June 28, 2008
Exhuming Bob IX
Pensees 6: Bob And Dave
Dave Van Ronk: The Mayor Of MacDougal Street
Dylan, Bob Chronicles Volume One Simon And Schuster 2004
Thompson, Toby Positively Main Street U. Minnesota 2008, reprint of 1971 text.
Van Ronk, Dave The Mayor Of MacDougal Street: A Memoir Da Capo Press 2006
Van Ronk’s memoir published in 2006 becomes part of the ongoing Bob Dylan debate. A part of the Greenwich Village folk scene of the early sixties Van Ronk little knew how his life would be affected, destroyed, by the arrival of Bob Dylan from out of the West in 1961.
At the time of Dylan’s arrival Van Ronk was one of the most important, if not the most important, folk singer in the Village. Thus Bob set his sights to suck out Dave’s substance and cast the empty husk aside.
On page 211 of the paperback Dylan is quoted at the beginning of Chaper 15:
I once thought the biggest I could ever hope to get was like Van Ronk. And it’s bigger than that now, ain’t it? Yeah, man, it’s bigger than that.
-Bob Dylan c. 1964
Once Dylan learned of Van Ronk on his arrival, it is doubtful that he had heard of him in Minneapolis, he made it his goal to insinuate himself into Van Ronk’s life. Dylan tells how he began his assault on page 21 of his Chronicles. The scene takes place in the Folklore Center:
One winter day a big burly guy stepped in off the street. He looked like he’d come from the Russian Embassy, shook the snow off his sleeves, took off his gloves and put them on the counter, asked to see a Gibson guitar that was hanging up on the brick wall. It was Dave Van Ronk. He was gruff, a mass of bristling hair, don’t give a damn attitude, a confident hunter. My mind went into a rush. (My italics.) There was nothing between him and me. Izzy took the guitar down and gave it to him. Dave fingered the strings and played some kind of jazzy waltz, put the guitar back on the counter. As he put the guitar down, I stepped over and put my hands on it and asked him at the same time how does someone get to work down at the gaslight, who do you have to know? It’s not like I was trying to get buddy-buddy with him, I just wanted to know.
Van Ronk looked at me curiously, was snippy and surly, asked if I did janitor work.
I told him, no, I didn’t and he could perish the thought, but could I play something for him? He said, “Sure.”
I played him “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out.” Dave then said I could come down about eight or nine in the evening and play a couple songs in his set. That was how I met Dave Van Ronk.
Possibly. But one learns to take Dylan’s stories with a shaker full of salt. Bob has a difficult time separating fact from fancy. The way Van Ronk tells it he was hanging around with a bunch of the boys when someone burst in and said ‘New guy, come on, you got to hear this.’ and it was Bob. So Van Ronk would have had an idea who Bob was not that he necessarily would have acknowledged him. There are some interesting points in Dylan’s narrative which I believe is Bob at his most fanciful. That he marked Van Ronk for destruction is apparent when he says he looked like he came from the Russian Embassy. Maybe. But Bob was a Jew and the Russians were the enemies of the Jews throughout the last two hundred years so Bob was casting him in the role of the enemy. Then he identifies Van Ronk as a ‘confident hunter.’ Jews usually associate hunting with goys while traditionally despising the practice so Bob is saying that the hunter didn’t know he was being hunted. And then Bob placed his hands on the guitar as he spoke to Van Ronk indicating that he was appropriating the man’s tool or emasculating him. Very significant action.
Bob says Van Ronk was snippy and surly. Well, maybe but since I think he’s making this up he is casting a character on Van Ronk to make you dislike him. Besides who wouldn’t appear surly if you placed your hands on the musician’s guitar. The exchange after that when Dave asked if Bob did janitor’s work was a particular Jewish insult that gave Bob his excuse for hurting Van Ronk.
Then like a parasite or lamphrey eel Bob latches onto Van Ronk slowly ‘stealing everything that he could steal.’
When the process was complete and Bob was way bigger than Dave could hope to be Bob then disses Van Ronk off. As Van Ronk tells it p. 217: Van Ronk:
For myself I consider it fortunate that Bobby and I reached our parting of the ways fairly early. Shortly after his third or fourth record had come out had gone diamond or whatever, he was holding court in the Kettle of Fish and he got on my case and started giving me all of this advice about how to manage my career, how to go about becoming a star. It was complete garbage, but by that point he had gotten used to everybody hanging on his every word and applauding any idea that came into his head. So I sat and listened for a while, and while I was polite and even asked him a couple of questions, but it became obvious that he was simply prodding and testing me. He was saying things like “Why don’t you give up the blues? You do that, and I”ll produce an album on you, you can make a fortune.” He wasn’t making a lick of sense, and I finally pushed back my chair and said, “Dylan, if you’re so rich, how come you ain’t smart?’ And I walked out.
So within three years Bob met and surpassed his mentor then trashed him like he trashed everyone and everything else in his life. Beware of Bob. To a very large extent MacDougal Street is the story of Bob Dylan within the folk scene of Greenwich Village although within that context Van Ronk tells a rich and rewarding story of the emergence of Folk from 1940 to c. 1970. A fabulous book with a generous dollop of belly laughs. I loved the book.
Van Ronk himself never made it. I first heard of him in 1967 and listened to the Prestige Folksinger album. There was nothing there. Van Ronk rasped out all his vocals in a monotonous fashion in that same gargling hoarse voice with nary a variation from song to song. At that age and time I found the songs uninteresting. The arrangments didn’t grab me. The music was about as exciting as the New Lost City Ramblers which is to say a stone bore.
Van Ronk may have prided himself on his musicianship and it may have been pretty good, I couldn’t care less. I know few people who listen to records for musicianship and I don’t care to listen to records with those who do. So Dave was concentrating on all the wrong things.
There were people running around saying how great he was but I was in the record business and nobody bought his records. you can foget the Hudson Dusters. Over the years his legend grew with that of the vanished Folk Scene and I guess twenty-five years or so after the fact he was able to cash in on that basis.
There is one really great song Van Ronk did though called Don’t Leave Me Here. I have it on The Folk Box, Elektra EKL 9001. That’s a really fine four record collection compiled and annotated by the Robert Shelton. It has selections from nearly all the folkies of the Greenwich Village scene excluding Dylan. A terrific collection and a perfect representation of the scene. Hard to find though; I couldn’t find any copies on a quick search of the internet.
However the story of Dave’s learning process is vastly interesting. His history of the folk era, especially the late fifties and the people and personalities make the book a best buy. But then we get back to Dylan.
