Thursday, April 28, 2011
BRENDA WINEAPPLE: CAN SHE WRITE A SINGLE ACCURATE SENTENCE ABOUT MELVILLE?
I finally looked at Brenda Wineapple’s review of my biography in the NATION and am stunned by the reckless writing. Here are examples:
In 1841 Melville signed on to the whaler Acushnet . . . .
HE WAS ON THE CREW LIST ON 31 DECEMBER 1840. Picky of me?
. . . the autobiographical Redburn (1849), followed by a story of seamen, White-Jacket (1850) . . .
REDBURN WAS NOT SIMPLY AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL AND WHITE-JACKET IS FAR MORE THAN A STORY OF SEAMEN.
. . . . And on the basis of this gossip column . . . .
MAHERBAL WAS NOT WRITING A GOSSIP COLUMN FOR THE WINDSOR, VERMONT, JOURNAL. WINEAPPLE DOES NOT KNOW ABOUT SPECIAL CORRESPONDENTS.
According to Parker, who expertly excavated information about the lost manuscript, including its title ("The Isle of the Cross"), Melville finished this book, which his publisher, Harper's, was prevented from printing for some unknown reason. (Parker thinks the Harper brothers feared a suit from survivors . . .)
I NEVER SAID I THOUGHT THAT. I SAID THAT WAS THE MOST OBVIOUS GUESS THEN WENT ON TO EXPLAIN THAT THE MOST OBVIOUS GUESS WAS NOT NECESSARILY THE RIGHT ONE.
. . . "The Encantadas," sketches that Melville may have purloined from a longer unpublished manuscript of his about tortoises . . . .
NOTHING INDICATES THAT WHATEVER MELVILLE WROTE OF HIS TORTOISE HUNTING BOOK WAS LONGER THAN THE ENCANTADAS; “PURLOINED” IS VULGAR AND INEXACT, BUT MELVILLE MAY HAVE PUSHED SOME OF THE TORTOISE BOOK INTO THE ENCANTADAS.
Judge Shaw dispatched the ailing Melville to Rome, Egypt and the Levant . . .
WHAT IS WRONG WITH GIVING THE SEQUENCE CORRECTLY, EGYPT, THE LEVANT, AND ROME?
[Egypt] . . . hoping to find among the hieroglyphics tidings to quiet his uneasy soul.
IS THERE ANY EVIDENCE THAT MELVILLE THOUGHT HE WOULD BE QUIETED BY THE HIEROGLYPHICS? IS THIS JUST HIGH-SOUNDING BLATHER?
His works falling out of print,he solaced himself in long walks around New York City after he and his family moved there in 1863, and eventually landed
a dry-dock job as a Custom House inspector.
HIS BOOKS FELL OUT OF PRINT? No. THE PIAZZA TALES AND THE CONFIDENCE-MAN WERE NOT AVAILABLE, BUT ISRAEL POTTER WAS REPRINTED IN 1865 AND THE HARPER BOOKS REMAINED IN PRINT.
WHAT CAN SHE THINK A DRY-DOCK IS?
A DEFINITION FROM FLICKR.COM: “Dry docks are great chambers below water level used for the repair and construction of ships. A ship can be brought in from the adjoining body of water once the chamber has been filled with water. The chamber is then drained, allowing the ship to rest on wooden blocks so that work may proceed. After work is completed, the chamber is flooded to outside water level, the gate is opened, and the ship can depart.” JUST THE PLACE FOR A CUSTOMS INSPECTOR TO WORK!
. . . allegations about Melville's abuse of his wife, which so upset her brothers they wanted to kidnap her and the children and hustle them back to Boston.
THERE IS NO MENTION OF THE CHILDREN IN SAMUEL SHAW’S LETTER TO H. W. BELLOWS, AND LIZZIE’S HALF BROTHERS (HER FULL BROTHER WAS NOT INVOLVED?) NEVER SUGGESTED KIDNAPPING HER OR HER AND THE CHILDREN. IT WAS H. W. BELLOWS WHO SUGGESTED SOMETHIG LIKE A KIDNAPPING, A SCHEME SAM REJECTED.
The beleaguered Melville frequently did abandon his wife, whom he seemed to love, though he was clearly drawn to the company of men . . . .
MELVILLE FREQUENTLY ABANDONED HIS WIFE?
What can you say about this level of sloppiness?