Budd (Wilson) Schulberg Biography
Budd Schulberg Comments:
(1972) I was raised in Hollywood, in the middle of the film capital, and had an early education in the vicissitudes of success and failure. I became convinced, before I was out of high school, that the dynamics of success and failure were of earthquake proportions in American, and that Hollywood was only an exaggerated version of the American success drive. Undoubtedly this influenced my first novel, What Makes Sammy Run?, as it did The Harder They Fall, The Disenchanted, and many other things I have tried to write. I believe it is the prime American theme, prompting my essays on Sinclair Lewis, Scott Fitzgerald, William Saroyan, Nathanael West, Thomas Heggen, and John Steinbeck, all writers I knew well. I believe that the seasons of success and failure are more violent in America than anywhere else on earth. Witness only Herman Melville and Jack London, to name two of the victims.
I have been influenced by Mark Twain, by Frank Norris, Jack London, Upton Sinclair, John Steinbeck, and the social novelists. I believe in art, but I don't believe in art for art's sake; while despising the Soviet official societal writing, I believe in art for people's sake. I believe the novelist should be an artist cum sociologist. I think he should see his characters in social perspective. I think that is one of his obligations. At the same time, I think he also has an obligation to entertain. I think the novel should run on a double track. I am proud of the fact that Uncle Tom's Cabin and The Jungle and The Grapes of Wrath helped to change or at least alarm society. I am proud of the fact that books of mine, Sammy, or On the Waterfront, caught the public attention but also made it more aware of social sores, the corruption that springs from the original Adam Smith ideal of individuality. I think Ayn Rand tries to apply eighteenth-century ideals to twentieth-century problems—and I'm not sure they worked that well then. My flags are down: I believe in neither Smith nor Marx, in neither Nixon nor Mao nor the Soviet bureaucrats who persecute my fellow writers. There was a time when I was young when I sang the "International." Who would have guessed that the "International" would result in the two largest countries in the world, both "Socialist," brandishing lethal weapons at each other? As long as we can wonder and remember, speculate and (perhaps vainly) hope, we are not dead. The non-or anti-communist humanist writer of novels may be slightly out of style, but there are miles and decades and many books to go before he sleeps.
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