Bob not only wheedled his way onto Van Ronk’s stage but he wheedled his way into his very household appropriating Dave’s couch for his living quarters. Now comes an interesting conjecture. In Chronicles Bob says that he met a Ray Gooch and Chloe Kiel with whom he stayed for some time. Now, Bob arrived in New York in January of ’61 and he rented his apartment with Suze Rotolo in the Fall of that year becoming financially independent thereafter never going back to anyone’s couch.
So that gives him a maximum of nine months to sleep on all those peoples’s couches. He says in Chronicles that he first met Van Ronk and through Van Ronk Paul Clayton. These are two colorful characters. He then says that through Clayton he met Ray Gooch. So far, so good. But then he gives a fairly minute description of the street the Gooches lived on, the building, the apartment and significantly the church across the street.
Before w go on let us consider an incident from Van Ronk on page 4:
…Bob Dylan heard me fooling around with one of my grandmother’s favorites, “The Chimes Of Trinity,” a sentimental ballad about Trinity Church that went something like:
Tolling for the outcast, tolling for the gay,
Tolling for the (something, something), long passed away,
As we whiled away the hours, down on old Broadway,
And we listened to the chimes of Trinity.
He made me sing it for him a few times until he had the gist of it, then reworked it into the “Chimes Of Freedom.” Her version was better.
Now let’s check into a passage from Toby Thompson’s ‘Positively Main Street’ pp. 210-211:
But the larger portraits of Ray Gooch and Chloe Kiel are complex and layered with mystery. Why haven’t we seen them before? Correct me if I’m wrong, but their names appear in no biography of Bob. Could they be projectionsof his own divided psyche. Ray, the competent man of the world, the toolsmith, the gun collector, the would be warrior, and Chloe, the dreamy, slightly stoned performance oriented homebody? Bob’s not certain whether they are siblings or lovers. I’m not certain they are real. Chloe was the heroine of Longus’s second century novel Daphnis and Chloe. She was an orphan, nurtured by sheep, and is described as ‘a naive lily-white girl” who falls for the youth, Daphnis. Echo is mentioned in the story. In my case the apartment Ray and Chloe inhabit on Vestry is a boho Eden, Every hipster’s wettest dream of Manhattan digs.
The Sunday after reading Chronicles, a blustery afternoon in New York I took a subway to Franklin Street and walked north then west along Vestry, looking for the building that might have housed it. Bob describes it precisely, Federal style, facing a Roman Catholic church with a bell tower, on the same block as the Bull’s Head Tavern, below Canal Street, not far from the Hudson River. The neighborhood hasn’t changed much since the early sixties, but I could find no building that resembled it. Not the church, not the Bull’s Head Tavern. Houses disappear, but churches aren’t often torn down. I wanted to locate that apartment, only because he described it so beautifully.
So I think it safe to say the whole dozen pages or so in Chronicles is a fabrication. Bob dreamed it a few times and wrote it down as fact. A clue lies in the progression Van Ronk>Clayton>Gooch. Gooch has a made up quality to it so Gooch is probably a conflation of the personalities of Van Ronk and Clayton. And possibly the pair are also a sentimental portrait of Abe and Beattie, the mother and father. Not as they were but wouldn’t it have been loverly if they had been. Ray’s background also coincides with Bob’s studies of the pre-Civil War era in the South in the New York Library.
The church across the street reflects Trinity Cathedral in Dublin as in Dave’s song the Bells Of Trinity so that places the story after his stay with Van Ronk. Note the specified bell tower on the church. Bob’s not there and neither is most of his early reported life. I’ll say again anything he says is untrustworthy. As they say in Hollywood: Based on a true story.
The last couple chapters of MacDougal tell of the changes in the Village and performance after 1960 to 1967 when drugs took the scene down. These are relevant and important chapters as he describes how Dylan’s success caused the failure of the scene. ‘There’s no success like failure and failure is no success at all.’
Altogether I give Van Ronk’s Mayor Of MacDougal Street exceptionally high marks, worth a second reading and retention as a reference work. Positively Fourth Street by Toby Thompson has a place on your shelf also. I’ll review that after a second reading. It is well worthy of study, picking up the stray hint and fact here and there.
Chronicles of course is important to understand what Dave called the convoluted workings of Bob’s mind. Bob’s an interesting study because he has managed to fool a lot of people all the time and another pack of us for a time. I tell ya folks if I could live my life over I’d do some serious homework before I began but then even that probably wouldn’t help.
June 25, 2008
Exhuming Bob X:
There’s something happening here
But you don’t know what it is,
Do you, Mr. Jones?
In 1979 Bob publicly embraced Jesus as his personal savior. This was widely seen as a conversion to Christianity because Bob went to the Vineyard Fellowship of Tarzana for indoctrination into the Christian mysteries. He could hardly have learned Christianity from Jewish circles although the Jewish group of Jews For Jesus was already active. Pharasaic Jews have always despised Jews For Jesus so that may not have been a viable option for Bob.
While non-Jews may be scandalized by the concept of Jews embracing Jesus there is no reason for them to be astounded. After all Jesus was a Jew, preaching to Jews in the Jewish tradition. The early Christian movement was entirely Jewish. They were Jews of the Jews who had accepted Jesus as the Jewish Messiah. Christianity became a universal religion only after Paul reconstructed it shedding the practices most repellent to gentiles while the Hellennic or Greek religion and philosophy was grafted onto the religion which gave it substance and intellectual vigor displacing Semitic stultification.
There should be little wonder then that Jewish Christianity should resurface two thousand years later with Bob as its Messiah.
Bob was uniquely trained for the role. He grew up in a Christian community dominated by the Hillbilly music on the radio with a large and active Jewish congregation. His father thought of himself as a Jewish scholar while heading the local chapter of B’nai B’rith and ADL. His father was covertly ultra-orthodox.
In 1990 Bob wrote a letter to the editor of a publication called Sister2Sister. (Bob’s Unshakeable Monotheism, Part IV, Scott Marshall http://www.jewsweek.com/ ) in which he said:
…until the entire world believes and obeys the same God, there can be no truth or justice or peace for anyone.
What that means in the age old Jewish notion that as God’s chosen people they are destined to bring their vision of God to all the peoples of the Earth at which time they will become a nation of priests, the rulers and overseers of all others. The Supreme People placed between God and humanity as demi-gods.
The notion did not necessarily occur to Bob in 1990 but was placed in his mind at a much earlier date. It would always have been present in the synagogue. Anyone who has ever attended Jewish services will be be struck by the insistence that Jews are to rule the world and all the peoples. It is the duty of every Jew to further that work.
Whether Bob had the Messianic impulse before his Bar Mitzvah is the question. It may have been there in embryo. In 1954 as Bob was about to turn thirteen his father, Abraham, who obviously believed the proper religious education was lacking in Hibbing sent for a Lubavitcher Rebbe from Brooklyn to come to Hibbing specifically to indoctrinate Bob in the more recondite lore of the ultra-orthodox. The intensity of the instruction would be virtual hypnosis. It was at this point, I believe, that the Messianic impulse was fixed in Bob’s mind.
