December 2, 2012

My review of Tom Wolfe's "Back to Blood"

In VDARE.com, I review Tom Wolfe's new novel Back to Blood:
Back To Blood reminds me that the conservative Brain Trust has long assumed that immigrants will become more Republican as they assimilate. Yet, in Miami, where the immigrants started out as fanatical Republicans for foreign policy reasons, the American-born Cubans have been trending Democratic. ... 
Wolfe’s novel sheds some light on this pattern. Although the Miami Cubans in Back To Blood are all white conservatives, they see Anglo whites as The Other: “Americanos.” They use this term even when, as in policeman Nestor Camacho's case, they can’t actually speak much Spanish themselves. ... 
On the other hand, Wolfe emphasizes, the younger Cubans like Nestor and Magdalena are constantly reminded when they speak to Americanos that their vocabularies in English tend to be smaller, which leaves them embarrassed and unhappy.

Read the whole thing there.

41 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wolfe’s novel sheds some light on this pattern. Although the Miami Cubans in Back To Blood are all white conservatives, they see Anglo whites as The Other: “Americanos.”

The Anglo whites are also white by hypodescent, whereas the Cuban whites likely have something in the woodpile.

Whiskey said...

Steve, I think you are right on Wolfe being more of the old Virginian aristocracy than the modernist post-Puritan.

Among Whites, the sense of that old aristocracy, the rakehells and high-living people from the old Saxon kingdom of Wessex who lived in Manor Houses, had Cavalier type manners and sentiments, gambled and drank heavily, were courteous to each other, demanding of courtesy from perceived inferiors, and ready to fight and kill for perceived slights to honor/status is almost entirely gone.

WASP however describes a repressed New Englander, who does not drink much, or the Midwestern variant (Garrison Keilor comes to mind) who as you noted felt being wild was staying up till ten o'clock and having a second helping at the buffet.

That old wild aristocracy is pretty much gone. Wolfe is the only survivor I can think of. Hunter S. Thompson was wild, but wild in the Scots-Irish, Hill Country, wild.

In a lot of ways, I think our country is poorer, for the New Englanders/Midwesterners (the same people really) having their own way all the time.

Hunsdon said...

It ended too soon.

respectfully,

H

Anonymous said...

"John Smith is the original WASP..."

Wasn't Henry VIII the original WASP?

Hunsdon said...

Anonydroid at 9:10 PM said: The Anglo whites are also white by hypodescent, whereas the Cuban whites likely have something in the woodpile.

Hunsdon retorted: Ah, purity of blood. What a fascinating, and amusing, conceit.

Hunsdon said...

Anonydroid at 9:52 PM said: Wasn't Henry VIII the original WASP?

Hunsdon, defensively: WASP breaks out to White American Sexy Protestant in my book, bucko.

jody said...

frank mir of UFC fame is half russian and half cuban. maybe his parents met on the set of red dawn? his english is really good though, his vocabulary is definitely bigger than average for a native english speaker, and he does some broadcasting gigs.

for many years, he was head of security at spearmint rhino in las vegas. i saw him there a few times, quietly standing in the shadows, watching and making sure nothing was going down. he was friendly but didn't talk much on the job, i just said hi and we exchanged a few words and that was it. he was pretty big, i'd say his listed height and weight are probably correct, which not always true in sports.

what was i doing at spearmint rhino? er, research.

Anonymous said...

Ah, purity of blood. What a fascinating, and amusing, conceit.

Well it is called Back to Blood....

Hunsdon said...

Anonydroid at 10:13 scored a point with: Well it is called Back to Blood....

Hunsdon quoted our host: A racial group is an extended family that is inbred to some degree.

Race Matters said...

I assume quarterback Sanchez is Mex and not Cuban but check out the photo of him on drudge. He looks like a Saudi or a lot of other Arabs.

Does Wolf's book discuss the Moorish/Spaniard roots of the Cuban elite? Castro is also not too far from the look of a Saudi prince.

The Moors ruled Spain for 700 years. That is how Spain became a backwater.

Anonymous said...

The Tudors' paternal line was Welsh, so Henry VIII was not the original WASP.

Anonymous said...

Hunsdon quoted our host: A racial group is an extended family that is inbred to some degree.

Both Anglos and Cubans are inbred to their own respective degrees.

DaveinHackensack said...

