By Jonathan Beecher "Most of my life from childhood on has been spent moving, traveling, changing places, knowing people in one school, in one town or in one group, or on one ship a little while, but soon never seeing most of them again," Langston Hughes writes in I Wonder as I Wander. When I was twenty-eight my personal crash came. Then I guess I woke up. So, when I was almost thirty, I began to make my living from writing. He graduated in , and had worked in a hat store, on a truck farm, in a flower shop, and as a doorman, second cook, waiter, beach-comber, bum, and seaman, on the way.
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Shelves: travel Near the end of this account of his world travels from through , Langston Hughes writes: I remembered once during my childhood in Kansas my grandmother had given me an apple that had been bruised and so had a brown spot on it.
I didnt want to eat the apple. My grandmother said, Whats the matter with you, boy? You cant expect every apple to be a perfect apple. Just because its got a speck on it, you want to throw it away. Bit that speck out and eat that apple, son. Its still a good Near the end of this account of his world travels from through , Langston Hughes writes: I remembered once during my childhood in Kansas my grandmother had given me an apple that had been bruised and so had a brown spot on it.
And that attitude pervades these pages. Lanston Hughes travels jubilantly, and describes but distances himself from the specks. At the beginning, back from Europe see the earlier The Big Sea he finds himself rejected by his long time elderly white sponsor, and heading west to San Francisco where he benefits from the friendship of another sponsor.
He goes to Mexico to settle the estate of his dead father, to Cuba and Haiti for the experience, through the south on a reading tour of universities, to Moscow on a doomed motion picture project, to central Asia as a journalist, across China on his way home, to Japan where he is ejected under political suspicion, and lastly to Spain to cover the Civil War.
Sometimes he basks in the hospitality of wealthy friends, mostly he is barely able to pay for a hotel room and food. But friendship and luck are on his side. He meets everyone there is to meet during the thirties, either introduced or fortuitously ending up destitute in the same spot and encountering another artist. He rented a room with a then-unknown Cartier-Bresson in Mexico City, and ran into a getting-started Arthur Koestler in the farthest outback of Central Asia.
They spent weeks investigating the effect of Soviet rule on the feudal society together. He had just been to Cuba and Haiti, where he saw the effects of American capitalism and imperialism. The poverty was intense. He had just traveled through the Jim Crow south, where an acquaintance died just before he reached a town because she had been refused care at a white hospital after an auto accident.
The Scottsboro boys case was going on. He connived his way onto a plantation and saw the plight of sharecroppers. And then, he goes to Moscow where artists are respected and well paid.
He goes to Central Asia where women are being liberated, children schooled, doctors stationed. There is electricity. There is no color line. Because Hughes is everywhere sensitive to race, and searching out blacks and African-Americans to ask how they are treated. But sometimes, his focus on biting out the specks is bad policy. He mentions the show trials and purges in passing a couple of times, but with no comment.
This is puzzling. But he was writing the book just as the McCarthy hearings were climaxing or ending, so one has to read this as the book of someone who had testified but not defied McCarthy; Hughes was criticized for being almost cooperative.
Hughes is a delightful writer, conveying personality and local color wonderfully. He was in a myriad of dangerous and physically uncomfortable situations during his travels, but what comes across is his enjoyment of it all.
I Wonder as I Wander
When I was twenty-eight, my personal crash came. Then I guess I woke up. So, when I was almost thirty, I began to make my living from writing. This is the story of a Negro who wanted to make his living from poems and stories. For ten years I had been a writer of sorts, but a writer who wrote mostly because, when I felt bad, writing kept me from feeling worse; it put my inner emotions into exterior form, and gave me an outlet for words that never came in conversation. Now I found myself in the midst of a depression. I had just lost my patron.
I Wonder as I Wander: An Autobiographical Journey
Hughes' I Wonder As I Wander: Reveries of an Itinerant Poet
I Wonder as I Wander Quotes