Friday, May 31, 2013

"And when did your ancestors come to the United States, Grandpa?"

The answer took a moment to formulate: "Not one of my white ancestors came to the United States, boy, they came before there was any such thing, and my Choctaw and Cherokee ancestors had been on this ground thousands of years before the whites came from Europe." That's the sort of answer most Depression Okies could give.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Filler for the Sargasso Sea and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch--fifty year old teaching notes on ROBINSON CRUSOE

Signet edition!

The Alluring, Endearing, Delighting Erskine Childers as Carruthers Heals Himself of the Megrims

"How it came about I do not know," starts the paragraph in "The 'Dulcibella'" (The Riddle of the Sands) in which Carruthers traces the banishment of his petulant mood: "The crown of martyrdom disappeared, the wounded vanity healed; that precious fund of fictitious resignation drained away, but left no void." I know it won't last, but nothing in Stevenson, nothing in Henry James, nothing in Buchan, is more alluring than these early pages. What a triumph of the art of story-telling!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Friday, May 24, 2013

"Coincidence"--Gansevoort Melville and Chief John Rogers, Together Forever

Warren Broderick has been finding treasures in and around Albany lately, including reprints of William E. Cramer's memorial piece on Gansevoort Melville. I used my Delaware newspaper databases and other sources such as to hunt for the Washington, D.C. paper where Cramer's piece was first printed. After I failed, Scott Norsworthy sent me a pdf of the original from GenealogyBank. Somehow I had missed GenealogyBank so I promptly joined and as soon as I was a member I checked for Melville's brother-in-law Hoadley and Garibaldi but did not find anything. I did not try GenealogyBank again, never called up a newspaper item.

Yesterday while a roofer was finishing his housetop invasion I played with ORNERY PEOPLE to see what the connection was to Sam Houston and Will Rogers--connection, not kinship, for as my Natchez double cousin Lois says, in the South if you are not kin you are connected. She should know for she, after all, is my connection to Gore Vidal!

I looked up Cynthia Rogers and Joseph Coker (Joe being my GGGG Uncle) and found masses of information including the fact that her father, John Rogers, chief of the Western Cherokees, had died in Washington, D. C., in the home of "Eugenia Townsley." Well, hours later I still did not know if Eugenia was a Politically Correct Washington Hostess like Pamela Harriman before her time, or if she ran a boarding house for $8 a week, as one source said, or if she was really Eugene A. Townsley or Townsly or some other variant. You have to pay for a D.C. directory for 1846. The censuses in 1840 and 1850 did not help, and my old faithful databases did not help except to give me a three line obit in a few papers, with only one Boston paper having to explain to its readers what the Western Cherokees were.

Hours later, the roofer gone, I remembered the new database I had subscribed to, GenealogyBank, and typed in "Rogers Cherokee 1846" and got the little three line obits but also got a longer article. I called it up as a pdf.

What I got was the Washington UNION of 13 June 1846 where the first article at the top of the middle column was "GANSEVOORT MELVILLE"--the obituary by his friend Cramer. No, I said to myself, this is what Scott sent me a couple of weeks ago.

No, I said, this is what I just called up.

In the next column, starting just before the article on GM ended, was "DEATH OF A CHEROKEE CHIEF" written by a friend, ESS-SEE-ESS.

The first article I called up on GenealogyBank produced an image of the page that Scott had sent me a couple of weeks ago--the same issue, the same page, of the same D.C. newspaper.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Turnbo Story about Caleb Langston, kin to Kevin Costner through Moses Amariah Costner's wife, Maude Langston

By S. C. Turnbo
In the early settlement of Ozark County, Mo. a man of the name of Caleb Langston settled in the creek bottom on Little North Fork known years ago as the Elias Keesee Place. This farm is on the west side of the creek and is where John Graham sold goods in 1869, 70 and 71. Mr. Langston built his cabin on a high spot of land and cleared a few acres of land near the mouth of the hollow in which the Big spring is in. Soon after he had cleared this land and scratched it over with a very small plow he planted the ground in water melons and musk melons and raised a fine crop of them. Langston was from Calico Rock in Izard County Ark. and his father lived on White River near Calico Rock. He lived here only one year when he returned back to his father. After he left this bottom a black walnut tree growed up from among the rocks that Langston and his family had used for a fire place and when Elias Keesee was clearing this land this walnut was a pretty tree and Keesee cut it down and made an ox yoke out of a part of it. Caleb Langston was the first settler in this bottom and the hollow and the fine spring of cold sparkling water in this hollow which pours off of a ledge of rocks ½ a mile or more above the mouth took their names from him. Peter Keesee who furnished me this account said that Mr. Langston lived here in 1833.

