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by Ray Bradbury

Pub Date: May 28th, 1992
ISBN: 0380789663
Publisher: Knopf

Bradbury goes mainstream with a hymn to Ireland and alcohol, focusing on writing a screenplay with John Huston for the director's film Moby Dick. Set in Dublin and the Irish countryside where legendary director Huston has settled in as a squire, the story and the Irish gift for gab allow Bradbury's love of metaphor to find a basis he's never known before. With all of the silver-tongued folk speaking inspiredly in the normal tenor of their stout-and whiskey-fueled conversation, Bradbury spouts eloquence as naturally and exuberantly as John Millington Synge--and fine talk it is you'll be hearing. Young Bradbury arrives at the Huston estate in awe of Huston and instantly finds himself in company with a laughing ogre given to whiskey pranks and the famed man's false bonhomie. The episodic plot circles about a wedding that Huston decides to throw for a longtime friend, less about the actual scriptwriting and difficulties met in harnessing the White Whale to the needs of Hollywood. Other eddies include the (fictitious) arrival of teetotaler George Bernard Shaw at Heeber Finn's pub, during which the old renegade outtalks even the most inspired of the whiskey-laced barfolk; the pub's reaction to a visiting team of gay ballet dancers, which turns wittily on Finn's recognition that the Irish male is closer in nature to these gays than one would suspect; and on Huston's savaging of Bradbury's self-esteem. It rains twelve days out of ten in Ireland, we discover: "I stood looking at the gray-stone streets and the gray-stone clouds, watching the frozen people trudge by exhaling gray funeral plumes from their wintry mouths, dressed in their smoke-colored suits and soot-black coats, and I felt the white grow in my hair." Despite the apt but sad romanticizing of alcohol, and an unfortunate title echo of Peter Viertel's novel White Hunter, Black Heart (about Viertel's scripting The African Queen with Huston), Bradbury's triumph. He has never written better.