Thursday, January 24, 2013

This is the David Weddle who reviewed MELVILLE BIOGRAPHY: AN INSIDE NARRATIVE

David Weddle is an American television producer and writer, best known for episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1996–1999), The Twilight Zone (2002–2003), Battlestar Galactica (2004–2009), and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (2009-2011) with writing partner Bradley Thompson. They also wrote for the short-lived series Ghost Stories (1997) and The Fearing Mind (2000). Weddle and Thompson are currently writing and producing for the TNT series Falling Skies.

And he wrote a biography of Peckinpah! I am honored and thrilled to re-reprint his review here:

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This review is from: Melville Biography: An Inside Narrative (Hardcover)
Over the past 40 years a virus has invaded the cloistered enclaves of academia. A virus called "theory" -- literary theory, film theory, art theory, architectural theory, Semiotics, and New Criticism to name just a few strains. Each version boils down to the same thing: a secret language created by inbred academics permeated with multisyllabic nonsense words, and tortured incomprehensible syntax that does not seek to communicate meaning, but to obscure it to all but a chosen few. These phantasmagoric theories do not teach students how to write a novel, a work of nonfiction, or how to paint, or sculpt, or build a house. It is an astounding fraud perpetrated on unsuspecting university students and the parents who have to mortgage their homes to pay for this carnival midway malarkey.

In his groundbreaking new book, Melville Biography - An Inside Narrative, Hershel Parker goes to war against the theorists with an Old Testament wrath. I say, bravo! Parker brilliantly portrays how the rise of theory has degraded academic standards and slowly strangled the art of original research. The apostles of New Criticism argue that it is not important what Herman Melville intended when he wrote his masterworks; nor is it important what impact social events and commercial pressures had on his work. All that matters is the marvelous web of theories the New Critics can spin around his work. Parker calls this out for what it is: a rationalization for laziness, and a supreme act of narcissism.

Behind Parker's rage is a passionate plea for academics not to cede the field of original research to journalists. He fervently hopes they will shake off the fever that has gripped them for almost half a century and embrace once again the fundamentals of scholarship. Anyone concerned about the state of our universities and the quality of our social discourse must read this outstanding book.

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