Taking Notes: "2: Martian Carnivals" in Ray Bradbury: The Life of Fiction (2004) by Jonathan R. Eller & William F. Touponce

Jonathan R. Eller & William F. Touponce, Ray Bradbury: The Life of Fiction (Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 2004)

2: Martian Carnivals--The Martian Chronicles (The Silver Locusts) (pp. 105-163) [All Boldface Are Mine]

p. 105
...... While the book [The Martian Chronicles] was published as science fiction and was ostensibly about the colonization of the planet Mars, mainstream readers found in it a serious exploration of the social and political problems of postwar American culture (that is, fears about nuclear war, racism, and censorship). Bradbury's style was also praised for its literary and poetic qualities. The cultural matrix of the United States was clearly shifting toward the growing realization that most people now lived in a "science fictional" culture anyway, and with this realization came new fears and anxieties about the future. Because it dealt with these themes and issues, The Martian Chronicles was the first science fiction book to find two distinct reading audiences. It could, with fairness, be said then that after the publication of The Martian Chronicles in May 1950, science fiction was still seen as different from mainstream literature but no longer separate from it. The permanent barriers fell.

On Bradbury's Text:
p. 111
The idea of allowing stories to attract or cluster to form a larger whole underlines Bradbury's consistent view that genre labels mean very little in the act of creative writing. He has referred to The Martian Chronicles as a novel only in the sense that each story reflects the same authorial vision: "even though these stories were written separately, they do represent my philosophy at the time. It's pretty hard to read one and not recognize the sort of person I am and see that the tone is the same all the way through." He is more at ease using Walter Bradbury's "half-cousin to a novel," and in the 1997 edition he calls Chronicles a "book-of-stories-pretending-to-be-a-novel." In Bradbury's case, where the notion of text rather than genre provides the focus for the writer's creative vision, the surviving textual evidence is essential to a critical understanding of the author's evolving vison. ......
*MUST READ* p. 116-117
Table 5 for "A progression of the stories in the various working contents developed for Chronicles between the June 1949 meeting with Doubleday editor Walter Bradbury and the final contents included in the first American edition."

p. 118
Although fine-tuning the contents had extended from June 1949 to January 1950, Bradbury spent much less time during that period revising the individual stories. Collations of the original texts and the final book version reveal that he made numerous substantive revisions to all the preexisting stories, but few large-scale revisions were necessary. As Bradbury later recalled: "All these stories seemed to fall into a pattern, and they were all about the same people on the same way to the same star. Most of them are not directly related, but there is a general surge." Although many of the original stories shared general characteristics of plot and circumstance, they were as yet largely unrelated variations on the principal themes of first contact, settlement and exploitation, and colonial decline due to trouble back on Earth. ......


The primary creative challenge to the Chronicles concept centered on the new bridging chapters that Bradbury developed to form a seamless tapestry. His goal was not only to sustain and extend the narrative but also to relate the experiences of successive waves of settlers, thus more exactly paralleling the American
p. 119
frontier myth. These titled bridges spanned only a page or two and were based on the occasional pensees he wrote and set aside, along with his full-blown Martian stories, in the immediate postwar years. ......
This transformation of an existing story into a bridge probably occurred as Bradbury was working the remaining stories into a final sequence. The deletion of "The Naming of Names" reveals a key element in this process. Many of the chosen stories give a sense of humans becoming Martians to some degree: "The Earthmen" are mistaken for Martians by the Martians themselves; "The Third Expedition" thinks Mars is heaven, when in reality it is a deadly paradise; and there is a "Night Meeting" out of time between a new settler and an ancient Martian. Spender, the renegade of the fourth expedition in "And the Moon Be Still as Bright," takes on the clothes and identity of one of the last Martians and turns on his shipmates; his rationale and fate (......) set up the cultural thematics of the entire book. In the summer 1949 digest of Chronicles, Bradbury tentatively set the culmination of this dynamic late in the middle of the book--he planned to literally turn settlers into Martians through "The Naming of Names" and then bring them back in "The Off Season" to haunt Sam Parkhill with the racial conscience of the displaced culture. By removing "The Naming of Names," Bradbury saved the uncanny effect of "becoming Martian" for the final story of the book. "The Million-Year Picnic," which would soon become the final chapter of Chronicles, a much more positive variation on this theme through its portrayal of a family that adopts Mars as mankind's last refuge as Earth sinks into the final stages of an atomic war that had already reclaimed the earlier waves of colonial exploitation. With this final structural sequence in place, Bradbury had, in a very real sense, written the greatest bridge of all--the one between author and reader. We become Martians by reading the book--we claim it eagerly, for we have earned it in a very personal and literary sense.
p. 124
English publication also marked the beginning of a series of major postpublication variations in The Martian Chronicles that continue to affect readers today. (Rupert) Hart-Davis was still concerned that the title masked the hightly unusual imaginative elements and the truly poetic style of the contents, and he did not want the book dismissed as "scientific nonsense" on that basis. On November 10, 1950, he wrote Bradbury and asked him to consider a title change: "A new title without any mention of Mars or planets or rockets would, I believe, help enormously to get the book into the same category as George Orwell's 1984." Bradbury shared Hart-Davis's feelings about the science fiction label and was already trying to get the Doubleday Science Fiction colophon removed from his next book. Hart-Davis initially suggested "Way in the Middle of the Air" as the best candidate for a title story, but eventually both men settled on The Silver Locusts--a metaphor that Bradbury used in a bridging chapter ("The Locusts") to describe the earthbound rockets on their launch pads. The new title certainly fit the British publisher's sense of what the book was all about--the metaphor placed science within the
p. 125
context of a poetic imagination more concerned with truth than fact. ......


