Friday, August 31, 2012

ORNERY PEOPLE working papers--envelopes showing names

I'll continue to post some photographs of my working files--paper documentation of people I thought would have left no written record of their lives at all.

Internet cousins continue to see this blog and send me photographs of ancestors and other relatives as well as much documentation. You never know who will see a photograph of a box of envelopes with family names written on the top flap.

Monday, August 27, 2012

With Sabrina in Wilmington

Heddy at Chawton, Noel Polk pacing in the background

A respectful family visit to the final home of my 6th cousin eight times removed, a Regency authoress of some repute.

Noel Polk 1982

Heddy and Noel at Max Gate 1982

Michael signing books, Noel distracted, Heddy finishing off clotted cream and raspberries, Max Gate 1982

Heddy, Noel pacing

Checking out the former residence of a lady novelist cousin of mine, 1982.

Sam Henderson--Great Grandson of a NC Regulator, Grandson of a Revolutionary soldier

Noel and Patty and party November 1979

Nancy, Noel, Tom, Patty, Don
Michael, Steven

Noel in Song 1 November 1979

Alison and Sabrina, Palace of the Legion of Honor, 1978

With Sendak and Heddy at Broadhall

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Martha Izora Costner Parker at 89

Jeremy Eichler and Judith Shulevitz talk textual theory in the Main Stream Media

 It is rare to see journalists treating textual problems seriously.

               from Jeremy Eichler’s “String Theorist” in the NEW YORKER (27 August 2012. p. 35):

            Tetzlaff began eying Ligeti's Violin Concerto in the mid-nineteen-nineties, when the first soloist's exclusive rights to the piece were about to expire. When he obtained the printed music, however, he noticed some puzzling conflicts be­tween the published solo part and Lige­ti's handwritten full score. Ligeti, a se­vere Hungarian who died in 2006, had revised the work after the first soloist in­formed him that the piece was unplay­able. But for Tetzlaff the earlier version was not only playable but more effective, so he obtained Ligeti's permission to perform the original.
            Tetzlaff came to see the piece as a Janus-faced score, shifting between an older, Bartόkian longing for homeland and an avant-gardist's fierce exploratory zeal. He expressed this view to the Ger­man press around the time of his first European performances of the piece, in 1999. Not long afterward, a plain post­card appeared in the mail:
Dear Mr. Tetzlaff, I've read your interview and feel very close to you. Not only do you play my con­certo PERFECTLY but you talk about it with so much understanding and compassion. For a living composer it is the most beautiful thing to be so understood by an interpreter. Warmly, Cyörgy Ligeti 

            Compare Judith Shulevitz’s piece in the New York Times Book Review for 6 April 2003, “The Close Reader; Get Me Rewrite.”
Shulevitz says: The most notorious, and arguably most destructive, reviser in English literary history was Wordsworth. Wordsworth never published his great epic, ''The Prelude,'' during his lifetime. Instead, he fiddled with it for more than half a century, making it on the whole more pious and less politically radical. The back-and-forth over the various editions of ''The Prelude'' has had a great deal to do with the emergence of a new scholarly movement devoted to the study of revision, known alternately as editorial theory or the New Bibliography. The New Bibliographers believe that scholars shouldn't try to decide which edition is better but instead should view all editions as part of an evolving whole.
Such synoptic neutrality, though admirable, doesn't help us much. Lay readers can't and won't struggle through page after page of variants. It is tempting to declare that original versions are always preferable, even though most editorial theorists dismiss such views as cheap romanticism -- the cult of spontaneity and all that. In a 1984 book called ''Flawed Texts and Verbal Icons,'' Hershel Parker, the great Melville scholar, explains why original versions often do seem so superior. Parker advances a theory of the creative process borrowed from the philosopher John Dewey, who believed that meaning is built into a text as it is composed, step by step. Meaning is a function of all the choices made and problems solved in the act of creation, not of prior intentions or after-the-fact conclusions. Great artists, Dewey said, ''learn by their work as they proceed, to see and feel what had not been part of their original plan and purpose.''
Emily Dickinson, in a poem quoted by Oates in her afterword, called inspiration ''the White Heat.'' For Parker this is an almost technical description of how literature is forged. Writers do what they can while the metal is hot, and should not attempt patch-up jobs after it has cooled. The virtue of this position is not just that it preserves a literary work's documentary value -- Oates's unrevised novel, with its straightforward social realism, seems more of its time than the revamped one -- but that it keeps writers focused on the future, not chewing over the past.
The problem with Parker's position, of course, is that it's much too reasonable. How do we know that some writer's neurotic need to rewrite isn't just an extension of his need to create? And who would want to deprive literature of its more memorable second thoughts -- James transforming Isabel into an effete creature not unlike himself, or Auden renouncing his own poetry? Writers revise; that's what they do. In the interest of history, however, publishers like Modern Library shouldn't issue a radically altered text unless they're also willing to bring the original back into print. [end of quotation from Shulevitz]

