Victim as Criminal and Artist: Literature from the American Prison
"'I am possess'd' wrote Walt Whitman, see myself in prison shaped like
another man,/ And feel the dull unitermitted pain.' Likewise, Bruce Franklin
in The Victim as Criminal and Artist is possessed. . . . The study's
force comes from its willingness to examine materials that provide nineteenth-century
underpinnings to much modern writing: African folk and work songs, blues,
early criminal narratives, the prose of O. Henry and Jack London. The book
ends with Franklin's own critical ambivalence on display. After his freewheeling
overview comes a 33-page annotated bibliography of literature by convicts,
1800-1977. Like Whitman as poet, Franklin as critic contains multitudes."
Eric Solomon, Nineteenth Century Fiction
"The Victim as Criminal and Artist presents an excellent critique
of established criteria of literary evaluation, supports an enormous volume
of work in criminology and penology, and illuminates the relationship between
the imprisonment of oppressed groups and literary creativity."
John W. Martin, Contemporary Sociology
"Mr. Franklin gives us an important book. . . . He has written a significant,
troubling book which makes me question my deep- rooted assumptions about
criminality, 'low' and 'high' culture, and America itself."
Irving Malin, American Literature
"Franklin's study has so many applications and arguments that it is
difficult to place it in one category. It is literary criticism; it is
a note from the underground; it is literary history and a pungent political
Terence Ripmaster, Negro History Bulletin
"Franklin's study clearly breaks new ground--organizing and interpreting
for us major themes and issues in what is, indeed, a gigantic field of
writing. . . . A distinct richness flows through The Victim as Criminal
and Artist, and one cannot help thanking H. Bruce Franklin for giving
a sense of order and perspective to such a troublesome body of literature."
Charles R. Larson, The Chronicle of Higher Education
" . . . may contribute more to the . . . pursuit of new penology than
any previously published work. At the very least, it will stand as a seminal
exploration of the relationship between creative literature and imprisonment
in America. . . . indispensable for anyone engaged in the serious study
of imprisonment. . . . reveals more about the historical experience and
continuing personal cataclysms of imprisonment than most of the sepulchral
Scott Christianson, Criminal Law Bulletin
"H. Bruce Franklin has successfully combined the roles of scholar and
activist. . . . His personal and professional interests have again come
together in this masterful attempt to explore the neglected literature
of society's victims and those who have identified with them."
Ronald D. Cohen, In These Times
"Most of all, The Victim is one of those few books that reveal
the structure and the collective mentality of America in tendon, fibre,
muscle and neuron. It is a fine, fine book, a noble work, another of those
explosions (though there are not too many) which, even if not heard, will
produce air shocks and tsunamis at great distances in time and thought."
John A. Williams, author of The Man Who Cried I Am
"Franklin has produced a ground-breaking study of convict literature.
. . . This book may not launch a major revaluation of American letters,
but it will, at least, be much used by students of American literature
"Franklin opens a new area of American literary history . . . This important
book is informed by leftist social criticism, passionately argued, and
eminently scholarly . . . . It upsets traditional assumptions but is profoundly
affirmative . . . .
" . . . a bold bid to reshape American literary criticism . . . . Franklin's
book . . . will interest all those concerned with literature. It should
be mandatory reading for English teachers. At a time when classy literature
dishes up ethnic whining, New York neuroses and Southern psychoses, it's
a relief to get a whiff of real humanity, of writing where words are used
not to mask society but to strip away its mask. Franklin provides that
"Franklin . . . brings a fresh perspective to the meaning, value and
contributions that have been made by the men and women whose ideas and
talents were molded in the crucible of the cage. . . . Professor Franklin
makes an eloquent and persuasive case for his views. . . . An open-minded
reading of The Victim as Criminal and Artist should convince even
the most hard-nosed skeptic that H. Bruce Franklin could well be right
when he says prison literature in America `is central rather than peripheral
to our literature.'"
Los Angeles Times
"Franklin expands the dimensions of the study of U.S. literature by
examining the works of writers, primarily black, whose prose and poetry
are based on their experiences as prisoners. . . . What results is a challenging
redefinition of 'American' literary excellence founded on a broader consideration
of social context and values."
"Claiming to be the first critical study of American prison literature,
this important and exciting survey actually encompasses the whole range
of the literature of oppression. . . . (Franklin's) book, written with
passion and intelligence, reclaims a significant segment of American literature."
"The Victim as Criminal and Artist is an important contribution
both to American studies and to current literary methodology, virtually
constituting a whole new field of study."
F. R. Jameson
"Franklin's book merits the description of 'a seminal work.' He provides
a framework for, and begins to develop, an interpretation of a truly American
San Francisco Bay Guardian
"The Victim as Criminal and Artist is a vitally important book
that redefines American literature and gives a long overdue tribute to
artists who have suffered the brutality of the prison system."
