Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Young Boy's View of America As He Grows up In England

I just read a fantastic book called "Uncle Tungsten" by Dr. Oliver Sacks, neurologist. It is a memoir about growing up in England during the war years and after, surrounded by chemistry and a family filled with doctors and chemists all intensely interested in this subject. His love for learning and his hands on adventures with chemistry as he was growing up makes his life so fascinating and interesting. But here is what he writes about how he felt and viewed America from afar. We should not forget that we do live in a most wonderful country in the world. Let's not forget it as politicians try to destroy what our ancestors have tried to create.

"...I thought that I, too, would like to have a life like him, to live in magical, mythical California (already, with cowboy films, a land of fantasy for me). America was increasingly in my thought as I entered my teens - it had been our great ally in the war; its power, its resources, were almost unlimited. Had it not made the world's first atomic bomb? American soldiers on leave walked the streets of London-their gestures, their speech, seeming to emit a self-confidence, a nonchalance, an ease almost unimaginable to us after six years of war. Life Magazine, in its large spreads, pictured mountains, canyons, deserts, landscapes of a spaciousness and magnificence beyond anything in Europe, along with American towns full of smiling, eager, well-nourished people, their houses gleaming, their shops full, enjoying a life of plenty and gaiety unimaginable to us, with the tight rationing, the pinched consciousness of the war years still upon us. To this glamorous picture of transatlantic ease, and bigger-than-life spontaneity and splendor, musicals like Annie get Your Gun and Oklamhoma! added a further mythopoeic force. It was in this atmosphere of romantic enlargement that Cannary Row and (despite its sickliness) its sequel, Sweet Thursday, had such an impact on me."

"If I had ...sometimes imagined a mythical past, I now started to have fantasies of the future, to imagine myself as a scientist or naturalist on the coasts or in the great outback of America. I read accounts of Lewis and clark's journey, I read Emerson and Thoreau, and above all, I read John Muir. I fell in love with the sublime and romantic landscapes of Albert Bierstadt and the beautiful, sensous photographs of Ansel Adams ..."

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