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Green Shadows, White Whale: A Novel of Ray Bradbury's Adventures Making Moby Dick with John Huston in Ireland

Green Shadows, White Whale: A Novel of Ray Bradbury's Adventures Making Moby Dick with John Huston in Ireland

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by Ray Bradbury

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In 1953, the brilliant but terrifying titan of cinema John Huston summons the young writer Ray Bradbury to Ireland. The apprehensive scribe's quest is to capture on paper the fiercest of all literary beasts -- Moby Dick -- in the form of a workable screenplay so the great director can begin filming.

But from the moment he sets foot on Irish soil, the


In 1953, the brilliant but terrifying titan of cinema John Huston summons the young writer Ray Bradbury to Ireland. The apprehensive scribe's quest is to capture on paper the fiercest of all literary beasts -- Moby Dick -- in the form of a workable screenplay so the great director can begin filming.

But from the moment he sets foot on Irish soil, the author embarks on an unexpected odyssey. Meet congenial IRA terrorists, tippling men of the cloth impish playwrights, and the boyos at Heeber Finn's pub. In a land where myth is reality, poetry is plentiful, and life's misfortunes are always cause for celebration, Green Shadows, White Whale is the grandest tour of Ireland you'll ever experience -- with the irrepressible Ray Bradbury as your enthusiastic guide.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The title of this lighthearted, beguiling autobiographical novel is a play on Peter Viertel's White Hunter, Black Heart , which, like this book, dealt with the legendary director John Huston. This is Bradbury's comic account of his trip to Ireland to write the screenplay for Huston's adaptation of Moby-Dick . The movie itself is merely a background constant that anchors this series of vivid, ear-tingling vignettes and anecdotes. Bradbury describes his awed dealings with the erratic, eccentric and impulsive director, and his delight upon being accepted among the regulars at an atmospheric pub called Heeber Finn's. It's a great place to hoist a wee drop and listen to stories told in the best Irish brogue. Finn himself imaginatively tells of the time when George Bernard Shaw supposedly dropped into his establishment. Then there's the community's encounter with a ``willowy'' (read: gay) stranger and his crew of ballet dancers, a man who--to everyone's surprise-- proves to be no mean raconteur. Bradbury's prose is as vibrant and distinctive as the landscape in which these delightful tales are set. Illustrations not seen by PW. (May)
Kirkus Reviews
Bradbury goes mainstream with a hymn to Ireland and alcohol, focusing on writing a screenplay with John Huston for the director's film Moby Dick. Set in Dublin and the Irish countryside where legendary director Huston has settled in as a squire, the story and the Irish gift for gab allow Bradbury's love of metaphor to find a basis he's never known before. With all of the silver-tongued folk speaking inspiredly in the normal tenor of their stout-and whiskey-fueled conversation, Bradbury spouts eloquence as naturally and exuberantly as John Millington Synge—and fine talk it is you'll be hearing. Young Bradbury arrives at the Huston estate in awe of Huston and instantly finds himself in company with a laughing ogre given to whiskey pranks and the famed man's false bonhomie. The episodic plot circles about a wedding that Huston decides to throw for a longtime friend, less about the actual scriptwriting and difficulties met in harnessing the White Whale to the needs of Hollywood. Other eddies include the (fictitious) arrival of teetotaler George Bernard Shaw at Heeber Finn's pub, during which the old renegade outtalks even the most inspired of the whiskey- laced barfolk; the pub's reaction to a visiting team of gay ballet dancers, which turns wittily on Finn's recognition that the Irish male is closer in nature to these gays than one would suspect; and on Huston's savaging of Bradbury's self-esteem. It rains twelve days out of ten in Ireland, we discover: "I stood looking at the gray-stone streets and the gray-stone clouds, watching the frozen people trudge by exhaling gray funeral plumes from their wintry mouths, dressed in their smoke-colored suits and soot-black coats, and I feltthe white grow in my hair." Despite the apt but sad romanticizing of alcohol, and an unfortunate title echo of Peter Viertel's novel White Hunter, Black Heart (about Viertel's scripting The African Queen with Huston), Bradbury's triumph. He has never written better.

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Chapter One

I looked out from the deck of the Dún Laoghaire ferry and saw Ireland.

The land was green.

Not just one ordinary sort of green, but every shade and variation. Even the shadows were green, and the light that played on the Dún Laoghaire wharf and on the faces of the customs inspectors. Down into the green I stepped, an American young man, just beyond thirty, suffering two sorts of depression, lugging a typewriter and little else.

Noticing the light, the grass, the hills, the shadows, I cried out: "Green! Just like the travel posters. Ireland is green. I'll be damned! Green!"

Lightning! Thunder! The sun hid. The green vanished. Shadowrains curtained the vast sky. Bewildered, I felt my smile collapse. A gray and bristly customs official beckoned.

"Here! Customs inspection!"

"Where did it go?" I cried. "The green! It was just here! Now it's -- "

"The green, you say?"

The inspector stared at his watch. "It'll be along when the sun comes out!" he said.

"When will that be?"

The old man riffled a customs index. "Well, there's nothing in the damn government pamphlets to show when, where, or if the sun comes out in Ireland!" He pointed with his nose. "There's a church down there -- you might ask!"

"I'll be here six months. Maybe -- "

" -- you'll see the sun and the green again? Chances are. But in '28, two hundred days of rain. It was the year we raised more mushrooms than children."

