The Evil Muse of Bradley Smith

Published: 2014-07-14

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This is an astounding turn of events. My new book, A Personal History of Moral Decay, has been reviewed in Taki’s Magazine. This is a cultural event, if you will, that is a first. A book written by a Holocaust Revisionist being reviewed and reviewed positively, in one of the premier intellectual and cultural publications in the United States of America. Who has ever heard of such an event? Am I missing something?

June 18, 2014

Sometimes a book is so rich and alive that through a kind of synesthesia it makes you rethink your crotchety opinions about other art forms. Bradley Smith’s new book, for example, A Personal History of Moral Decay, weaves the texture of life so clearly that it almost made me like postmodern art.

It’s a series of autobiographical stories that detail a young writer-type’s grueling thirty-year search for his muse. I was walking down a hot Chicago sidewalk a couple of weeks ago, thinking about the manuscript; it wasn’t due to publish till this Monday, but I’d been helping Chip Smith of Nine-Banded Books (which also published my novel NVSQVAM) with a proofread of the final edit (I think that’s all of the disclosures out in one sentence), and the close work with Bradley Smith’s gently accomplished prose had me in a fair-minded mood.

Millions of threads make up the tissue of a scene as simple as fighting with your room-mates, as captured in the funniest story in the collection, “The Last of the Romans”:

“This is the last time I pull this caper with you, Marlow. Do you know we could get arrested for this? Do you want to go to jail for stealing a cow’s brain? Now that you stole it, you eat the goddamn thing. It takes a dumb goddamn wop to steal an item like that.”

“Don’t call me a wop,” Marlow says. “I’m the last of the Romans. I don’t have any connection with the wops.”

With such music rattling in my brain, and the texture of the street rolling in my senses, I passed an art gallery whose window was devoted to one of those sleazy MFA [Master of Fine Arts] visual artists who devote their careers to the study of texture as a concept—slopping paint around at random, sticking twigs into it, then spending the bulk of their time writing “artist’s statements” to justify it. Normally I have no patience for an “artist” who’s never learned to draw, but hey, maybe there’s something legit in this other study of texture, too …

Nah. Not the way they try to fake it. Bradley Smith has wrangled words for fifty years to get the real thing. The MFAs have only stumbled on a theory that happens to be correct despite their laziness. Texture is the great thing to capture in art, but not in the leisurely abstract. Since painters quit learning technique, literature is the last art form standing that can simulate such complexity.

This is because writing is harder to cheat at—though now most writers are foolishly trying to do an end run around skill in that field as well; Chip Smith (no relation outside of publisher-author) describes A Personal History as “a good read that reminds us of how a man wrote and lived before writing-workshop culture became entrenched.”

Bradley Smith went through the mill to get his chops the old-fashioned way, and the quest to find his subject was even more brutal. The stories from the early years in A Personal History paint the young author as a stubborn loser. None of his friends, relatives, or women had anything but disparagement for his writing, and not without reason: it was about his own navel. He lived with his parents when he wasn’t shacked up or on an adventure, filling mountains of notebooks and filing cabinets with what never amounted to more than writing practice, an insane persistence that bore no fruit till after his fiftieth year.

Most people—those who wouldn’t have given up in self-despair—would have seized upon the first couple of possible motifs he came across: he accidentally killed his baby brothers, for starters. He fought in Korea, he spent years training and fighting as the lone blond bullfighter in Mexico; he tried to be a war reporter in Vietnam, and he was prosecuted for obscenity.

He wrote about all these things, but all just for practice, waiting for the muse.

And oh, it would arrive. But the grand revelation brought only the fear of further loneliness: most of Bradley Smith’s friends and lovers were Jewish. And his muse happened to come in the form of a weaselly-looking little man at a libertarian convention who was passing out brochures about Holocaust revisionism.

And that is where the needle scratches the wax. Where the decent people run away.

Against his will, terrified, Smith was haunted by the possibility that there was no evidence for things like murders by gassing in World War II. He began to look into the matter, and found that some respected researchers had admitted that the famous gas chamber they show to tourists at Auschwitz was actually made in WWII for what it looked like: a shower and bomb shelter. The locks on the “gas chamber” opened from the inside. The longer Smith looked, the more he was pressed to admit that here, in this crazy place, he had his muse.

He also had death threats in his future. Worse, he would face his loved ones’ grave disappointment in him, in his failure to accept what every good person believes. His muse was a demon.

But he also began to have an audience. He didn’t only get attention from the conventional historians who hated him; there were the revisionists, too … some of whom were adding to the store of human knowledge, and others who, unfortunately, lived the “denier” stereotype.

As the serious revisionists—none of whom deny that the Nazis hated Jews, nor that they shot or let starve plenty in concentration camps—will admit, there are dishonest folks with agendas on their side as well.

The infamous “Jewish revisionist,” David Cole/Stein, in his recent, hilarious memoir Republican Party Animal, expressed his vein-popping frustration with both sides: the conventional historians went bonkers when Cole refused to “admit” the fake gas chamber at the Auschwitz museum was real … but when he tracked down what appeared to be an actual Nazi gas chamber hidden away in France, the revisionists went just as bananas.

Even Smith, in some of his writings, gets almost as emotionally overbearing about the poor, slandered Germans as Holocaust Industry true believers get over the myths about pants made of skin. Smith is zero percent German-American, however, with no dog in the fight, and I suspect that like any literary writer he gets embarrassingly het up over unfairness, especially when it’s not about him.

But to paraphrase the “moderate revisionist” Samuel Crowell (really a generalist, who’s moved on to a brilliant study of Shakespeare) in The Gas Chamber of Sherlock Holmes: Conventional historians are not part of a conspiracy any more than the average Jerry was. They’ve accepted a narrative that began as mass hysteria, which was a perfectly human response to the chaotic, narrative-poor horrors of war.

This reviewer is not an historian—though I tend to lend an ear to people who present facts over those who present hysterics—and I don’t know enough to agree with either side. Nor will I cite the First Amendment; if you need a legal writ to force you to respect differing opinions, then you’re the kind of yahoo that Cicero used to say needed the fear of the gods to stop you from murdering everyone. Reading Bradley Smith is about treasuring good writing, regardless of whether you deem the author’s opinions worthy of your moral rubber stamp; see also Céline. But if you must have a moral, Smith earned every phrase the hard way.

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Additional information about this document
Property Value
Author(s): Ann Sterzinger
Title: The Evil Muse of Bradley Smith
Sources: Smith's Report, No. 206, July 2014, pp. 1-3; taken from Taki's Magazine, June 18, 2014;
  • Bradley R. Smith: introduction and comment
Published: 2014-07-14
First posted on CODOH: July 13, 2014, 7 p.m.
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