A Word on Books
"(Franklin's) research is thorough; his empathy is apparent and his
grasp of the subject is an impressive as it is complete. Although the book
would be recommended as the backbone of any course teaching the subject,
it does not read like a textbook. On the contrary, this book is a pleasure
Franklin's concepts . . . crackle with a freshness more often found in poetry than in prose. And he is always one step ahead of the reader; yet, with the skill of a thoughtful guide, he is careful never to lose the reader. Instead he quickly involves the reader with a series of interacting historical perspectives; then he offers a critical analysis as unique and as innovative as the material being analyzed."
Jerome Washington, American Book Review
Perfect: American Science Fiction of the Nineteenth Century
"The essays are brilliant and challenging; the fiction, delightful and
entertaining. A reader could not ask for much more."
Los Angeles Times
"The book is an authentic find, a worthwhile addition to the libraries
of all science fiction aficionados, as well as to those of readers interested
in the history of America's literature of the imagination."
"Engineers tend to be avid readers of science fiction, and in trying
to imagine the impact this book will have on them, I can only recall that
Joseph Conrad kept A. R. Wallace's book, Malay Archipelago, on his
night table for eight years. . . . Franklin's own critical essays, which
make up a quarter of the book, will provide countless hours of cogitation
and rumination for anyone interested in the history, nature, and value
of science fiction, or, putting it more specifically, for anyone who has
a fancy to indulge in artistic speculation about automata, marvelous inventions,
medicine men, the psyche, and space and time travel."
Walter James Miller, Engineer
"By meticulously detailing the definitions necessary to form the boundaries
of science fiction, Franklin makes possible a more complete awareness and
analysis of the extant writing and sets a standard for putative science
fiction authors to follow. . . . The book is a treasure."
Robert Baehr, American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education
"Future Perfect . . . will interest all, young and old, who want
to read the best 19th-century samples of a genre dominant in today's literature
and who, furthermore, welcome an intelligent critic's aid in placing the
genre itself within the widest context of American literary history of
both the 19th and the 20th centuries."
"Franklin's study is a kind of tour de force."
San Francisco Examiner
"Invaluable as a contribution to . . . American Studies. Franklin surpasses
Mark Hillegas, Saturday Review
"In the age of the unperson and the mini-thought, in which a kind of
anti-literature has achieved a vogue, this suggests some dizzying possibilities."
The Irish Times (Dublin)
"This is a probing, important work."
"How soon will it be, one wonders, before some enterprising American
university has a Chair in Science Fiction? Professor Franklin is such an
obvious choice to fill it."
Sunday Times (London)
"FUTURE PERFECT is a marvelous book, and a necessary one for both the
s-f fan without strong literary interests and for the student of literature."
COMMENTS BY MAJOR WRITERS OF SCIENCE FICTION:
" . . . this book comes as a revelation."
"Professor Franklin's book stands in a class by itself."
P. Schuyler Miller
" . . . a lovely big book. . . . [that] delightfully demonstrates that
`to move into past visions of the future or past is to shift our own consciousness
in time in extraordinary ways.'"
Anthony Boucher, New York Times
"This combined anthology and critical essay of/on 19th Century American
science fiction is witty, informative, literate, imaginative, well- selected,
"The serious reader, the collector, and the student of literature will
find it a worthy addition to his library."
L. Sprague de Camp
"H. Bruce Franklin has done a major service. . . . I hope a lot of contemporary
science fiction specialists read his book; it will do them a world of good.
And I hope it will help break down the wall which the critics of general
literature have erected against their work. . . . Professor Franklin has
struck a powerful blow for the cause of regaining our lost unity."
New York Times Selection of Books for Summer Reading, 1966.
New York Times Christmas Guide for Readers, 1966.
Quality Paperback Book Club Selection, 1978
A. Heinlein: America as Science Fiction
Eaton Award for Best Nonfiction Book of 1980 1981
"In this outstanding biography and critique, Franklin presents a carefully
documented and thoroughly researched analysis of both Heinlein's works
and the greater context of world events in which they occur. . . . Highly
"Most exciting is Franklin's book about Heinlein, not only because a
book-length study of single author is a rarity in science fiction criticism,
but because it is a particularly fine work: thorough and responsible but
not overly pedantic, and illuminating about Heinlein's characteristic themes,
the contradictions in his treatment of them and their relationship to his
social milieu. Franklin's observations about Heinlein and America are,
by extension, of interest in a consideration of the relationship between
any science fiction and the social milieu from which it grows. . . .
Franklin's study of Heinlein is the first in a series of critical studies of science fiction writers edited by Robert Scholes. If the other volumes in the series come anywhere near the standard set by Franklin's work, science fiction criticism will truly have grown up to the stature of mainstream literary criticism."
