Crom Your Enthusiasm (17)
August 19, 2015
One of 25 installments in a series of posts analyzing and celebrating a few of our favorite fantasy novels from the Thirties (1934–43). Enjoy!
THE GREEN CHILD | HERBERT READ | 1935
I’m a doctoral student. I study political movements and violent revolutions. I spend the bulk of my time folded into quiet corners of municipal libraries reading the long histories of people trying to make better worlds. So it is no great surprise that I am a sucker for a book that is a thinly disguised fable about the ideal life cycle of Jacobean philosopher kings whose best friends are underground beetles the size of cats.
Though initially masquerading as a manic pixie dream girl fairy tale (disillusioned young university man encounters an actual pixie, is rewarded with a strangely ethnographically focused trip to Fairyland which somehow makes everything better), Herbert Read’s The Green Child pulls an abrupt shift fifty pages in, going from an awkwardly gendered story of damsel-rescue to one of full-on Jacobean revolutionary world-building, as Read’s hero Olivero tells the eponymous Green Child about his role in the coup d’état which established the tiny South American republic of Roncador, kicking out the Anglo-Euro colonizers and creating a democratic utopia. After establishing a self-sustaining constitution and political system which ensures long-term indigenous control of both political and economic power, he fakes his own death, framing a “North American prospector” (a.k.a, thinly veiled specter of lurking racialized extractive colonial capitalism) in the process, and flees the continent to end his days enjoying the hedonistic life of the mind in the Green Child’s nameless crystal-worshipping civilization in a curiously well-ventilated isolated cave system underneath the English moors.
So that happened.
Once there, Olivero slowly learns to abandon the assumptions and need for external influence that enabled him to thrive as the temporary benevolent philosopher-king of Roncador and throws himself into the regimented, internally focused life-cycle offered by the Green Child’s underground world. He progresses through the ages of sex, craft, and social thought, before arriving at my favorite age: that wonderful day when you replace your friends with an enormous friendly beetle named Cypher, and wander in circles through a cave system talking to yourself. Part of me thinks that the doctoral process in North America could stand to be improved by recognizing the importance of cat-sized beetles to maintaining mental health while pursuing a solitary, but still deeply joyful, life of the mind.
CROM YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2015): Erik Davis on Jack Williamson’s DARKER THAN YOU THINK | Sara Ryan on T.H. White’s THE SWORD IN THE STONE | Mark Kingwell on C.S. Lewis’s OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET | David Smay on Fritz Leiber’s THIEVES’ HOUSE | Natalie Zutter on Robert E. Howard’s QUEEN OF THE BLACK COAST | James Parker on J.R.R. Tolkien’s THE HOBBIT | Adrienne Crew on Dion Fortune’s THE SEA PRIESTESS | Gabriel Boyer on Clark Ashton Smith’s ZOTHIQUE stories | John Hilgart on H.P. Lovecraft’s THE CASE OF CHARLES DEXTER WARD | Barbara Bogaev on William Sloane’s TO WALK THE NIGHT | Rob Wringham on Flann O’Brien’s THE THIRD POLICEMAN | Dan Fox on Hergé’s THE SEVEN CRYSTAL BALLS | Flourish Klink on C.S. Lewis’s PERELANDRA | Tor Aarestad on L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt’s THE ROARING TRUMPET | Anthony Miller on H.P. Lovecraft’s THE SHADOW OVER INNSMOUTH | Suzanne Fischer on E.R. Eddison’s MISTRESS OF MISTRESSES | Molly Sauter on Herbert Read’s THE GREEN CHILD | Diana Leto on Edgar Rice Burroughs’s TARZAN AND THE LION MAN | Joshua Glenn on Robert E. Howard’s THE HOUR OF THE DRAGON | Andrew Hultkrans on H.P. Lovecraft’s AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS | Lynn Peril on Fritz Leiber’s CONJURE WIFE | Gordon Dahlquist on H.P. Lovecraft’s THE SHADOW OUT OF TIME | Adam McGovern on C.L. Moore’s JIREL OF JOIRY stories | Tom Nealon on Fritz Leiber’s TWO SOUGHT ADVENTURE | John Holbo on Robert E. Howard’s CONAN MYTHOS.
KERN YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2014): ALDINE ITALIC | DATA 70 | TORONTO SUBWAY | JOHNSTON’S “HAMLET” | TODD KLONE | GILL SANS | AKZIDENZ-GROTESK | CALIFORNIA BRAILLE | SHE’S NOT THERE | FAUX DEVANAGARI | FUTURA | JENSON’S ROMAN | SAVANNAH SIGN | TRADE GOTHIC BOLD CONDENSED NO. 20 | KUMON WORKSHEET | ELECTRONIC DISPLAY | DIPLOMA REGULAR | SCREAM QUEEN | CHICAGO | CHINESE SHIPPING BOX | SHATTER | COMIC SANS | WILKINS’S REAL CHARACTER | HERMÈS vs. HOTDOG | GOTHAM.
HERC YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2013): “Spoonin’ Rap” | “Rapper’s Delight” | “Rappin’ Blow” | “The Incredible Fulk” | “The Adventures of Super Rhyme” | “That’s the Joint” | “Freedom” | “Rapture” | “The New Rap Language” | “Jazzy Sensation (Bronx Version)” | “Can I Get a Soul Clap” | “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel” | “Making Cash Money” | “The Message” | “Pak Jam” | “Buffalo Gals” | “Ya Mama” | “No Sell Out” | “Death Mix Live, Pt. 2” | “White Lines (Don’t Do It)” | “Here We Go (Live at the Funhouse)” | “Rockit” | “The Coldest Rap” | “The Dream Team is in the House” | The Lockers.
KIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2012): Justice or vengeance? | Kirk teaches his drill thrall to kiss | “KHAAAAAN!” | “No kill I” | Kirk browbeats NOMAD | Kirk’s eulogy for Spock| The joke is on Kirk | Kirk vs. Decker | Good Kirk vs. Evil Kirk | Captain Camelot | Koon-ut-kal-if-fee | Federation exceptionalism | Wizard fight | A million things you can’t have | Debating in a vacuum | Klingon diplomacy | “We… the PEOPLE” | Brinksmanship on the brink | Captain Smirk | Sisko meets Kirk | Noninterference policy | Kirk’s countdown | Kirk’s ghost | Watching Kirk vs. Gorn | How Spock wins
KIRB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2011): THE ETERNALS | BLACK MAGIC | DEMON | OMAC | CAPTAIN AMERICA | KAMANDI | MACHINE MAN | SANDMAN | THE X-MEN | THE FANTASTIC FOUR | TALES TO ASTONISH | YOUNG LOVE | STRANGE TALES | MISTER MIRACLE | BLACK PANTHER | THOR | JIMMY OLSEN | DEVIL DINOSAUR | THE AVENGERS | TALES OF SUSPENSE | THE NEW GODS | REAL CLUE | THE FOREVER PEOPLE | JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY | 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY