5 ‘Bad’ Influences

5 days to go! Are you excited for Bad Stories?

Steve expertly and poignantly threads literary influences throughout the book, connecting the worlds, words, and lessons of fiction with our own reality. Here are five quotes featured in Bad Stories — and somehow, these quotes mean more now than they ever have before.

(1) “We have never let ourselves think about our being a minority and now it’s hard to get used to the fact.” –John Webb of Ray Bradbury’s short story “And the Rock Cried Out” (featured on page 44 of Bad Stories)

(2) Steve cites a particular scene in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 – a botched book club, where the protagonist, Guy Montag, interrupts his wife, Mildred’s, gathering of friends. Mildred and her friends, occupied by the frivolity of around-the-clock on-screen entertainment, cannot fathom when Guy pulls out a contraband poetry book and reads “Dover Beach” aloud. “Mildred is so shaken that she locks herself in the bathroom and downs sleeping pills.” “I often felt a mild version of this dynamic playing out when I tried to talk with friends and relatives and even strangers about the 2016 election,” Steve writes. We’d become so sensitive to discussion of worldly topics, debate, facts, that we, like Mildred, would rather down sleeping pills than face it. (Bad Stories 63)

(3) Steve cites Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Showbusiness: “Like Bradbury, [Postman] sees the gradual abdication of moral and intellectual rigor as the greatest risk to American democracy. Postman outlines the deterioration of our national standards with such eerie precision that Trumpism comes to seem not only plausible, but inevitable.” (Bad Stories 64)

(4) “It is in fact a crime for an American to be poor, even though America is a nation of poor. Every other nation has folk traditions of men who were poor but extremely wise and virtuous, and therefore more estimable than anyone with power or gold. No such tales are told be the American poor. They mock themselves and glorify their betters.” –Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five (featured on pages 230-231 of Bad Stories)

(5) “I couldn’t forgive [Tom Buchanan] or like him, but I saw that what he had done was, to him, entirely justified. It was all very careless and confused. They were careless people, Tom and Daisy — they smashed up things and creatures, and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together and let other people clean up the mess they had made.” –Nick Carraway of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (featured on page 231 of Bad Stories)


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