The Silver Locusts was released in September 1951, sixteen months after American publication but only ten months after Hart-Davis committed to the book. ...... But the book carried more than a new title, for Bradbury made his first postpublication change in contents as well. As early as July 1950, his concerns about "Usher II" resurfaced in his correspondence with Doubleday: "Brad, you were rightabout USHER II. I should have followed your advice andcut it out of THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES. It is a good story, but time and again people have mentioned it to me as the lump in the cake frosting. I let my love for the story blind me to its position in relation to the whole. I should have taken advantage of your more objective view ...ah, well, and damn" (ellipsis Bradbury's).

There was nothing he could do about the Doubleday edition, but the British contract opened up new possibilities. When The Silver Locusts was released in 1951, it no longer contained "Usher II." ...... At the same time he restored "The Fathers" as "The Fire Balloons," for he had come to realize that cutting that story from the Doubleday edition at the last minute had been a mistake. ......

*MUST READ* p. 132-133:
Table 6 for "A checklist, in chronological order, of the American and British editions of The Martian Chronicles. Successive columns track the six variations in content through five decades.

p. 131
Traditionally, critics focus on formal characteristics in explaining this kind of textual transformation. The Martian Chronicles, along with William Faulkner's Go Down, Moses and such bricolage cousins as John Steinbeck's The Red Pony and

p. 134
Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio, are considered cycles of stories, something between a story collection and a novel. But in Bradbury's case genre criticism just is not the best way to analyze the evolving nature of the work--the textual record, which contains no identifiable central character, demands a different approach. His kind of textual transformation begins just as Bradbury described it in an interview with Craig Cunningham--certain stories from a large body of related work cluster around a theme in the same way that magnetism attracts particles with common compositional properties. But a much more tangible process follows, a process that Forest L. Ingram describes as selecting, grouping, editing, revising, and bridging the stories to create acompleted short-story cycle. Completion in no way implies termination, for Bradbury has never stopped developing Chronicles. The complete cycle is always greater than the sum of its parts, but that sum may vary as the text continues to be modified. The invariable result is that Chronicles transcends the classification of "science fiction" that is attributed to the constituent stories.

...... For Isherwood and others, the powerful style and imagination created a Martian setting that, in its totality, became a most compelling American parable.


...... In the very process of expanding and linking his fictions, Bradbury implicitly distinguished his woven layers of revision from such formal stages as "story" or "novella" or "novel" in the same way that Roland Barthes explicitly distinguished "text" from the notion of the completed "work" Barthes's poststructural concept of text as "the interweaving of codes" (from the root meaning of "text" as "woven thing") and his eventual conclusion that "each text is ... its own model" provide useful insights into Bradbury's shaping vision for The Martian Chronicles. The concept of an open-ended carnivalized "text" rather than genre classification is the central notion of revision for Bradbury--the weave of Chronicles is clearly a unique textual process rather than a formal evolution from story toward novel. ......

