Green Shadows, White Whaleby Ray Bradbury
In 1953 Ray Bradbury joined film director John Huston in Ireland to write the screenplay for Moby Dick. Bradbury's seven-month sojourn and his complicated relationship with Huston form the basis of this wonderful novel of a green screenwriter coming to Ireland to confront a great director and a mythical beast and, in the bargain, discovering the secrets of the Irish.
- Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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- Product dimensions:
- 5.91(w) x 8.66(h) x (d)
Read an Excerpt
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"No. I was here, poor and unpublished, off a freighter in 1939, just eighteen."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?"
"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."
- 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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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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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.
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