"Franklin is one of those critics with whom one may frequently disagree
but from whom one almost always learns. So it is with the book on Heinlein.
. . . it also is one of the finest books we have on any writer of science
fiction as well as being an important addition to American cultural studies."
American Literary Scholarship
"(Heinlein) is probably the most read of the living science fiction
authors, if not the most popular. Franklin's study has exposed and cataloged
the roots of that appeal . . . . If, like some readers of science fiction,
you have avoided reading Heinlein, put off by his political reputation,
this excellent introduction to his work may persuade you to read him, and
it will tell you where to begin."
"A cruel but fair study of Heinlein's work. . . . (Franklin) sees Heinlein
as evading the realities of history and encapsulating in an extreme form
the myth of middle-class self-creation. But Heinlein is also a frontrunner
of America's triumphs and tribulations. A genuinely fascinating book."
Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald
"I loved every word of this detailed examination of the works of a writer
who has been a major influence in the field of speculative fiction for
more than fifty years."
"Not merely a critical work, but also an excellent survey of Heinlein's
entire career and output. . . . Unlike all too much academic criticism,
Franklin's is highly readable and, for the most part, equally sensible."
San Francisco Chronicle-Examiner
"H. Bruce Franklin, in his outstanding biography and critique, "Robert
A. Heinlein: America as Science Fiction," has captured the complexity and
contradictions that make Heinlein's stories so popular and fascinating."
San Diego Union
War Stars: The Superweapon and the American Imagination
Choice: Outstanding Academic Book of 1989
"In WAR STARS, H. Bruce Franklin writes American history from a new
angle . . . It astonished me--but it was totally convincing throughout."
"A searing and penetrating history of the American obsession with finding
a technology that will end wars forever . . . . Its analysis of American
fiction and films provides a new dimension to the subject."
"If there is a future, and perhaps Franklin's book will help
to insure there is one, then WAR STARS will be a classic. This book should
be placed on the desks of all public officials, elected or appointed."
--John Seelye, Graduate Research Professor, U. of Florida
"Thought provoking--insightful--brilliant. Franklin's analysis marks
a watershed in the debate over nuclear weapons and Star Wars. He has broken
new ground in this book, which will be talked about for years to come."
--Michio Kaku, Professor of Nuclear Physics City University of New York
"A wide-ranging, highly readable, and thoroughly stimulating book. Franklin's
provocative study is essential to an understanding of the ideological and
popular-culture dimensions of our long national obsession with superweaponry."
--Paul Boyer, the Merle Curti Professor of History University of California, Los Angeles
"[One of the two] most significant studies ever published in science
--Science Fiction Research Association Newsletter
"H. Bruce Franklin's most recent work is an insightful and at times
chilling analysis of the relationship between technology and the imagination.
. . By surveying the genre he terms `future-war fiction' Franklin reveals
the intertwined destinies of our collective cultural imagination . . .
and our military history. . . The book is structured to allow Franklin
to play his analysis of the imaginations that first conceived of superweapons
against the stories of a select handful of visionaries who occupied central
roles in making these imagined instruments of war real. . . . the book
ends on a guardedly optimistic note, as Franklin ponders the future, much
like a character in the novels he so skillfully analyzes. . . ."
--John Mascaro, American Book Review
"Franklin has emerged as an outstanding voice among radical critics
of science fiction, and War Stars represents an important step in
placing the genre within a political and historical context. The flip-flop
word play in the title suggests this book's major focus; Franklin is concerned
primarily with American ideology--particularly the place of technology
within an aspect of the American belief system--and its effects on foreign
policy and the arms race of the postwar period. While Franklin shows the
dialectical relationship between the fictive products of imagination and
American history, his emphasis here . . . is on the political and material
consequences of an ideological position and national self-image. This book
might be seen as a radical response to contemporary meditations on the
nuclear bomb, including the ballyhooed PBS documentary
War and Peace
in the Nuclear Age; Franklin's work is by far more outspoken and compelling
. . . . War Stars' well-documented and rigorous argument . . . gains
a specific and original force by its marshalling of evidence . . . .
--Christopher Sharrett, Film Quarterly
"WAR STARS is so crammed with fascinating facts and ideas that it should
interest people of all political persuasions. The author's rigorous scholarship
and analytical insights are delivered in an appealingly vigorous and pungent
prose. And for those trying to comprehend the powerful effect of the SDI
concept on the public imagination, it should be required reading."
--Paul Brians, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
"A marvelous study that weaves together some of the most important developments
in US military history, a survey of popular literature, and an overview
of American culture. . . . The story of America's conversion to belief
in the efficacy of air power . . . is told better here than anywhere else.
Franklin concludes with a penetrating discussion of the current debate
over Star Wars . . . no source provides so profound a historical perspective
to the debate as this one."