Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Frank Yerby, Critics, and the U.S. as Banana Republic


First there is this from The Writer's Almanac:

It’s the birthday of American writer Frank Yerby (books by this author), born in Augusta, Georgia (1916). He was the first African-American to become a best-selling novelist when his book The Foxes of Harrow (1946) became an international sensation. Yerby’s big break came when an editor at Dial Press urged him to try novels instead of short stories. Over a weekend, he wrote 27 pages of what would be The Foxes of Harrow, about an Irish gambler in pre-Civil War New Orleans. He received a $250.00 advance, and the book was later made into a movie starring Maureen O’Hara and Rex Harrison (1947). 


Yerby wrote 33 novels in all, mostly romance and historical fiction, all best-sellers. He once said cheerfully, “I’ve written some very bad books.” About his critics, he shrugged: “Too many of them are failed novelists who don’t know how to read. They should be licensed, like doctors and lawyers.”

Frank Yerby immigrated to Spain in 1955 and never returned to the United States. He’d grown weary of the racial discrimination in the U.S., saying: “I’m glad to have escaped. There’s no hope for racial harmony in the U.S. and never was. America is just the world’s biggest banana republic. It does everything badly.”

About The Foxes of Harrow, he once remarked, “It comprises every romantic cliché in history.” Frank Yerby has sold more than 55 million books worldwide.

                                                           *****

And there is this personal postscript:

I've never read anything by Yerby, and I don't plan on doing so, but I do remember seeing the cited movie on television. 

So many quotes from Yerby command my attention. I am amused by what he says about critics, cliches, and bad books; however, I do wonder about his perspective on America which he saw as a racist banana republic. 

What do you think?




8 comments:

  1. I think there are a lot of deep divisions in the US, Frank, and racism that many people don't want to face. But I don't give up hope easily, and I have hope for the US.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, Yerby gave up, like more than few of his contemporaries, but his perspective was not ours.

      Delete
  2. never knew Yerby was black... but he sounds like an interesting person; i can't remember if i ever read any of him, but i'm going to look for something: anyone who compares the USA to a banana republic has a lot going for him... pretty funny...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mudpuddle, I think Yerby overstated the case; after all, the U.S. doesn't even grow bananas!

      Delete
  3. Given the attitudes of the time and the discrimination he faced, I can understand his views.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, Bill, then (and now?) a disease of the public mind made it difficult for someone like Yerby. Thomas Fleming wrote about the American problem -- taking a different approach -- and I reviewed his book at America Magazine. You might be interested in the review and the book:
      https://www.americamagazine.org/issue/culture/house-divided

      I wonder if the disease will ever be eliminated.

      Delete
  4. Back about 1983, Judith Martin wrote a column in Vanity Fair to the effect that the US was turning itself into a banana republic. I now forget the bill of particulars. They might have included wishing good intentions or even absence of malice to be accepted in place of performance.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. George, I'm impressed. You have an astounding memory. I would be hard pressed to remember anything from 1983. Hell, I'm hard pressed to remember this morning.

      Delete