Remembering the Pryor, Oklahoma, Tornado of 27 April 1942

What I remember from across from the DuPont Powder Plant, five miles from Pryor, was a muddy green sky with black blotches. Later, in town, I saw the schoolhouse with broken windows. Then two or three years after the war Collier's had a story on the "Seventy-odd Oklahomans killed at Pryor." I did not know the idiom and assumed the national magazine was having its little Okie joke.

The tornado was late April 1942. We had spent the winter, starting a few weeks after Pearl Harbor, in a tent, raised off the ground, which had an little ill-joined annex into which snow sometimes fell on my face. There was a faucet near the steps at the north side of the tent.

The DuPont plant was making smokeless gunpowder. The leader at DuPont's smokeless gunpowder research had been an in-law, H. Fletcher Brown. In 1979 I became an H. Fletcher Brown Professor at the University of Delaware, one of something like seventy-odd professors in Memorial Hall.

Monday, May 20, 2013



Wineapple's vision of Melville is far more dramatic than anything I could have written, but it comes from Gothic fiction, not from the known documents.

In Wineapple you see the failure to employ a responsible, attentively visualizing imagination coupled with reckless indulgence of an irresponsible imagination. As I have pointed out in other postings here, Brenda Wineapple’s Herman Melville (but not the real Melville) is a “bushy-bearded young man, a “daredevil who sprints from rock to jutting rock” after “striding off the gangplank into a garret” and before “lying on the new-mown clover near the barn” (not in it) and before picturing “Hawthorne as a mate bobbing like him on the troubled seas of publishing, recognition, and posterity” and before telling “the Hawthornes a story about a man and a large oak cudgel” (it wasn’t just any story about a man—it was a thrilling story about a South Sea adventure) and before he “bellowed after reading THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES,” and before “Julian was especially thrilled when Melville, galloping down the road, stopped, bent down, and scooped him up into the saddle.”

Has Wineapple been reading a chapter or two of WUTHERING HEIGHTS (or, heaven forfend, THE MONK) as a preparatory exercise before writing her book about Hawthorne? Does she carry in her mind images of “large jutting stones” in WUTHERING HEIGHTS and does she hear the beat of horses’ feet galloping down “t’ broad road,” galloping out of sight? For the “bushy-bearded” Melville is NOT galloping along the road when he spies Hawthorne and his son sitting off the road in Love Grove and he does NOT bend down and scoop Julian up into the saddle before him. The lurid figure, nominally Melville, has more to do with Heathcliff than the real Herman Melville.

Wineapple displays remarkable inattention to what the documents actually say and displays a mind stuffed to overflowing with the clichés of Gothic novels. In hours when I need the force of dramatic narrative I read the best of John Buchan and the best of Zane Grey and the best of Erskine Childers. In a public library does Wineapple gravitate to books with garish pink covers, the ones guaranteed to be the best modern equivalents of the old “romantic fiction” which Donoghue saw pervading much of HAWTHORNE: A LlFE? Or did Donoghue include modern “romantic fiction” in his analysis?

Sprinting, striding, galloping, bobbing, scooping up a child like a Mongolian horseman! No wonder the comments on HAWTHORNE: A LIFE in are ecstatic! Exciting stuff! Not good biography at all, but exciting stuff. Bellow on, bushy-bearded sprinter, strider, bobber, galloper and scooper! Off into the sunset!
Posted by Hershel Parker at 9:51 AM


Hershel Parker said...

I believe she thought I was like a smooth and
bare precipice, which offered neither jutting stone nor tree-root, nor tuft
of grass to aid the climber.

Charlotte Bronte's THE PROFESSOR. Those damned jutting stones!
April 28, 2011 3:22 PM

. . . few things say hero and heroine of a romantic novel more than galloping on horseback along the water’s edge,
April 28, 2011 3:26 PM

Yvonne Whittal vintage Harlequin Romances
Bernard has a bushy beard that Olivia does not like. .... Betty Neels was a nurse who when she retired starting writing romance novels. ... › ... › Books, Poetry & Writing › Books › Romance - Cached

In the Hands of Erskine Childers Again!

Having put aside COMING OUT UNDER FIRE, with its absolutely terrifying final chapter, I take up in the little room Erskine Childers's THE RIDDLE OF THE SANDS.

I know the feeling does not last all the way through the book, but oh the joy of reading the section called "The Letter." Buchan was yet to come, and the late James was just emerging, and here are dazzling paragraphs about being stuck at Whitehall during the dog-days, introductory paragraphs as good as anything Buchan or James ever wrote.