The indoctrination had devastating results for the young boy’s character and personality. He went off the rails becoming wild and dissolute. In searching for a means to spread the message he had received he hit on music and from there it led into folk music. Folk music had a special appeal because it was a pure expression of the dominant culture. If one subverted folk music one subverted the culture.
Thus after being initiated into folk at Dinkytown near the University of Minnesota Bob left for the Big Apple, New York City. The Folk scene of Greenwhich Village in New York was a virtual Jewish enclave or colony. A great many Jews were already doing what Bob set out to do. Disoriented by his conflicts between his Jewish and Christian education Bob nevertheless set about changing Folk music, discarding the content for Jewish themes while retaining the outer forms. The Jewish world organization realizing they had something in Bob gave him maximum publicity actually turning him into a messianic figure through television and magazines.
The stresses of intense fame to his personality and character were terrific almost destroying him. Bob retreated at the height of his fame in 1966 after having established himself with three terrifically influential record albums. His mind was now focused and somewhat cleared. Placing a large Bible in the middle of his living room for easy reference Bob and his band worked and experimented with the Folk and old timey oeuvre of the White Christian hill people. Once again retaining the forms while stripping the material of the content, he infused Jewish Biblical content which was familiar to the Christian culture into the material. The immediate result was John Wesley Harding which is a Jewish religious album in tradtional White Christian dress.
The result is quite remarkable and on that basis is an astounding work of Jewish genius. Unaware of what was being done to them White Americans could offer no defense except rejection. There were quite a few of us who walked away from Bob at that point. I can’t say that I understood what Bob had done but I felt the insult to my sensibilities.
Thus, in retrospect, Bob’s so-called Christian period became inevitable as his strategy slowly unfolded in his mind. There is no conflict with Bob’s intense Jewishness in his combined religious entities, or reclaiming the Jewish Jesus for Judaism. Nothing could be more natural.
The preemption of the goi culture for Judaism is the astonishing achievement of little Bobby Zimmerman. Long after the fact there are still few who get it.
Note: The old Jewsweek format has been discontinuted. The text is no longer available on that site.
June 20, 2008
Slum Goddess From The Lower East Side
Some Thoughts On The Autobiography Of Suze Rotolo:
A Freewheelin’ Time
Sandoz The Great
In 1938 Albert Hofman, a Swiss chemist working for Sandoz isolated LSD-25. In 1938 young Tim Leary was 18 years old. It was in 1943 that Albert Hofman discovered the effects of LSD. Seventeen years after that LSD burt onto the world through the agency of the now, Dr., Timothy Leary, a psychologist with Harvard University.
LSD was adopted by the Bohemian society and all its offshoots as the appearance of the new chemical Messiah: Better living through chemistry as the slogan was. Its use quickly spread through the folk music community of Greenwich Village in New York City.
In 1923 a fellow by the name of Tuli Kupferberg was born and his partner Ed Sanders came along in 1939 a year after I did. Kupferberg and Sanders were poets who became influenced by the folk scene forming a band sometime in 1964 originally called the Village Fugs, later the Village was dropped and they became simply the Fugs. In 1965 they released their first LP on Folkways. Now, cut one, side one was little number entitled Slum Goddess From The Lower East Side. Sort of OK as a song, funny, as were a lot of Fugs songs. Like Dylan they searched for social significance rather than write trite love songs. Unlike Dylan you could easily understand the meaning of the lyrics. Slum Goddess was one and then there was a song that many of us thought significant in the social sense back in those days entitled: Boobs A Lot. ‘Do you like boobs a lot? Gotta like boobs a lot.’ As I said deep and intense meaning. This was followed by a song eulogizing jock straps. ‘Do you wear your jock strap? Gotta wear your jock strap.’ So the Fugs were with it.
At some point after 1965 the Village Voice decided to run a feature depicting some East Village lovely as the Slum Goddess From The Lower East Side. Suze Rotolo had the dubious honor of being selected as the very first Slum Goddess.
To what did she owe this honor? Well, she was famous on the Lower East Side for being featured on the album cover of Bob Dylan’s second LP, The Free Wheelin’ Bob Dylan. She was at that time, 1962, I believe, Bob’s girl friend or, at least, one of them, perhaps the principle one but one can’t be sure as Bob had others as ‘part time’ girl friends.
Thus one has to go back to the summer of 1961 to discover how Suze Rotolo began her odyssey to become the very first Slum Goddess. Suze tells her story in her autobiography issued in May of 2008 called A Freewheelin’ Time. It is a bitter sweet story not lacking in charm. Bob was born in 1941 while Suze was born three years later. All the disparate elements in our story born at separate times were slowly moving to a central focal point in New York City from 1961 to 1965 or so.
Suze and Bob were of that age when freewheelin’ seemed possible while the psychological social moment was about to congeal and then vanish before it could be realized as psychological moments do. Some catch the golden ring as it come around, some don’t. Bob did, Suze didn’t.
Suze was born in Queens, over there on Long Island, as a red diaper baby. In other words in the romanticized Communist parlance her parents were Communists when she was born. She was brought up in the faith.
Bob described her as a libertine dream or some such epithet. I’m not sure Suze saw herself in the same way. I think she expected a little more of Bob than to be his sex toy. As a Communist she should have had a more freewheelin’ attitude.
Suze seems to have been brought up completely within the Red religion much as a Christian might be a Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran or as Jew in whatever stripe of Judaism it might be.
She edged into race agitation at a young age. She met Bob when she was seventeen while she had been working for CORE (Congress Of Racial Equality) for a couple years before that. She would have been fifteen or sixteen. Whether she had sexual experiences with the Africans she doesn’t tell us. In her search for a raison d’ etre for her life she found herself in Greenwich Village in the Summer of ’61 where she met the twenty year old Bob Dylan just in from the Iron Range of Minnesota. They were mutually attracted, quickly forming a sexual relationship.
Bob as everyone knows was and is Jewish. He came not only from a Jewish background but from an orthodox background. Hibbing, Minnesota, his hometown, had a Jewish population of about three hundred families with their own Jewish establishment and synagogue.
According to Beattie Zimmerman, Bob’s mother, Bob was a good boy who attended services regularly while investigating the nature of the various Christian churches. As a mother Beattie’s version of things must be interpreted through the eyes of mother love.
Father Abe was not only a practising Jew but the President of the Hibbing chapter of B’nai B’rith and its terrorist arm the Anti-Defamation League. In addition Beattie, Bob’s mother, was the President of the Women’s auxiliary, Hadassah. So Bob isn’t just Jewish but comes from a very committed Jewish background.
As the President of the Hibbing chapter, Father Abe would have attended statewide gatherings in Minneapolis, regional meetings wherever they were held and possibly if not probably national meetings in NYC and elsewhere. Now, within the international Jewish organizations heavy hitters attend various levels of meetings where they meet and learn something of the various local and regional people. Thus, it may be assumed that Abe Zimmerman as a name at least was known on the national Jewish level. Kind of the Jewish Who’s Who, you know. Bob says that he had contacts to help him when he got to New York. Those contacts would have come through Father Abe while being part of B’nai B’rith and ADL. Bob wasn’t entirely alone out there.
Bob’s Jewish name is Sabtai after the last acknowledged Jewish Messiah, Sabbatai Zevi. There have been many that filled a Messianic role since Zevi not least of which was Sigmund Freud and possibly Albert Einstein. Bob may have been encouraged to take the role for himself.
At any rate when Bob approached thirteen and Bar Mitzvah time Abe brought in a special Rabbi from Brooklyn to instruct Bob. Now this is really signficant. He was probably a Lubavitcher or ultra-orthodox Jew. When Bob publicly expressed his Judaism after his Christian stint he chose to do so as a Lubavitcher. Very likely that was no coincidence. Having received his crash course in orthodoz Judaism Father Abe next sent his son to a Zionist summer camp for ‘several ‘ weeks for each of four successive summers ending at the age of seventeen. This would have the effect of introducing him to young Jews not only of the region but from around the world while at the same time estranging him from his fellow Hibbingites giving him his strange cast of character.
Camp Herzl was named after the originator of Zionism, Theodore Herzl. the camp with a spacious hundred and twenty acres is located on a lake near Webster, Wisconsin. Herzl is not your basic summer church camp but a national and international gathering place where young Jews from around the US and the world can meet and get known to each other somewhat.
The camp is conducted exclusively for Jews along Jewish lines eliminating as many goyish influences as is possible. At least when he was seventeen Bob was playing the Wild One showing up in a mini biker cavalcade. One may assume that many national and international Jewish figures made appearances over the four years to both instruct, encourage and look over the upcoming generation.
The post-war years were very traumatic for the Jewish people. The death camps of the Nazis dominated their minds. They were psychologically devastated and unbalanced looking for Nazis under their beds before they went to sleep at night. One may safely assume that Bob and his fellow campers had to watch extermination movies over and over lest they forget.
The State of Israel was founded in 1948 while the first of Israel’s successful wars occurred in 1956. The ’56 war was a seminal event bolstering the spirits of the Jews turning them aggressive as they now believed they could fight. After ’56 they began to come out of themselves.
For whatever reasons as Bob entered high school his personality began to disintegrate. Perhaps he had to cease being Bobby Zimmerman to become what his people expected of him which was a probable religious leader who then became Bob Dylan. As always Bob would combine two cultures, Jewish and Goyish.
After an extremely rocky year in Minneapolis where Bob shed the remnants of his goody goody image of Hibbing he became the dirty unkempt Bob Dylan of his rush to fame of the Folk years.
Thus as Bob and Suze met in the Summer of ’61 they were both searching for something to be.
Why Do Fools Fall In Love?
The question now that Suze and Bob have gotten together is to sort out the various accounts of what happened. Bob says everyone has gotten it wrong. However his own account in Chronicles I is no more factual than the accounts of his biographers and commentators. Suze doesn’t provide us with much more clarity. While Bob tells it like he wanted it to have been Suze on the the one hand protects her memory of what she wants to keep as a beautiful memory while glossing over her own actions at the time to keep it so.
Bob goes through the romantic notion of constructing their bed with saw, hammer and nails. This is a charming story and I’m embarrassed to say I took him at his word. You simply can’t. Chronicles came out four years ago so Suze has had plenty of time to read it and mull over Bob’s ruminations. Thus she must be aware of Bob’s story of the bed. She says it was an old bed the landlord left from another tenant. Another beautiful tale of Bob’s down the tubes.
Suze rather unflatteringly depicts Bob as a rouster and fairly heavy drinker. She was offended that Bob, who was posing as Bob Dylan, not yet having officially changed his name, didn’t level with her and confide that Dylan was a pseudonym that looked better on a marquee while his real name was Zimmerman and that he came from Minnesota rather than being an orphan from New Mexico. Coming home one night, as Suze tells it, Bob, stumblingly drunk, dropped his ID and she discovered the truth as she picked it up. Even then she had to drag the truth out of Bob.
These problems mounted up. There was immediate hostility between Bob, Suze’s mother and her sister Carla. The mother seems to have instinctively seen through Bob, while I’m sure Carla soon learned that Bob was doing her sister wrong.
As we know from Chronicles Bob had other ‘part-time’ girl friends, pick ups and whatever. As the folk crowd was a fairly tight knit group even if Suze didn’t want to hear the obvious Carla who was employed by the Folklorist, Alan Lomax, could hardly have been unaware that Bob had a laissez faire attitude toward romancing the girls.
Indeed, Bob’s understanding of Suze was that she was his Libertine belle. As a libertine therefore he could hardly have believed fidelity was a necessary condition. I don’t know if Suze considered herself a Libertine but as a Communist both fidelity and jealousy were forbidden by the dogma so speaking consistently with the belief system neither mother, Suze nor Carla had grounds for complaint. Nevertheless both mother and Carla wished to separate Bob and Suze.
Bob records his side of the conflict in his song Ballad in Plain D. In his usual high flown language Bob says in his song:
“The tragic figure!” her sister did shout,
“Leave her alone, goddamn you, get out.”
All is gone, all is gone, admit it, take flight.
I gagged twice, doubled, tears blinding my sight.
My mind it was mangled, I ran into the night
Leaving all of love’s ashes behind me.
Within a few months he was married to Sara who he kept waiting in the wings. Subsequently he tried to keep Sara and his growing family in Woodstock and the Slum Goddess Of The Lower East Side out on the side. Suze, apparently not quite as Libertine as Bob supposed, declined the honor.
Just as Bob blithely romanticizes his early NY years in some sappy Happy Talk that belies his songs and what nearly everyone has written about him so Suze adopts a near virginal girlish pose. Her story of how she left for Italy and her true blue yearning for the perfect love of Bob who sent those charming letters purloined from old country songs is also belied by the various biographers. To hear Suze talk she never looked at a boy in Italy and certainly never dated one let alone kissed or petted. Yet by her religious Communist ideology that would have been no sin, even would have been a virtue. In fact she did have an Italian boyfriend who was apparently dropped down the memory hole at autobiography time.