Good review.

Good point about how John Smith and Nestor become partners of sorts without becoming buddies. Another theme that illustrates is how verbal facility overtakes physicality as a method of asserting male dominance as you climb the class ladder (though, if memory serves, Wolfe sort of made the opposite point in A Man In Full).

Nestor's muscularity and his "cop look" might enable him to dominate a typical street thug, and he uses it on John Smith initially. But once they're paired together in "America" the quicker thinking (and more polished liar) Smith easily takes command, ordering Nestor around as, variously, his technician and his photographer.

Wolfe gives another example of the triumph of the verbal elite in the clash between the diminutive Cuban mayor and the burly black police chief, who's one low six-figure salary away from being another subprime borrower.

I suppose you didn't mention it for spoiler reasons, but it would be interesting to hear your take on who Wolfe decides to have Nestor pair up with romantically given the diverse options on offer for him.

Anonymous said...

what was i doing at spearmint rhino? er, research.

Come on jody old chap, dont be coy - you were a dancer, yes?

Jason said...

I read your review and really enjoyed it - boy, you write well. The only thing though: Wasn't John Smith kind of a rough scoundrel, and not really a hero?

Lawful Neutral said...

Hundson at 9:55 phonated: Hunsdon retorted:

Lawful Neutral propounded: What a ridiculous affectation! Perhaps its cause is a misarrangement of the mental tissues.

Anonymous said...

what was i doing at spearmint rhino? er, research.

There should be no shame in this. Strip clubs are a fantastic place for research, especially of the HBD variety. It was in the confines of another such Vegas club I encountered a half-Tamil half- Brazilian dancer (her tam-brahm dad ditched on an arranged marriage and fled India). It was only until after this encounter that I truly grokked the concept of hybrid vigor.

Anonymous said...

The younger Cubans relationship with English and the language of their ancestors seems similar to modern day Cajuns with English and Cajun French.

Marlowe said...

Alienation acts as the common experience binding the immigrant and the liberal. A liberal feels out of place, out of step, divorced from generic America and so does the new arrival. Eventually, through changes enacted by liberals, the conservative ends up feeling alienated too, the natural condition of man according to several prominent 20th century intellectuals. Modernity has undoubtedly contributed strongly to the advance of alienation by rendering the environment impersonal & anonymous: one nation united under the loglo. As Philip K. Dick observed in his 1973 novel A Scanner Darkly:

In Southern California it didn't make any difference where you went: there was always the same McDonaldburger place over and over, like a circular strip that turned past you as you pretended to go somewhere. And when you finally got hungry and went to the McDonaldburger place and bought a McDonald's hamburger, it was the one they sold you last time and the time before that and so forth, back to before you were born ... They had by now, according to their sign, sold the same original burger fifty billion times. He wondered if it was to the same person. Life in Anaheim, California, was a commercial for itself, endlessly replayed. Nothing changed: it just spread farther and farther in the form of neon ooze. What there was always more of had been congealed into permanence long ago, as if the automatic factory that cranked out these objects had jammed in the on position. How the land became plastic, he thought, remembering the fairy tale 'How the Sea Became Salt.'

Richard Brown said...

Martin Amis has written two novels, Money and London Fields which try, and fail, in my opinion, to do the same thing for London.

Amis does acknowledge the great racial changes that have occurred in London, though.

The title of his latest novel, which has been panned by more than one reviewer, is, Lionel Asbo.

Check out the cover on Amazon. Amis is badly out of synch.We are in an age of barbarism. And it is ethnic.

ASBO is an acronym for anti-social behaviour order.

Hunsdon said...

Lawful Neutral propounded: What a ridiculous affectation! Perhaps its cause is a misarrangement of the mental tissues.

Hunsdon replied: By our affectations shall ye know us.

The Math Major who paid Attention during Probability Theory said...

a fantastic place for research

Well, except for the cigarette smoke.

Unless you can find a non-smoking casino or a non-smoking strip-club.

But the few times I ever went into a casino, I was overwhelmed by the sense of hopelessness and despair all around me.

There really is no honor in hi-IQ folks [Wynn, Adelson] stealing money, in games of "chance" [wink-wink, nod-nod], from low-IQ folks.

In fact, it's difficult to imagine a more ignoble line of work.

Mr. Anon said...

"Anonymous Anonymous said...

