Sunday, 6 August 2017

Fictional Representations Of New York

New York is a regular setting in Poul Anderson's Time Patrol series:

Manse Everard's apartment from 1954 till at least 1990;
the Farnesses' apartment overlooking Central Park in the 1930s;
Central Park where the Farnesses walk in March, 1935.

Ian Fleming's Live And Let Die, published in 1954, begins with James Bond arriving in New York:

there are Civil Defence warnings;
Bond remarks that the city is an atomic bomb target;
he sees "...the stark fingers of the trees in Central Park" (Chapter 1, p. 006);
he stays at "...the best hotel in New York, the St Regis, at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 55th Street" (p. 005) and looks towards Harlem;
he thinks that, "Hardly anywhere in the world will you find a negress driving a car." (p. 006)

The past is another country. M and Bond talk about "negroes" like a sub-species.

9 comments:

  1. Kaor, Paul!

    I don't think M and Bond meant anything derogatory to blacks by calling them "negroes/negresses." These were, at the time, the polite terms for such people.

    I'll have to check, but I think Poul Anderson also used "negro" in BRAIN WAVE, pub. in 1955. And he certainly meant NOTHING derogatory to blacks with that word!

    Sean

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  2. Yup. "Negro" was the polite term at the time -- it was what blacks used themselves when they were being formal.

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  3. Martin Luther King used it in his speeches. "Black" was used among blacks at the time, on a demotic level, but at the time they didn't like outsiders using it.

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    1. Dear Mr. Stirling,

      EXACTLY! Nothing derogatory was meant by the use of words like "negro/negress" in the literature of that time.

      There were, of course, nasty and derogatory works for blacks, then and now. But I am sure I don't need to give examples. You can think of some.

      Sean

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    2. I know that the word was acceptable. By "sub-species," I meant not a subordinate or inferior group but merely a distinct one. I think we now think of humanity as one race, with internal diversities, but not the way M talks about them as if the "races" were entirely separate: "...the negro races are just beginning to throw up geniuses in all the professions - scientists, doctors, writers. It's about time they turned out a great criminal." (p. 017) I think that THEY had been doing great things for a long time but M and his type were unaware of it.

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    3. I was surprised that Fleming thought that, in 1954, hardly anywhere in the world would a black woman drive a car. But the past is another country.

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    4. Kaor, Paul!

      I think it's easiest to think of it as simply how M and many others of his time THOUGHT. Esp. if there weren't many blacks in the UK at the time, in the early 1950's. So that might explain why Bond was so struck to see a black woman driving a car.

      Sean

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  4. Paul and Sean:
    My impression, which may be a bit off, is that in 1954 most blacks, not only in the UK and US but worldwide, were still often not given the chance for equal education with whites, and thus remained economically not on the same level. The Civil Rights movement hadn't really begun yet. So OWNERSHIP of a car would be not all that common for blacks.

    Women, meanwhile, still had to contend with a paternalistic worldview — "Kinder, Kūche, Kirche" — AS WELL AS similar lack of economic opportunity. Progress HAD been made, particularly when WWII took men overseas and women were needed in the industrial workforce, but nonetheless....

    White women didn't, I think, have it quite as bad as black men. BLACK women had two strikes against them that would make it unlikely for one to be seen behind the wheel.

    And it's been several decades since I read *Live and Let Die*, but I don't think Bond considered a black woman driving to be a BAD thing. He may even have approved.

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    1. Kaor, David!

      Of course I agree with you! In most parts of the world, including most Muslim nations and the Far East, blacks were looked down on as allegedly inferior people. So, of course there was discrimination against them. Albeit, that kind of discrimination was starting to be whittled down in the US.

      As for "paternalism" holding down women in bad ways, that seems to have always been less in Western and Christian nations than the rest of the world. As long ago as the Crusades in the Holy Land, I read of Muslim historians grumbling and griping about how free Christian women were in Outre-mer (the Crusader states).

      Sean

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