When she did return the road of romance was much more rocky than she lets on. Carla who stayed home where she could watch Bob was privy to his doings which were much more libertine than anything he accused Suze of. He had to have slept with Liam Clancy’s live in somewhere in there. He’s accused of being a womanizer and you can’t be a womanizer without a lot of women. So whatever Carla knew it was somewhat more than an earful and I’m sure that between Carla and her mother Suze heard it all.
Suze out of respect for this young love which, after all, must still occupy a sacred spot in her life never expresses but the mildest resentment of Bob but letting her sister speak for her she says that ‘she (Carla) felt I was better off without the lyin’ cheatin’ manipulative bastard.’ Right on all counts I’m sure except for the last although as Bob claimed to have no parents Carla could justly so surmise.
At any rate if Suze couldn’t make up her mind her mother and Carla could.
Ballad In Plain D again:
Beneath a bare light bulb the plaster did pound
Her sister and I in a screaming battleground,
And she in between, the victim of sound,
Soon shattered the child ‘neath her shadows.
The wind knocks my window, the room it is is wet.
The words to say I’m sorry, I haven’t found yet.
I think of her often and hope whoever she’s met
Will be fully aware of how precious she is.
And then Bob married Sara and ruined her life.
While Suze and Bob talked marriage there is no reason to take that seriously; he talked marriage with Echo too. I don’t think Bob had any notion of marrying aouside his faith. The mother is the culture carrier; Bob is firmly within the Jewish culture so there could have been no chance that he would have taken other than a Jewish wife. Even then he may have married only to fulfill the commandment to be fruitful and multiply. Once he had fulfilled that duty he broke the marriage apart.
The Slum Goddess
Suze was now a young woman of twenty or twenty-one alone adrift in New York City. While she and Bob were having their tempestuous romance the times they were a changin’.
Tim Leary, up in harvard, had embraced psychedelics. Once in love with LSD he wanted to share his love with everyone. He became the High Priest of his psychedelic religion. I can recommend both his autobiography and his volume of reminiscences: High Priest. The latter is a spectacularly well written book if tending toward tediousness.
Leary’s experiments attracted the dark angel of the Hippie years, Allen Ginsberg. Ginsberg also attached himself to Dylan tying the Beat and Hippie decades together. Vile man.
Bob had introduced Suze to Marijuana and what else I don’t know, perhaps LSD. He himself was into the pharmacopeia also undoubtedly dabbling in heroin although if he did he is still an addict or was successful in kicking the habit after his retreat from fame in ’66. That whole thing about the motorcycle accident may have been just rehab. He sure needed it.
As Bob notes the effect of LSD on the Greenwich Village folk scene was to turn people inward destroying any sense of community. Suze then was attempting to navigate this terra nova. Along with turning people inward, LSD, the drug scene, turned the scene sexually rasty in ways even the Communists couldn’t have imagined. The Pill coming along at this time certainly was as influential as LSD in changing sexual mores.
Suze, if aware of this, makes no mention of it in her auto. The Fugs released Slum Goddess in 1965 although they may possibly have been playing it around the Village for a year or two earlier. The Slum Goddess is not a savory woman.
That Suze was selected as the first Slum Goddess strikes my sensibilities as a negative compliment. Her presentation of it implies a souring experience. Shortly after her selection she chose to withdraw from Village life. She gives as the reason that her earlier relations with Bob caused upleasant curiosity and that was certainly true.
The scene turned absolutely rotten after 1968 when between drugs, profound negativity and the progressing degradation of the Hippie movement anyone with any sense of dignity was driven out.
Suze must have been one of us for she left the scene behind. There are few today who choose to remember it. As for me, life is life, there it was and there was I. I was who I was; je ne regret rien. I hope Suze doesn’t either. Bob? He just stays on the bus and doesn’t get off. Reality can be such a drag.
June 19, 2008
Conversations With Robin
Robin Mark and R.E. Prindle
Conversations continued from Post: Lipstick Traces Part IX: Greil Marcus
OK, OK, OK. I’m getting it, took a while. STONE. Everybody must get stoned. What’s your mother’s maiden name, Bob? Stone. Right. Dylan might be tongue tied. I certainly was. Still am to a certain extent. But, I think one place to start is the religious conflict he had to endure.
His father, Abe, was a fundamentalist religious weirdo. Just because one is Jewish doesn’t mean you can’t be as religiously weird as Mike Huckabee. For Christ’s sake, Bob believes the Bible is literally the word of God. Somebody recorded his rants between songs and published them. Don’t have the book as yet but I’ve read a couple of exerpts. I already know all that crap. Spent much youthful time among the Nazarenes and other weird outfits. They had me for a while but I threw them off. The taste still lingers though. Bob apparently hasn’t. God, how can anyone believe that crap.
Beattie in Thompson’s book say Bob sampled the various churches as well as attending Jewish sabbath. Yes, I can believe that. So he’s got a father who’s king of B’nai B’rith and ADL and a controlling mother who’s quieen of Hadassah. As if this isn’t enough when he turns thirteen his old man straps him to the torture rack, pries his eyelids open with toothpicks and bombards the poor little bastard with Lubavitcher bullroar.
And then…and then, they send him off to be preached Zionist poppycock for a month or two every summer for four years. I can’t tell you how much I hated church camp. I mean, I can, but maybe later.
Apart from the religious issue then we have the personalities of Abe and Beattie. I got a vaguely uncomfortable mother feeling about Beattie from Thompson’s Main Street. I wouldn’t say I didn’t like her but I probably would have been very respectful and kept my distance if she had been the mother of my best friend.
So then, how does Bob tell her and Abe how he feels? Can’t just speak right up to his parents, who can? Consider the successive titles: Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited. Like all artists Bob can combine several different influences into one song or even one line. Highway 61 is nowhere near Hibbing which is situated North of Duluth so if Highway 61 figures in anywhere it’s down at Redwing or perhaps the run back and forth to Minneapolis.
It is mere coincidence that Highway 61 continues to the Mississippi Delta. Has nothing to do with Bob’s thoughts. He can’t express himself plainly so he has a couple accusatory poses photographed looking straight at Abe and Beattie and goes into rants like ‘God said to Abraham…’
All that’s possible.
I’ve been reading on Bob’s religious odyssey in Restless Pilgrim: The Spiritual Journey Of Bob Dylan by Scott M. Marshall and Marcia Ford and also Marshall’s solo piece from the web on Jewsweek. Very enlightening stuff. Sounes and Heylin could have blended it into their biographies and given some sense to his later years.
The guy actually believes the Bible stuff literally. When he says: God said to Abraham… he means it. He thinks it actually happened. I spent a lot of time with those people in my yout’. Been there, done that. No thank you.