Steven Mailloux and Noel Polk

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Noel Polk and Hershel Parker in Austin, July 1975

This is from  "Entangled by PIERRE: Doing Biography Away from the Archives,"
 Chapter 3 of MELVILLE BIOGRAPHY: AN INSIDE NARRATIVE. Noel won't get to read it, or see his name in the Acknowledgments.

            During July 1975 when we were reading Pierre together day by day for “The Flawed Grandeur of Melville’s Pierre” Brian Higgins and I went to a restaurant in LA’s Chinatown. My fortune was a warning: “Guard against getting entangled in anything where you must make a decision.” Various forms of the word entangle, we were seeing, defined Pierre’s situation, and he indeed made most momentous decisions. It was too late for him, and like him I did not heed the warning, although I glued it to the flyleaf of my copy of the Northwestern-Newberry Edition of Pierre. When Brian left for Chicago I finished “Why Pierre Went Wrong” and drove to Austin to rendezvous with Noel Polk over the manuscript of Absalom, Absalom! In Austin, still in July, I handed the Pierre article to James Cox for Studies in the Novel, then went back to work with Polk—work so intense that even a jeweler’s loupe did nothing to prevent enduring damage to my eyes. All I ever wrote on Absalom, Absalom! was an earlier article on how Quentin learned what he learned, which in typescript had provoked Cleanth Brooks to reread the book. At least, the study of the Faulkner manuscript suffused parts of my Flawed Texts and Verbal Icons.

How do you steer a good-hearted but very large guest away from an old chair last re-webbed in 1962?


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Heddy with Noel Polk in the Wilmington DE backyard

Noel Polk with Donald Pizer

Lower: Noel Polk at Max Gate, Heddy eating raspberries and clotted cream. 1982.

Surviving in the Academic Jungle--

NP 2007:
 I fought the good fight against a worthy adversary at USM, the occasion for my removal to MSU . . . Fighting at USM took it out of me---not the starch, I believe, but just some level of constant indignation that the new pres there caused so much havoc. Not a big deal, and I may feel different tomorrow.
   Take keer, pal.

Only politicians as a class are crueler and more petty than academics. Noel Polk, of all people, the Welty and Faulkner scholar, driven out of Hattiesburg. So he landed on his feet: what happened to him is wrong.

Noel Polk as I prefer to remember him--world-weary cosmopolitan. In England to drive to Max Gate.

I'm going to grieve later. Right now I am annoyed with him for not seeing us in Oxford, Mississippi, in June 2007 because he had business in Arkansas and not letting us drive up from Meridian to see him in February 2012. And I am more than annoyed with him for dying so very young.

Noel Polk, dead at 69, 21 August 2012

2007 emails

NP:  07/03/07 1:06 PM >>>
My doctor last month told me I had better do any travelling I want to do in
the next 8 years.

That's a pretty good window of opportunity, though of course we'd all like
   Was your doc more specific than that, or did he mean just that at 80 or
so we generally run out of steam?

NP: Generally begin to fall apart.

HP 23 August 2012. 8 plus 2007 = 2015.

Noel could not meet us when we were in Mississippi in June 2007 and could not meet us when we were in Mississippi in February 2012. What's the lesson? You never know if a chance to see each other is your last chance to see each other.