""John Smith is the original WASP...""

Wasn't Henry VIII the original WASP?"

John Wycliffe, actually.

Anonymous said...

I find it extremely bizare that he would write a novel with the protagonist being a Cuban-American cop. Most cops in Miami are not Cuban. Most are Panameneans, Nicaraguans and such. There aren`t many 95 IQ Cuban-Americans. You are far more likely to encounter Cuban-Americans who are lawyers, medical doctors and managers than cops. The Cubans who came to America were the top 10% of the population. They probably average the same IQ as the Han Chinese of Hong Kong or the Philipines: around 120 or so.

Funny that he would make the high IQ man a WASP and the Cuban-American a pleb. In Miami at least, the Cuban-Americans are the brains and the few reamining WASPS are the plebs.

Anonymous said...

" Marlowe said...
Alienation acts as the common experience binding the immigrant and the liberal. A liberal feels out of place, out of step, divorced from generic America and so does the new arrival. Eventually, through changes enacted by liberals, the conservative ends up feeling alienated too, the natural condition of man according to several prominent 20th century intellectuals. Modernity has undoubtedly contributed strongly to the advance of alienation by rendering the environment impersonal & anonymous: one nation united under the loglo.'

Well said Sir... In fact, brilliant. I hope to read more of your posts...

About thirty years ago several of my very liberal Scotch-Irish friends from Manhattan visited me in my small New England town modeled on Mayberry RFD.

I could tell that some of them were very alienated...one so much so as to imagine that every person was a potential member of the Klan (excepting me of course I assume who was their friend). I tried to reassure this person to little avail.

Frankly, I was surprised because I thought that getting away to a small town in the country would be relaxing for them ... but it wasn't.

To a Jew I suppose the orderly, clean, safe, and crime free environment, in short, the Whiteness of the place was somehow alienating.

Now, about thirty years later thanks to diversity and changes wrought by these very same people the community is now about 20% NAM and we have home invasions, heroin addicts, and murders... and I feel increasingly alienated. I can only imagine what it will be like when it gets to 40 or 50%.. Ergo ... I recently decided to move to a more homegenously White area.

However, I suspect the Scotch-Irish would feel more comfortable if they came to visit again, because the community is more diverse (and they presumably feel that they would stick out less?.)

Welcome to diversity and vibrancy.

Anonymous said...

""You'll notice that the topic of art forgery is more interesting to philosophers than to art historians, who would prefer not to think about it. Philosophers like to ask questions like, 'If this small sketch was so beautiful it was worth a million dollars when it was a Raphael, why isn't it worth anything now that it's a Hebborn?'""

kinda like rape by deception case, if the sex was same, why worth nothing now, now that the CEO turned out to be a janitor?

Anonymous said...

Before I read this review, could anybody tell me whether there's any spoilers?

CM said...

Nestor Cabrillo, a descent man and a good father of five,was accidentally gunned down by 96X in bonfire. Is Wolfe suggesting anything by naming his cuban cop nestor?

CM said...

A couple of observations:

Wolfe seems to have written this one to be more screenplay friendly. Making a buddy cop film out of this would be much easier than making a movie out of Sherman McCoy's tale of woe. He's even allowed for Hollywood to cast someone screen friendly. Maybe the Rock (too old) or someone like that?

Wolfe seems to be less brazen in his treatment of Jews than in Bonfire. He never comes out and shows that Dr. Lewis (a name that can just as easily be goyim or yiddim)is or is not a member.

I liked the book, and there were some great insights, but there were so many strings left untied.

Anonymous said...

I presume you picked up on "the mysterious Russian Sergei Korolyov".

Sounds awfully like the mysterious "Chief Designer of the mighty Integral" in The Right Stuff.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sergei_Korolev

Anonymous said...

"The Moors ruled Spain for 700 years. That is how Spain became a backwater."

Yet that backwater fought for 700 years, expelled the Moors and founded a worldwide empire within a century of 1492.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reconquista

Anonymous said...

Damn - I should have finished the review. You did pick up on Korolev. Apologies.

Anonymous said...

"Alienation acts as the common experience binding the immigrant and the liberal. "

alienism by sobran

Anonymous said...

quoting mitchell heisman for whiskey's comment.

