Saturday, October 8, 2011

One of the 2 Books Brodhead and Delbanco thought I made up: in the list of Top 10 Lost Books of All Time

Another note about the article in the SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE for September 2011. Ever since LETTERS was published in 1960 we had known that Melville finished a book in the spring of 1853 and had offered it to the Harpers. He mentioned still having it when he wrote the Harpers in November 1853. In 1987 in transcribing family letters I learned that the title was THE ISLE OF THE CROSS. The editors of the 1960 LETTERS were both dead, but I got to telephone Harrison Hayford and Merton M. Sealts, Jr., and got to go up to talk to Jay Leyda about it in his hospital bed, months before he died. Just think about the joy Hayford felt, since in 1946 he had showed that Melville had NOT written MOBY-DICK or PIERRE (take your pick, according to the critic you chose) as his "last fling" and renounced writing. Nina Baym in 1979 had ignored all the documentary evidence and claimed that Melville had had a quarrel with fiction and stopped writing after PIERRE until he had to write short stories. Well, no, as we knew in 1979, but now in 1987 I had found the title, and AMERICAN LITERATURE (before Cathy Davidson got control of it) published my announcement of the discovery in 1990. How do you account for Brodhead's implying that I made the book up? I had all the evidence right on the pages he was reviewing for the NEW YORK TIMES in June 2002. Obviously he is incompetent as a scholar or even a reader. Look at what I posted recently about his three times getting "the OTHER way" backwards in his silly chapter on Melville in THE SCHOOL OF HAWTHORNE. But all the evidence about THE ISLE OF THE CROSS and about POEMS (1860) was right there on the pages of my biography. In my diary in 1991 I said "idiotic Brodhead." It's one of those tantalizing notations: you should always say WHAT HE DID that was so idiotic. Incompetent, certainly, but think of the possibility that he knew we were right about THE ISLE OF THE CROSS. (There was absolutely no question about POEMS--everyone had known all about the lost book since 1922--everyone who had read and understood any of a dozen or more basic scholarly books on Melville.) What a hapless Sad Sack New Critic to be exalted to a position of power in two universities. And now one of the books Brodhead implied that I had made up is listed by the Smithsonian Magazine as one of the Top 10 Lost Books of All Time! Brodhead must be one of the Top 10 Biggest Academic Failures of All Time! He has never apologized for trashing my reputation in the New York TIMES. Has he ever apologized to Michael Pressler or the Lacrosse players who were falsely indicted at Duke? To James Van de Velde?

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