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.

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