To speak of aristocracy is to speak, by definition, of a
minority of the population. The original aristocratic settlers
of Virginia were called Cavaliers. “[T]he legend of the
Virginia cavalier was no mere romantic myth”, concluded
David Hackett Fischer in Albion’s Seed. “In all of its major
parts, it rested upon a solid foundation of historical fact.”434
But who were the Cavaliers?
One year before the outbreak of the American Civil War,
in June of 1860, the Southern Literary Messenger declared:

the Southern people come of that race recognized as
cavaliers … directly descended from the Norman barons of
William the Conqueror, a race distinguished in its early
history for its warlike and fearless character, a race in all
times since renowned for its gallantry, chivalry, honor,
gentleness and intellect.

Anonymous said...

Does Wolf's book discuss the Moorish/Spaniard roots of the Cuban elite? Castro is also not too far from the look of a Saudi prince.

Castro's ancestors were from Galicia in northwest Spain, one of the least Moorish-influenced regions. Perhaps everyone with a scraggly beard and big nose looks like an Arab to you?

Anonymous said...

here aren`t many 95 IQ Cuban-Americans. You are far more likely to encounter Cuban-Americans who are lawyers, medical doctors and managers than cops. The Cubans who came to America were the top 10% of the population. They probably average the same IQ as the Han Chinese of Hong Kong or the Philipines: around 120 or so.

Do tell, how have those Cubans avoided that pesky ole devil regression to the mean?

Anonymous said...

Having worked a summer job in a sweltering warehouse near the Miami airport alongside many Cubans, the idea that Miami Cubans have an average IQ of 120 is the funniest goddamned thing I've ever read on this site.

DaveinHackensack said...

"Wolfe seems to have written this one to be more screenplay friendly. Making a buddy cop film out of this would be much easier than making a movie out of Sherman McCoy's tale of woe. He's even allowed for Hollywood to cast someone screen friendly. Maybe the Rock (too old) or someone like that?"

CM wins oddest comment of the thread so far. First, you think anyone in Hollywood is itching to make a movie about a Tom Wolfe novel? Second, you really think The Rock -- a 6'5", Afro-Samoan -- would be the best choice to play a 5'7" Miami Cuban?

Sideways said...

Oh, come on, it's not as funny as the guy who said Sotomayor looked Jewish.

CM said...

Come on now Daveinhackensack

There have been film versions of The Right Stuff and Bonfire (terrible). Electric Koolaid Acid Test is in production. Even I am Charlotte Simmons supposedly has a producer and a screenplay writer working on it. That's a pretty high book to movie ratio. This book would be much easier to adapt than Bonfire (which could have been done better), A Man in Full (with its distinct plot lines and racial undertones) and Charlotte Simmons. If it is mildly successful as a book, it will bring its book audience to the theater and as a cop-buddy flick it should be able to draw from nonreaders.

Regarding The Rock, that's kind of the point, AMerica and American audiences are so bored with hispanics that they would gladly fill the role with a more exciting figure who could potentially "pass" for Cuban. Sure his height wouldnt be right, but think about the characters from Bonfire and how badly they were maligned:

Sherman McCoy, the 6'2, hot-tempered WASP with an exceptinoally aristocratic chin is played by the 6' nice guy (no big chin), half-portugese Tom Hanks

Fallow, the lanky, gawky English journalist, played (without an accident) by Bruce Willis...

Kavinsky, the short-firey Jewish juge (and most redemtive Jew in the book)played by tall and dark Morgan Freeman...



DaveinHackensack said...

CM,

The Right Stuff doesn't deal with the controversial topics Wolfe deals with in his novels, and none of them has been brought to the screen since Bonfire.

Sure, the Bonfire movie had horrible casting choices, as well as other glaring flaws we've discussed in other threads on this blog. Presumably, if Hollywood wanted to make a successful movie of Back to Blood (unlikely, given its political incorrectness), they wouldn't make more absurd casting decisions than the makers of Bonfire did. If they wanted a name actor to play Nestor, someone like Gael GarcĂ­a Bernal (after a year with whoever bulked up Brad Pitt for Troy) would be infinitely more plausible than the 40 year old, 6'5", Afro-Samoan Duane "The Rock" Johnson. But Bernal is 34 himself, and the Nestor character is ten years younger.

A better bet would be to pick a young, buff, telenovela star from Univision, which is headquartered in Miami anyway.