I am getting clearer on why I thought the Middle Period was so entrancing though. Still don’t forgive myself but I was there so I suppose I had to go through it.
June 9, 2008
Albion Winegar Tourgee And Thomas Dixon Jr.
The conflict between the North and South is the central conflit of United States history. Whether the Civil War was fought to preserve the Union or over slavery the African issue was the central problem of the country. The aftermath of Reconstruction was and has been devastating to US history. Mark Sullivan comments the Reconstruction period in Our Times, Vol. III. He is writing c. 1930:
Hardly to this day has any unbiassed summation been made of the destruction that the North visited upon the South. Rarely has any conqueror in history been so ruthless- by comparison, the treatment of Germany by the Allies was the rebuke of a complaisant parent to a naughty child. The North, by abolishing slavery, wiped out five billion dollars’ worth of the South’s property. That was but the beginning. Abolition of slavery was the complete destruction of the South’s economic system, land in the South was made valueless. Then the North, by conferring suffrage on the negro, set the former slave in power over his recent master, and for ten years maintained him there by arms. The very aorta of civilization in the South was more near to being completely severed than historians have commonly realized. In the University of South Carolina, a State institution authority over which rested the legislature, a corn-field negro, barefooted, illiterate, sat in the chair and drew the salary of the Professor of Greek. Over a period of forty years, including war, reconstruction (ironic word!) and the aftermath of both, the lamp of education in the South was saved from complete extinction only by the devotion and patience of half a dozen men. With the other consequences went a discouragement which accepted the physical deterioration, through disease, of large portions of the rural South, as merely one detail of a fate it was useless to resist.
The excuse of the North was that Southern Whites had enslaved the African. For some reason the New England States made Southern slavery an issue although those states, as Bible pounders, were not opposed to slavery in principle. Shortly after the Civil War certain New England citizens established themselves in the Hawaiian Islands where they began to grow staple agricultural crops. Farm labor therefore became as big a problem for them as it had been in the South. They were not averse to establishng a contract labor system which was a form of wage slavery. The New Englanders, some of them churchmen, saw the Chinese as inferior coolie laborers not unlike the African. Learning from the Reconstruction African situation in the South they were reluctant to import the Chinese as permanent residents.
Thus the contracts of the Chinese specified that the Chinese return to China after the termination of their contracts. This the Chinese saw no reason to do staying on as permanent residents. Reluctant to import more Chinese the New England planters cast about for another alternative. They settled on the Japanese. Thus a ship sailed into Tokyo Bay and the Planters forcefully abducted, kidnapped, a hundred odd Japanese from Yokohama taking them back to Hawaii where they were put to work.
So we may assume that the New Englanders were not entirely sincere in their objection to Southern slavery.
In addition during the Grant administration while Reconstruction was in progress the annexation of San Domingo or Haiti was proposed. Under the French administration of the area using African slave labor San Domingo was the richest and most productive colony in the world. It could be made so again under American administration. How they proposed to farm the land without African labor remains a mystery. It could only have been achieved by some compulsive means.
As the Africans have never worked the land of this richest of areas without compulsion one would be amused to learn the proposed solution to this pressing problem of labor.
One can only conclude that as no region of the US objected to forced labor that truly the Union was the reason for the Civil War. The reason for Reconstruction has to be explained otherwise.
The next problem is the nature of the African. Nowhere in the world without an overawing show of force were the Africans docile. The history of Africa is perpetual genocidal, tribal warfare. The Africans had the very reasonable attitude that the way to treat an enemy was to stamp them flat. Exterminate them.
The attitude is apparent everywhere in Africa today most obivious at the moment in Zimbabwe and South Africa.
In Haiti at the end of the eighteenth century the small number of French planters proved unable to control the overwhelming number of Africans, the latter rising up and defeating their owners. In this action known as the San Domingo Moment the White males were exterminated to the man while the females were given the option of sex slavery or rape and death.
One might say this was race hatred but I say no. The response was no different than any other tribal conflict in Africa; the difference in Haiti being merely that the French were White.
In the US the White Planters managed the Africans by the threat of slightly superior numbers while overawing the Africans into if not total submission something very nearly so. Thus the character the North gave the Africans in the South was at complete variance with the worldwide reality.
The North took the forced submission of the African in the South that produced a seemingly submissive inoffensive, harmless type of being the actual nature of the African. Tourgee refers to Africans as ‘poor innocents.’ Northerners believed that the lack of apparent intellectual capability was due to ill treatment and the lack of opportunity for education. So the real question is who was right about the relative capability of the African to the Caucasian? The North or the South? This problem is important and has to be dealt with.
We are told that the African was first to evolve as a Homo Sapiens from the Last Hominid Predecessor. That was c. 150,000 years ago. Had the African not been disturbed by outside peoples he would be living today as he was when he evolved so long ago. Many peoples have visited sub-Saharan Africa, that is to say, Black Africa, over the last few millennia. Phoenicians and Carthaginians visited sub-Saharan Africa both overland and on voyages around the coasts. Greek traders visited the source of the Nile, identifying the Mountains of the Moon while Romans established trade routes across the Sahara. The Arabs established contact beginning in the seventh century at least while Malays from Indonesia established themselves on Madagascar while penetrating into the continent itself making settlements about the year +1000.
All influences were absorbed by the Africans without any serious changes to their intellectual or social organization. Europeans established stronger settlements in Africa ruling Africa for a hundred years or more. They have been or are being expelled from Africa while most notably in Zimbabwe and South Africa Africans are destroying any traces of European civilization and reverting to their ancestral ways. Only a liberal could deny these obvious facts.
The African capability for civilization was fixed one hundred fifty thousand years ago. The African mind is incapable of permanently adjusting to any higher level of civilization.
The Southern Planters in daily contact with Africans had this fact impressed upon them continuously. The mind is not so elastic that it can escape its evolutionary limitations.
As an example I quote Rudyard Kipling from his American Notes of 1889:
The Americans once having made them (the Africans) citizens cannot unmake them. He says, in his newspaper, they ought to be elevated by education. He is trying this; but it is like to be a long job, because black blood is more adhesive than white, and throws back with annoying persistence. When the negro gets a religion he returns directly as a hiving bee, to the first instincts of his people. Just now a wave of religion is sweeping over some of the Southern States. Up to the present two Messiahs and a Daniel have appeared and several human sacrifices have been offered up to these incarnations. The Daniel managed to get three young men, who he insisted were Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, to walk into a blast furnace; guaranteeing non-combustion. They did not return. I have seen nothing of this kind, but I have attended a negro church. The congregation were moved by the spirit to groans and tears, and one of them danced up the aisle to the mourners bench. The motive may have been genuine. The movements of the shaken body were those of Zanzibar stick dancers, such as you see at Aden on the coal boats; and even as I watched the people, the links that bound them to the white man snapped one by one and I saw before me- the Hubsha (the Woolly One) praying to a god he did not understand. Those neatly dressed folk on the benches, the gray-headed elder by the window, were savages- neither more nor less. What will the American do with the negro? The South will not consort with him….The North is every year less and less in need of his services. And yet he will not disappear. His friends will urge that he is as good as a white man. His enemies…it is not good to be a negro in the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Of course the Liberal will say that Kipling does not observe accurately and that HE is a ‘bigot.’ Nevertheless if one looks at locales in the United States where the African dominates such as Mississippi, Detroit, Pontiac, Flint, Saginaw, Chicago, New Orleans, what does he find? A replica of Lagos or Zimbabwe. A return to ancestral ways.
