Sunday, March 31, 2013

"Sceptical" posts on the blog LieStoppers about MELVILLE BIOGRAPHY: AN INSIDE NARRATIVE

I really enjoyed the WSJ review by Carl Rollyson. His summary of what is a complex book is succinct and right on target. Rollyson clearly "gets it."

I am about two-thirds of the way through the book-- it is fascinating but not a "quick read." There are so many facets to it.

There is the autobiography of Prof. Parker himself, revealing his humble origins (so different from the Ivy Leaguers that I wonder about some "classism" in their put-downs.) There are convincing expositions about the art of literary biography and the importance of archival research. There is devastating criticism of literary critics who pose as biographers. There is Prof. Parker's obsession with Melville and the very minute details of the great author's life which inform us about Melville's work. Finally, and I agree with Rollyson on this, there is Prof. Parker's burning anger at those who have denied his biographical methods, his conclusions, and even his veracity. Parker is an academic Ahab-- one in search of history, truth and understanding instead of a whale.

Prof. Parker has clearly won the battle with his critics with "Melville Biography," which will long be read after those critics are forgotten. The book is a capstone of his life-long work.

Some may not know that the LieStoppers blog was created in 2006 while lacrosse players at Duke were being falsely charged with rape by a corrupt district attorney, later disbarred, and being hounded by a very vocal "Gang of 88," Duke professors, all while the President of Duke University, Richard Brodhead, let it be known that whatever the lacrosse players did, "it was bad enough." LieStoppers continues while the trial of Brodhead drags on.

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