Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Frankenstein Sundae, 204a

A passage I will insert earlier in the text.

February 10, 2016
Just this morning I finished reading The Angry Ones (1960), the first novel by John A. Williams (1925–2015), a talented writer, an African American, who died in July 2015, and it was not until I read his obituary in the New York Times on July 6 (link) that I’d ever heard of him. (Shame on me.)
Since the summer I’ve been slowly working my way through his books (I’ve read three now—and I’ve been very impressed), and while reading The Angry Ones I came across a passage in which the novel’s narrator, Steve Hill (a struggling black writer in New York City), tells us about some action he witnessed in World War II.

ignore the lurid cover--
the novel is nothing like
what the cover suggests
In Viareggio. The Italian town where Bysshe Shelley’s body washed up on the beach in 1822, the beach where Byron and Trelawny and others arranged for Bysshe’s cremation (in accordance with local ordinances).
I visited Viareggio, as I’ve written, on April 23, 1999, walked through the town, walked along the beach, photographing all, missing the monument to Shelley (as I realized years later), the monument that is only about a block away from where I was. So it goes.
Anyway, I was struck with Williams’ passage. It’s full of the racial tension he invariably writes about—and reminds us of the all-black units in the U. S. Military during World War II (another subject that Williams, who served as a Navy medical corpsman during the war writes about with some passion, even anger).
So—although this passage does not have anything to do with Bysshe Shelley (save for its location)—here it is:
The Germans had left snipers in Viareggio. Not a single street was safe, especially one corner near the edge of town. And the Germans never missed. There had been the usual friction between Negro and white troops, but it was intensified when some Southern boys moved into town. As long as Negro troops were on the street, the white Southern boys walked across that intersection where the snipers never missed. They wouldn’t run. They walked as though they were making it through a park or something, and all of us loitered in doorways to watch them. Shaking in their white skins, those crackers stepped from cover. Bang! His fellows ran out and dragged him in. Another cracker boy would have to cross the street. He would look from cover to see how many of us were in the doors and windows watching, and when he saw, he would walk out. Bang! They would rather die than be afraid in front of a Negro, and we gathered along the walls and in the doors and windows every day to make sure at least a few of them and their Southern pride died.[1]
The racial animus that existed—exists?—among Americans glistens here like clear glass in the Italian sun.

[1] (New York: Ace Books), 102.

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