I’m not one to quote IQ scores because they only prove what is obvious to the naked eye. Genetic studies prove that as Homo Sapiens continues to evolve, the African who, as a species, is fully evolved, will only continue to fall further and further behind. This may not be his fault but it remains a fact.
To counter these facts the Liberal merely says that a hundred fifty thousand years isn’t enough time to make an accurate assessment; we must be patient.
Thus when the Civil War ended and Reconstruction began Albion Winegar Tourgee went South with his prejudices as a carpetbagger to try to place the African over the Southern White.
Tourgee was an honest man who sincerely believed that he was doing right by punishing the White while trying to impose the African on him. Tourgee moved back North after Reconstruction and took up his pen to become a successful novelist. Among his works were two novels recounting his experiences and opinions during Reconstruction. The novels are: A Fool’s Errand by One Of The Fools and Bricks Without Straw. They are both reasonably good novels although the latter is more or less a strike off of the former but for my tastes a better story and novel.
It is in A Fool’s Errand that Tourgee tackles the problem more head on. Completely disrgarding the character of the African in Africa or Haiti he takes the paternalistic Liberal approach that he is dealing with innocent little children who need his protection. This attitude is actually only a variant on the Southern. His is a good Northern Charlie compared to the bad Southern Charlie.
His anlysis of the Southern attitude is quite accurate and well thought out; his solutions are faulty. A Fool’s Errand is well worth reading to contrast the two viewpoints. His own pretensions of innocence and superiority to the Souterners is revolting. He should have known of Grant’s plans to annex Haiti that should have given him an intimation of the vulnerability of Northern pretensions. I’m sure he probably wasn’t aware of Puritan doings in Hawaii and Japan.
Slavery is detestable, I myself have no problems with that although firms like Nestle’s and Starbuck’s are accused of benefiting from slave labor in the chocolate and coffee businesses. That means that you and I enjoy the fruits of slave labor with our coffee and chocolate. Those big screen TVs we all covet so much are made by slave labor in China. Tourgee if he had thought about it would have noticed that the African franchise he was attempting to force on Southern Whites was denied Africans in his home State of Michigan and nearly universally among all parts of the Northland and West. Kipling writing a few years later than Tourgee was speaking accurately.
Tourgee was indignant at what, as he puts it, the Southern Planter had done to the African. He says quite plainly that there was no punishment too severe for the Southern White nor should it end quickly. He virtually proclaims the need to boil the Southern White in oil. This seems extreme in a world where slavery was rife most especially on the African continent. He might have put just a little of the blame on those greedy African chiefs who sold their people into bondage for filthy lucre.
He might also have noted the Israelite Solomon who when he ran short of money to finance his temple to his god gathered together numbers of His people and sold them into slavery to get on with the building of the House Of The Lord.
Tourgee’s novels went unanswered while selling well for a decade or two. But then Thomas Dixon Jr. took up the cudgels on the behalf of the South and told their version of Reconstruction in his trilogy of The Leopard’s Spots, The Clansman and The Traitor. Of course Liberals who control the seminaries of their religious system sometimes referred to as the American University System, dismiss Dixon as a stone cold bigot and ‘racist.’ One suspects without ever having read him which is of no consquence as they pay no attention to the other side of the story once their minds are made up.
As Dixon points out, those Puritan sea captains made a fortune or two out of the slave trade, the profits of which returned North to finance Puritan bigotry and possibly large bequests to Harvard University. Puritan cotton mills processed the cheap slave produced crop without worrying too much about its provenance. Dixon gives numerous examples of the hypocrisy of the New Englanders.
Slavery of any sort past or present cannot be justified but it was that very cotton that caused slavery to blossom and extend into Alabama and Mississippi. The institution then ran into the unique State of Louisiana.
Louisiana and more specifically New Orleans had a history dating back to the French Caribbean plantations, in fact, New Orleans was part of the French circle but a remote outpost in relation to the British colonies of the East Coast. As on Haiti and other French islands freed Africans were allowed full citizenship privileges including owning slaves. Thus, as the American settlers moved West after 1793 and the invention of the cotton gin becoming mere frontiersmen the closer they got to Louisiana, where the African, French and mixed races already were. Louisiana Africans, as in Haiti, were slave owners.
As W.E.B. Du Bois points out but gives no reasons for it, slavery in Louisiana where Africans were influential was of a different character than in the East. The East was as benevolent a form of slavery as is possible while in Louisiana as Du Bois himself points out the African owners preferred to work slaves to death, fhen buy replacements. This in turn created a market for slave breeders who arose in Kentucky.
The breeding of Africans for slaves was especially repellent to American sensibilities but had slavery continued public opinion would have gotten used to it as it gets used to every other perversion. It can however be no coincidence that slave breeding occurred just up river from the slave consuming States of Mississippi and Louisiana.
I mention this matter only to show that the subject of slavery is not monolithic but much more complex than normally discussed.
Both Tourgee and Dixon write about affairs in North Carolina on the East Coast. This differentiation should not go unnoticed. I suspect that a very large proportion of the illegal importation of slaves that occurred after 1800 was done through ports in Louisiana and Texas far from the central authority. If that should be true then the character of slaves fresh from Africa between, say, 1850 and 1860 would be much different than those Tourgee was familiar on the settled East Coast.
Tourgee, convinced that the Africans were gentle, innocent people, was blind to the outrages committed by both carpetbaggers and the more truculent Africans many of whom wore the Union uniform with the full backing of the Federal government which was bent on persecuting Whites.
Dixon then whose credibility the Liberals wish to destroy writing twenty years or so after Tourgee and probably in reaction to him wishes to give the Southern side of the Reconstruction story. He is much more realistic and sympathetic than Tourgee. The latter writes both his novels with nary a reference to the radical reconstruction of the insane abolitionists in Congress like Stevens and Stanton who quite literally wished to see Southern Whites exterminated ‘root and branch’ a la the San Domingo Moment and the entire South given over to the Africans. As Tourgee himself said, they believed there was no punishment too severe for the Whites.