On Thematics:
p. 135
Although The Martian Chronicles is often justly celebrated as a masterwork of fantasy for its style and appreciated for its "magical" imaginative qualities, it is, in fact, interwoven with philosophical themes, reinvented by Bradbury in his own unique way as a diagnosis of 1950s American culture. It is important in this regard to remember the book's epigraph, which attributes to a future philosopher the statement that "it is good to renew one's wonder" and that "space travel has again made children of us all," for this is an important clue to how the historical field is turned into wondrous art by Bradbury. ......


According to Nietzsche, in Greek culture it was tragic art alone that was able to maintain a fruitful balance between the two tendencies [Apollonian: the beautiful illusion of the inner world of fantasy; Dionysian: enchantment; together: the art worlds of dreams and intoxications]. But in Bradbury's aesthetic of fantasy (......), it could be said that fantastic art--fully carnivalized by parody, irony, and jokes--roughly takes the place of tragic art for modern culture. Fantasy fulfills the same roles and saving functions; it has the same constant awareness of painful chaos coupled with the will to form beautiful illusions and masks in the interest of life. Therefore, in reading The Martian Chronicles, we would expect a critique of worn-out illusions to alternate with the fresh creation of new myths. This alternation of old and new is exactly what structures Chronicles: the reader oscillates between Apollonian and Dionysian fantasy, sometimes within the framework of a single story (as in the case of "The Green Morning," where the American folktale of Johnny Appleseed is marvelously rejuvenated).
p. 136
Bradbury's text carnivalizes Nietzschean philosophical themes through the use of metaphors, myths, and masks. We find that Bradbury's Martian civilization manifests Apollonian tendencies in its constant play of masks. The Martians seem to wear masks on every social occasion. ......


It has rightly been noted by critics that The Martian Chronicles evokes an elaborate system of parallels with myths of the American frontier. These parallels serve to guide our understanding of the meaning of the events we witness and aid us in constructing a myth of the rejuvenating wilderness. But merely to focus on this aspect exclusively, as some have done, is to miss the carnivalesque (in Nietzschean terms, "perspectival") treatments of themes in the book. Chronicles seeks nothing less than a critique of all life-destroying modes of "emploting"
p. 137
How then is this metaphorical mode of future historiography accomplished; by what rhetorical strategies of the text is the reader persuaded to accept the world portrayed by the text? In theory, we need to distinguish at least three different levels of conceptualization in the historical work: (1) chronicle, (2) story, and (3) mode of emplotment. ...... In the writing of any historical work, the first act is to organize its elements into a chronicle by arranging events in the temporal order of their occurrences. Then the chronicle is organized into a story (level two) by the further arrangement or segmentationof events into a "spectacle," a process of happening, by characterizing or encoding them in terms of motifs marking a beginning, middle, and end. ...... Story provides answers to ...... questions about the connections between events, which are related to the historian's narrative tactics. The mode of emplotment (level three) answers such concerns as what does it all add up to and what is the point of it all--questions regarding the pattern of the completed whole. According to Northrop Frye, there are at least four different modes of emplotment that answer
p. 138
questions raised at this level: romance, comedy, tragedy, and satire--or in terms of archetypal imagery, summer, spring, autumn, winter. The Martian Chronicles is definitely seasonal in its approach to imagery.


As soon as we try to determine the significance of this "spectacle," however, we run into problems. Any attempt to reach a pattern of the completed whole seems to break down constantly. Each time we are given an indication as to how to emplot a particular story, it is subtly undermined by rhetorical strategies in the episode or segment in question or by other, later perspectives. The book is deeply carnivalized, allowing us to construct no final perspective on events. ......
p. 140
We can interpret this [the plot of "Night Meeting"] to mean that for Bradbury the thematic field of Mars presented itself as a carnivalesque kaleidoscopic combination of elements--actions, persons, objects, desires--"pretty junk" that allowed him an almost infinite number of new and surprising arrangements, something he must often have felt in arranging in his Martian stories into a short-story cycle. Furthermore, these nonlinear combinations of the past with the present are artistic occasions for image making in a symbolic field of meaning never allowed to become frozen in conceptual schemas, whether human or Martian. They result in metaphorical ways of comprehending the world. If Mars is a kaleidoscope, there is no single plot by which the definitive truth or lesson to be learned from history is to be communicated. Indeed, this story unsettles the authority of the bare chronicle itself, for we are essentially unable to decide whether to accept the Martian or Tomas as representing the "true" past. Bradbury's appropriation of the carnival chronotope--which emphasizes the lived body--here helps him construct the fantastic notion of metaphorical time.
p. 143
Every carnivalesque theme in The Martian Chronicles seems to have its polyphonic counterpoint somewhere in the book. Even carnival is carnivalized. This theme [the end of "The Third Expedition"] of the noble Martian festival celebrating the death of the Earthmen with terrestrial music as a joke is inverted and seen "inside out" (that is, relativized) by a brief bridging story in the approximate center of the book, "The Musicians," ...... Yet another aspect of humorous carnival debasement occurs in the normalized world. When discovered, the boys are treated to "scalding baths and fatherly beatings."