"Is that a fact?"

"No, hearsay. But that's all you need in Ireland, someone to hear, someone to say, and you're in business! Is that all your luggage?"

Iset my typewriter forth, along with the flimsiest suitcase. "I'm traveling light. This all came up fast. My big luggage comes next week."

"Is this your first trip here?"

"No. I was here, poor and unpublished, off a freighter in 1939, just eighteen."

"Your reason for being in Ireland?" The inspector licked his pencil and indelibled his pad.

"Reason has nothing to do with it," I blurted.

His pencil stayed, while his gaze lifted.

"That's a grand start, but what does it mean?"


He leaned forward, pleased, as if a riot had surfed at his feet.

"What kind would that be?" he asked politely.

"Two kinds. Literary and psychological. I am here to flense and render down the White Whale."

"Flense." He scribbled. "Render down. White Whale. That would be Moby Dick, then?"

"You read!" I cried, taking that same book from under my arm.

"When the mood is on me." He underlined his scribbles. "We've had the Beast in the house some twenty years. I fought it twice. It is overweight in pages and the author's intent."

"It is," I agreed. "I picked it up and laid it down ten times until last month, when a movie studio signed me to it. Now I must win out for keeps."

The customs inspector nodded, took my measurements, and declared: "So you're here to write a screenplay! There's only one other cinema fellow in all Ireland. Whatsisname. Tall, with a kind of beat-up monkey face, talked fine. Said 'Never again.' Took the ferry to find what the Irish Sea was like. Found out and delivered forth both lunch and breakfast. Pale he was. Barely able to lug the Whale book under one arm. 'Never again,' he yelled. And you, lad. Will you ever lick the book?"

"Haven't you?"

"The Whale has not docked here, no. So much for literature. What's the psychological thing you said? Are you here to observe the Catholics lying about everything and the Unitarians baring their breasts?"

"No, no," I said hastily, remembering my one visit here, when the weather was dreadful. "Now between lowerings for the Whale, I will study the Irish."

"God has gone blind at that. Can you outlast Him? Why try?" He poised his pencil.

"Well ... " I said, putting the black sack over my head, fastening the noose about my neck, and yanking the lever to drop the trapdoor, "excuse me, but this is the last place in the world I'd dream of landing. It's all such a mystery. When I was a kid and passed the Irish neighborhood on one side of town, the Micks beat the hell out of me. And when they ran through our neighborhood, we beat them. It has bothered me half a lifetime why we did what we did. I grew up nonplussed -- "

"Nonplussed? Is that all?" cried the Official.

" -- with the Irish. I do not dislike them so much as I am uncomfortable with my past. I do not much care for Irish whiskey or Irish tenors. Irish coffee, too, is not my cup of tea. The list is long. Having lived with these terrible prejudices, I must fight free of them. And since the studio assigned me to chase the Whale in Ireland, my God, I thought, I'll compare reality with my hand-me-down suspicions. I must lay the ghost forever. You might say," I ended lamely, "I've come to see the Irish."

"No! Hear us, yes. But our tongue's not connected to our brain. See us? Why, lad, we're not here. We're over there or just beyond. Lend me those glasses."

He reached gently to take the spectacles from my nose.

"Ah, God." He slipped them on. "These are twenty-twenty!"


"No, no! The focus is too exact. You want something that bends the light and makes a kind of mist or fog, not quite rain.

It's then you'll see us floating, almost drowned, on our backs, like that Hamlet girl ... ?"


"That's her, poor lass. Well!" He perched the glasses on my nose...

Green Shadows, White Whale. Copyright © by Ray Bradbury. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

In a career spanning more than seventy years, Ray Bradbury, who died on June 5, 2011 at the age of 91, inspired generations of readers to dream, think, and create. A prolific author of hundreds of short stories and close to fifty books, as well as numerous poems, essays, operas, plays, teleplays, and screenplays, Bradbury was one of the most celebrated writers of our time. His groundbreaking works include Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man, Dandelion Wine, and Something Wicked This Way Comes. He wrote the screen play for John Huston's classic film adaptation of Moby Dick, and was nominated for an Academy Award. He adapted sixty-five of his stories for television's The Ray Bradbury Theater, and won an Emmy for his teleplay of The Halloween Tree. He was the recipient of the 2000 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, the 2004 National Medal of Arts, and the 2007 Pulitzer Prize Special Citation, among many honors.

Throughout his life, Bradbury liked to recount the story of meeting a carnival magician, Mr. Electrico, in 1932. At the end of his performance Electrico reached out to the twelve-year-old Bradbury, touched the boy with his sword, and commanded, "Live forever!" Bradbury later said, "I decided that was the greatest idea I had ever heard. I started writing every day. I never stopped."

Brief Biography

Los Angeles, California
Date of Birth:
August 22, 1920
Place of Birth:
Waukegan, Illinois
Attended schools in Waukegan, Illinois, and Los Angeles, California

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Green Shadows, White Whale 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
pennn More than 1 year ago
I read this book a number of years ago and keep ordering copies for friends. If you ever wondered why the Irish are so... IRISH, you'll find Mr. Bradbury's narrative as enlightening as it is enjoyable. Full disclosure: I am not a relative, employee, or acquaintance of Ray Bradbury.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I think this book is cool and I lack adventer to
Anonymous More than 1 year ago