Monday, March 21, 2011


In his CRITICAL ESSAYS ON “TENDER IS THE NIGHT” (1986) Milton R. Stern did not reprint mine and Brian Higgins’s “Sober Second Thoughts: Fitzgerald’s ‘Final Version’ of TENDER IS THE NIGHT.” He knew he should have: “The Higgins-Parker essay (which would have been included here had there been space for a full section on ‘The Text Itself’) offers a long discussion of objections to the revised edition.” Instead of quoting us, he created his own personal list of our “objections” to the Cowley edition and printed that list, each item followed by his “bare statement in parentheses of at least one possible rebuttal that should be explored.”  His representation of our essay as a series of “objections” proves hopelessly deceitful: you can’t possibly gather what our arguments were from his browbeating, bullying rebuttals. The high point of his denunciation comes here: “In sum, it is totalitarian to declare as a matter of fact or as a matter of settled opinion that one or the other version is the only version that should be considered.” Of course, we never said the Cowley edition should never be considered: any historian of Fitzgerald’s reputation would have to deal with it. Scottie Fitzgerald, for one, did not want to see it, and used her power as heir to forbid Scribner’s to print the mess that Cowley cobbled together from some sad, wan notes Fitzgerald made.

By not quoting me and Higgins, Stern totally misrepresented the loving tone of our essay. How many of the critical pieces Stern did reprint are worth reading now? Of course, Higgins and I would improve the essay if we were to revise it now.  The proportion of the sections could stand improvement, and the order of the arguments. But it’s a good strong honest essay and should have been reprinted rather than deceptively summarized and battered down then denounced as TOTALITARIAN (what a word to use!)

Now, having been printed in PROOF, a long-defunct annual, the Higgins-Parker is anything but easily accessible and not apt to take over adjacent countries by force and tyrannize over them. So Milton R. Stern goes into the Censorship by Any Other Name series.

24 April 2011 addition.
The 1994 Toronto MLA was my last. On 27 December 1994 at arrival I had rushed to the book displays to see how my article on diversity looked in the new Minnesota collection. Found the book but didn't see my piece. Looked again. Sick in stomach. Looked again very carefully. Not there. Oh, they would not let a part Indian say he did not like to see poems by part Indians put into anthologies merely because they were by part Indians no matter how conventional they were. Oh, they would not let me complain about the anthologizing of writings as if they were by Indians when in fact they were all or almost all by whites.

Then on 29 December the TENDER IS THE NIGHT session. This is from my diary, very slightly censored:

Stern an ideologue--utter fanatic--at end asked me to go off with him [to his room] and strip to the waist & go at him one on one--i[----]e--but Hostility of Audience to organic view of literature, [hostility] to talk of creative process--Really, farewell--I gave it a good long try. As I said in the session, attending MLA had become a moral issue. After the session ended I decided I had to act on principle, and never attended a MLA again.

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