford, also known as the Oxford spies are a notable example.

    I’m trying to establish some middle ground between traditional White Nationalism’s negativity towards Gays and Mr O’Meara’s idea that Gays naturally dominate or should. I just don’t read history that way. Plato’s Athens was already full of dark skinned Levantines doing alot of the commerce. In other words, corrupt. And Sparta went the other way, one that few would want to follow – the Military Homosexual Alliance or Complex. Elmer Pendell’s book (blanking on the title, but others have expressed the same idea) said that even as a Culture declines, the Arts and Sciences may well continue to evolve. So a profound gulf develops between the Elite and the downtrodden common people. Athens went this way, as did Rome, (though less brilliant), and as are we. In any case, Athens is not the Model for anything we should want to emulate writ large. By all means let Gays have their own places and groups. But dominate? Any such White Nationalism will be still born. As I said a few weeks ago, Gays can be in the Centre, but as Men. If they want to express their sexual identity openly, it going to have to be in a private club or group. In a mainsteam Mannerbund, such relationships could be tolerated but not institutionalized as in ancient Athens. What Gays want to do in their own Spaces would be their own affair.

    The specter does haunt relationsips sometimes. And it can assume disastrous proportions whether openly acknowledged or deeply repressed. For the latter, remember Melville’s Billy Budd and the First’s Mate attraction and hatred of the innocent and god like Billy. Also Tolstoy wrote a good short story (blanking again!) about the relationship between a Nordic Officer and his Slavic aid. And how the very Masculine but ferociosly repressed officer hated the innocence and aliveness of the young man. Was Tolstoy anti-Nordic? He was himself wasn’t he? Or was he simply recording what he had seen or felt. I’m sure someone who knows literature more than me could offer many more examples of this themse.

    Jack Donovans open admission of problems and tensions is a real opportunity for dialogue – which I’m taking advantage of. I’m simply making my premises clear: Most Men are Heterosexual and therefore Society is largely going to reflect them and not Gays. And that will be true at all levels. There will not be some Gay Elite who secretly run things and have contempt for the Breeders. And on the other side, it must be acknowledged how horrendously Homosexuals have been treated. A tremendous legacy of pain that must end. But White Nationalism as it is now constituted has no intention of ending it but only perpetuating it. A huge problem that we should all be willing to talk about and try to solve. Thank you for providing a forum where this might be possible. I was being a bit humorous and casual with Mr O’Meara in my last post, but fundamentally serious at the same time. But since you jumped in, it gave me the chance to speak more clearly. I might be wrong about his desire to dominate, but I did get an impression that way and was trying to broach the subject in my own way.

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