One need not wonder how Tourgee would view the White genocide occurring in Zimbabwe and South Africa today as his current Liberal counterparts applaud lustily. In that light one shudders to think what will happen in the US if these Liberal assassins are not displaced before they seize the government in the Stalinist style and initiate the genocide of Whites they are currently advocating which one assumes will include themselves.
To understand the problem, the attitude among both Liberals and Africans from the Civil War/Reconstruction period that persist through today a reading of Tourgee, especially A Fool’s Errand, and Thomas Dixon would be some time well spent.
June 6, 2008
Our Times, Mark Sullivan And Edgar Rice Burroughs
Mark Sullivan doesn’t show up in ERB’s library although one wonders why not. Sullivan’s Our Times is a history of America from 1900-1925 as it might have been gleaned from newspapers. This is history as seen from the point of view of newspaper readers. Sullivan himself was a journalist. He was also almost an exact contemporary of Burroughs, born in 1874 died in 1952, so we can be can be certain that Burroughs was infuenced by all the events that Sullivan cherishes. Cherishes is the right word because Sullivan is also writing his own intellectual biography through his perception of the world he lived in. These events formed the warp and woof of his life. A life he obviously loved.
He was present at many of the events while knowing such men as Teddy Rooselt reasonably well. Others he was able to interview and failing that, as many of these participant in some really astounding events were still alive as he began writing Our Times in the twenties, he was able to get written impressions from such as Orville Wright and Thomas Edison among a great many others. Altogether the six volumes of Our Times are a unique, vastly interesting, entertaining and altogether charming record of the times. Of course Sullivan would have had a more intimate knowledge of matters than mere newspaper readers but these are the stories Burroughs saw, observed and experienced hence forming the warp and woof of his own life.
We are fortunate then to have a record that actually forms the background of ERB’s life as he might have seen it as selected and lovingly recounted by Sullivan.
Sullivan gives a good background to race relations that throws light on how Burroughs himself perceived them. At least from 1900 to 1920 the lingering effects of the Civil War and Reconstruction were quite strong heavily influencing if not dominating the thought of the times. There was a strong party that wanted to go on punishing Southeners both as rebels and as former slave owners. On the other hand there was also a strong party that wanted to reconcile the Whites of North and South healing the rift and bringing the two factions together into one nation. The former might be called the Tourgee school and the latter the Dixon school.
Sullivan was of the latter group as well as Burroughs and their hero Theodore Roosevelt. Sullivan recounts how Roosevelt worked very hard to bring the Southeners back into a respectable political condition only to blow his efforts away by inviting a Negro to lunch with him in the White House. That Negro was Booker T. Washington.
It was against this backdrop that Thomas Dixon was writing his Reconstruction novels The Leopard’s Spots, The Clansman and The Traitor. His trilogy was made was made into the movie The Birth Of A Nation in 1915. The movie was meant to be a seal on the healing process. From the inception of the United States the country was divided into two nations. The North and the South with two approaches to civilization. The Civil War began over the separation of those two civilizations while the subsequent period was devoted to uniting the two approaches into one people hence the title of the movie- The Birth Of A Nation. In other words Southern and Northern Whites combined into one people with one ideology.
The clinker in the coal pile was the African. No matter the relation between the two White peoples the problem was what to do about the African. Thus Sullivan, Burroughs and Roosevelt while wishing to unite the Northeners and Southeners had still to deal with the Africans. Obviously the introduction of the Africans into the equation as social equals was an impossibility for all concerned. They weren’t wanted.
Booker Washington’s response to the issue was not to try to socialize with the Whites but to live independent lives while trying to equal the White man’s achievement. The approach was correct but impossible for the Africans.
There was no racial animosity as such on the part of Sullivan, Burroughs and Roosevelt but there was no solution to the racial differences then as there are none now. Somewhat presciently Burroughs in his Martian trilogy had the Black First Born attack and demolish the White citadel thus conquering and eliminating them. This is along the lines of what is happening today where White males have been legally emasculated while White females are encouraged to seek Black males. Thus potentially without violence genocide would be committed on the Whites.
What was clear to all participants was that Whites and Blacks were not of equal capabilities. Whatever Sullivan and Roosevelt may have thought it is clear that Burroughs believed that Africans were not as evolutionarily developed as Whites.
From 1900 to 1920 this was the prevailing attitude in the country but then began to change as immigration changes began to disintegrate the social fabric. Circa 1900 the conflict was three way between the Liberals, the Reconcilers and the Africans being manageable to the Africans disadvantage. Just before 1920 the great racial organizations of the of the Jews – ADL and AJC-, the Africans- the NAACP-, the Italians- the Mafia- and the Whites- the second Ku Klux Klan- took shape that managed to spinter the forces along several racial lines with all except the KKK working against the Whites. Thus post-war America and post-war Burroughs developed in a different way than The Birth Of A Nation proposed.
Sullivan also lovingly chronicles the rise of popular music that began to take definite shape in the last years of the nineteenth century and the first two decades of the twentieth as Tin Pan Alley came into existence. While Emma was trained as a formal singer ERB loved the pop tunes. He even went so far as to take a portable record player on their cross country trip in 1916. Of course electricity was not needed to play records as the players were wind up. The amplification was minimal as the needle translates the grooves through a large bell or horn. ERB’s record tastes were somewhat along the lines of his interest in boxing. Emma, I am sure, would have called his tastes vulgar.
Sullivan gives great coverage of the heavy weight boxing championship of the African, Jack Johnson. Johnson’s victory was one of the most traumatic events of the first two decades for White psychology. Burroughs himself was deeply chagrined resulting in the boxing story of The Mucker. The Mucker, Billy Byrne, became in essence a literary Great White Hope.
There is no indication that I have found that Burroughs read Our Times although Only Yesterday by Frederick Lewis Allen published near the same time dealing with the Twenties in the same way as Sullivan is found in his library. So, the approach was interesting to Burroughs and in some ways he also incorporated a lot of current events into his writing. Read between the lines his is a history of his times. Nearly every story can be related to something or things happening in his society. This approach goes back to his earliest writing long before Sullivan conceived Our Times.
Certainly ERB would have known of both Sullivan and Our Times. As an inveterate magazine and newspaper reader there is probably very little that escaped ERB’s notice.
The point of this essay is to recommend Our Times as background to the events that would have had great influence on Burroughs both before he began writing and as he wrote incorporating events such as Jack Johnson or the Mexican scare of 1915 and Pancho Villa into his writing.
Not only will the volumes of Our Times provide a social and political backdrop to ERB’s development but they will be a very enjoyable read with a lot of interesting pictures and cartoons to make the pages turn especially fast.