*MUST READ* p. 144-147
for the discussion of "--And the Moon Be Still as Bright" and the protagonist Spender as the author's mask.

discussing "Usher II":
p. 150
...... He [Mikhail Bakhtin] argues that in romanticism and symbolism generally, the matrices of carnival are transformed from "the all-encompassing whole of triumphant life" to sharp static contrasts that are not resolved at all but remain in tension, sealed off in the progression of an individual soul and life. At the heart of Poe's story is indeed a complex series of themes derived from the carnival matrix (death, the fool's mask, laughter, the grave), and psychoanalytic critics have argued that the story ["The Cask of Amontillado"] largely deals with the author's own interior self. ......

Bradbury's intertextual reading, however personal, does not get this individualized. His story is about political trends in the field of culture that were affecting his authorship--censorship, for instance--and his use of carnival images as masks returns them to that social context. ......
p. 151
In a sense these ironic and bitter exclamations and curses by Bradbury-Stendahl reveal a society whose official culture is morally fearful and obtuse. Bakhtin's carnival did dnot exclude realism. On the contrary, his very term for it as an aesthetic mode was "grotesque realism." It is hard to resist plumbing the depths of irony here. Bradbury masks himself as Stendahl--himself a supposed master of psychological realism in such novels as The Red and the Black--in order to unmask the stupid rigidity and narrow-minded seriousness of an official culture that cannot even discern the presence of the carnivalesque in the writer it picks to represent the status quo. ......
p. 152
In building the carnivalesque House of Usher II, Stendahl and his factotum Pikes do not construct fantasy so much out of self-hatred and impotent anger as out of strength of the will affirming itself in play. ...... Stendahl is clearly an author in constructing Usher II, his "mechanical sanctuary." The author-artist is the one who gives out of fullness of being. This is the reason why the story's point of view is that of the artist, and it is full of evocative details about the robots--Pikes's desiring machines--that inhabit the house. Readers are invited to revel in its creation, use, and destruction.


Insofar as The Martian Chronicles manifests the theme of will to power, then, one can see in these stories the three figures of powerful life Nietzsche mentions in his writings: the artist, the nobleman, and the sovereign individual. What is powerful in the artist is the compulsion to dream and the compulsion voluptuously to destroy illusions. Stendahl in "Usher II" creates a real--and fantastically expensive--House of Usher and then destroys it. He represents the power to intensify exorbitantly one's own presence in the world. As long as one inhabits his artistic world, he controls the present. What is powerful in Bradbury's noble Martians as figures of the will to power is their capacity to induce forgetfulness. They control the past, and it is precisely because the Earthmen cannot forget the past that they are defeated. Further, if Bradbury is correct in his interpretation, his Martians also are noble because a genuine but ambivalent "love of one's enemies"--not conceived along Christian lines--is possible among them (......). Spender is the sovereign individual. What is powerful in him is the memory of his own will. He has the capacity to be a man of word and vows to resist the invasion of Mars by killing off future expeditions. He is the only character who cares deeply about the future of the planet. His is a veritable memory of the future, and it is no accident that Bradbury largely allows him to keep his promise
p. 153
(......). If these three figures of the will were conjoined, they would yield the image of a life fully delivered from the spirit of revenge, from nihilism, and from debilitating historical consciousness itself. In living such a life, one would enter each day as though a new response would have to be invented for each event; one would enter the landscape of childhood as though everything were unexpected, full of promises, dreams, surprises.

