Monday, May 2, 2011

BRENDA WINEAPPLE: THE LURID GOTHIC IMAGE OF HERMAN MELVILLE

Wineapple's vision of Melville is far more dramatic than anything I could have written, but it comes from Gothic fiction, not from the known documents; here I repost this comment from April to May so as to keep the Wineapple posts together.

In Wineapple you see the failure to employ a responsible, attentively visualizing imagination coupled with reckless indulgence of an irresponsible imagination. As I have pointed out in other postings here, Brenda Wineapple’s Herman Melville (but not the real Melville) is a “bushy-bearded young man, a “daredevil who sprints from rock to jutting rock” after “striding off the gangplank into a garret” and before “lying on the new-mown clover near the barn” and before picturing “Hawthorne as a mate bobbing like him on the troubled seas of publishing, recognition, and posterity” and before telling “the Hawthornes a story about a man and a large oak cudgel” (it wasn’t just any story about a man—it was a thrilling story about a South Sea adventure) and before he “bellowed after reading THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES,” and before “Julian was especially thrilled when Melville, galloping down the road, stopped, bent down, and scooped him up into the saddle.”

Has Wineapple been reading a chapter or two of WUTHERING HEIGHTS (or, heaven forfend, THE MONK) as a preparatory exercise before writing her book about Hawthorne? Does she carry in her mind images of “large jutting stones” in WUTHERING HEIGHTS and does she hear the beat of horses’ feet galloping down “t’ broad road,” galloping out of sight? For the “bushy-bearded” Melville is NOT galloping along the road when he spies Hawthorne and his son sitting off the road in Love Grove and he does NOT bend down and scoop Julian up into the saddle before him. The lurid figure, nominally Melville, has more to do with Heathcliff than the real Herman Melville.

Wineapple displays remarkable inattention to what the documents actually say and displays a mind stuffed to overflowing with the clich├ęs of Gothic novels. In hours when I need the force of dramatic narrative I read the best of John Buchan and the best of Zane Grey and the best of Erskine Childers. In a public library does Wineapple gravitate to books with garish pink covers, the ones guaranteed to be the best modern equivalents of the old “romantic fiction” which Donoghue saw pervading much of HAWTHORNE: A LlFE? Or did Donoghue include modern “romantic fiction” in his analysis?

Sprinting, striding, galloping, bobbing, scooping up a child like a Mongolian horseman! No wonder the comments on HAWTHORNE: A LIFE in Amazon.com are ecstatic! Exciting stuff! Not good biography at all, but exciting stuff. Bellow on, bushy-bearded sprinter, strider, bobber, galloper and scooper! Off into the sunset!
Posted by Hershel Parker at 9:51 AM

3 comments:

Hershel Parker said...

I believe she thought I was like a smooth and
bare precipice, which offered neither jutting stone nor tree-root, nor tuft
of grass to aid the climber.

Charlotte Bronte's THE PROFESSOR. Those damned jutting stones!
April 28, 2011 3:22 PM


. . . few things say hero and heroine of a romantic novel more than galloping on horseback along the water’s edge,
from WEDDING CONCEPTS
April 28, 2011 3:26 PM


Yvonne Whittal vintage Harlequin Romances
Bernard has a bushy beard that Olivia does not like. .... Betty Neels was a nurse who when she retired starting writing romance novels. ...
www.squidoo.com › ... › Books, Poetry & Writing › Books › Romance - Cached

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