*See* pp. 153-155
for the discussion of "The Martian" [illusion building and illusion breaking] and "There Will Come Soft Rains" [the destruction of the old myths of comfort and security].

p. 156
...... We are confident that Bradbury's space children will "frolic in images" on this million-year picnic. Throughout the book, the Martian landscape and past are occasions for Bradbury to invent ingenious variations on the will to power: the noble Martians, the artist, the superior man (Spender, Stendahl, and William Thomas), and the interplay of memory and forgetfulness, music and masks--these are all his themes. Bradbury as the historian of Mars is a master of metaphorical identifications. Readers experience a kaleidoscopic transformation of objects and events that occupy the historical field. As many cultural critics after Nietzsche have observed, our overly historical modern
p. 157
consciousness has made us lose all feeling for the strangeness and astonishment of life. For this particularly modern illness Bradbury offers us a homeopathic cure--a return to history in the metaphorical mode. We are the Martians.

From the pulp to the literary:
p. 160
What exactly are the literary qualities "added" during revisions of The Martian Chronicles? What kinds of things were added? Equally important, what signs of "pulp science-fiction writing" were left out? ...... Many of the stories are, in fact, completely enjoyable--perhaps more so because of the illustrations--in their pulp versions. But it was their shaping into the context of a short-story cycle that modified individual parts into a greater literary whole. The evidence from collations shows unmistakably that Bradbury literally made thousands of changes in these stories and at every level of the text, from word to sentence to whole paragraphs. Each of these changes, of course, will make a difference in the reader's aesthetic experience of the text, which reflects thousands of aesthetic choices made by the author. ......


We can distinguish here at least three important categories of (ultimately interrelated) changes keyed to the textual level at which they take effect. First of all, since the organizing principle of The Martian Chronicles is a chronology, there are large-scale structural changes that Bradbury made to his pulp stories to
p. 161
accommodate them into general narrative framework of expeditions, settlers, and Martians. ......


These additions and revisions, then, solve problems of narrative continuity and character motivation. They are involved with creating and maintaining the impression of an intergrated work of literature. A second category of aesthetic revision can be organized around passages where Bradbury omitted or revised certain "hard" science fiction elements originally present in the pulp stories that might conflict with his goals as a literary fantasist. ......
p. 162
The third and final aesthetic category deals with Bradbury's conception of the Martians themselves. ...... Bradbury's decision to mask his Martians throughout, in revisions to such stories as "Ylla" and "The Earth Men," is the most significant literary change he made to the pulp originals. It certainly made a significant difference to some individual works, such as "The Earth Men"--which some critics still complain is [sic] too "pulpy"--by creating multiple levels of irony (like the Martian psychologist with three smiles painted on his mask). It seems likely that the uncompleted novel The Mask has some influence
p. 163
here, especially in the interview scene with the Martian psychiatrist, which seems to be a reversal of the one Bradbury wrote for his unfinished novel, where the disillusioned romantic hero, not the psychiatrist, wears the mask. Bradbury's fantasy depends heavily on the use of masks, illusions, both in building them up and in destroying them, in order to affirm his life as an artist. One might say with some justice that masks in The Martian Chronicles are the aesthetic signs of the mature literary fantasy Bradbury sought, representing his triumph over an earlier and somewhat facile romantic disillusionment.

Beyond these categories of revision, the eleven bridge passages (see table 7) were all deliberately written as a play of stylistic masks: "The bridge passages, written later, were all done under the influence of my favorite poets, from Shakespeare to Gerard Manley Hopkins down to Robert Frost and Dylan Thomas. I knew I had to do something evocative for each, and each was an experiment, much like some of the short French pensees I had read years before in various magazines. I imagine Steinbeck's GRAPES OF WRATH influenced me also; the short passages in that novel, that is, the evocative ones." The aesthetic function of the bridges in therefore clear: Bradbury wanted to evoke the literary voices of mainstream authors." ......

Masks for Bradbury of The Martian Chronicles assume a polyvalent function and exist at many different levels of the text. The inserted passages masking his Martians enabled him to link up his Mars with carnival themes and to carnivalize the science-fiction genre, the literary masks of other authors enabled him to evoke and criticize the literary mainstream. But masks in Chronicles are ultimately reminders of the "Martian" wisdom that illusions--fantasy literature itself--are necessary for the affirmation of life.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...