How Richard H. Brodhead stiffed Naomi Wolf when she complained of sexual harassment at Yale

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Allan Berube's COMING OUT UNDER FIRE--a recommendation

Recently I have had Allan Berube's COMING OUT UNDER FIRE: THE HISTORY OF GAY MEN AND WOMEN IN WORLD WAR TWO in the nearby room where I keep John Buchan, Zane Grey, and other friends and an occasional stranger. Berube (3 December 1946 to 11 December 2007) died early from complications from stomach ulcers. His COMING OUT UNDER FIRE had been out since 1990.

In this time of roiling hatred from the Tea Party and other groups, no longer just fringe groups, I recommend that everyone read Berube's heartbreaking Chapter 10, "The Legacy of the War," on the ferocity of the hatred and persecution of homosexuals in Congress, in the Military, and even in the Executive Branch of government.

How far we have come, how close we are--Berube's book needs to be read, or read again. You can pick up hardback copies on Amazon for under $6 right now.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Norsworthy, Maher, Hime, and Sandberg on MELVILLE BIOGRAPHY: AN INSIDE NARRATIVE

Norsworthy, Maher, Hime, and Sandberg on MELVILLE BIOGRAPHY: AN INSIDE NARRATIVE

Melville Biography: An Inside Narrative is amazing, and deliciously different from Hershel Parker’s string of non-retirement works—intricately rooted in verifiable facts, precise and reliable as ever, but juicier, braver, and better than anything he has done before now. This Inside Narrative masterfully and entertainingly blends intellectual autobiography, the untold and unexamined history of Melville scholarship, and instructive case studies in the praxis of biography. Research hounds like me, thrilled by Parker’s tales of the hunt, will delightedly follow him on the trail of evidence and savor the joy of discovery. Academics across the disciplines will be challenged by Parker’s insistent and cogently argued distinction between scholarship and criticism. All readers who cherish truth-seeking and truth-saying will be shocked then heartened by Parker’s exposés of bad scholarship, fake scholarship, and the “mutual admiration society” of celebrity critics. As intellectual autobiography Parker’s Inside Narrative is compelling and revealing. In essence Parker demonstrates why his two-volume Melville biography is matchless in scope, depth, accuracy, integrity, and humanity. As the wonderfully intimate autobiography of the biographer and history of the biography, Melville Biography: An Inside Narrative powerfully reveals what you need to acquire, and what you have to give up, to be maestro.--Scott Norsworthy-- Bibliographical Associate on The Writings of Herman Melville and author of “Melville’s Notes from Thomas Roscoe’s The German Novelists.”

Hershel Parker's Melville Biography: An Inside Narrative is the cap-stone to the vital contributions he has made to the stony field of Herman Melville scholarship. The book infuses humor, irony, and scholarly insight to the art of understanding Melville and his entire body of work, along with a sobering survey of Melville scholarship from the past 100 hundred years (both its groundbreaking accomplishments and its more corrosive counterparts).This book stands as a stoic testament to a field of research flamed solely by zeal and Spartan tenacity. Parker's process arrives to the truth of the matter in a field littered with the rambling surmises of New Critics hoping to eradicate authorial insight in favor of critical skewerings. Parker not only stands for the tried and true ways of literary tradition, but also embraces the potential of the Internet and blogging to enable the potential of new information as well as finding new ways to reach an audience that continues to expand generation after generation. Herman Melville: An Inside Narrative has reshaped my own aesthetic and technique toward literary biography as well as brought new appreciation for Hershel Parker and that ungraspable phantom, the spirit of Herman Melville, that fuels the entire scope of his scholarly cosmos.-- Paul Maher--Author of Kerouac: His Life and Work and Jack Kerouac's American Journey: The Real-Life Odyssey of “On the Road.”

Melville Biography: An Inside Narrative takes us on an extraordinary journey through the life and mind of Hershel Parker, the world's greatest Melville scholar. Parker vividly retraces his decades as workaday Champollion when he dug through libraries from New Orleans to Hampstead Heath, sacrificing his eyes on newspaper microfilm and 19th-century handwriting as he sussed out the details of the artistic development and financial struggles of Herman Melville. From his harvest of hundreds of primary documents, Parker then wove their revelations into his authoritative and compelling two-volume biography (1996 and 2002).Parker’s life's work illustrates Beethoven's great maxim, that genius is the art of taking pains. In Melville Biography Parker frankly describes the uproar his serial revelations about Melville's life created within the clubby little world of self-anointed and self-important Melville critics, all strangers to the archives. This new book will enthrall not just Melville fans, but all fans of great literature. It is must reading for anyone who aspires to research a credible, fact-based biography. It is also must reading for anyone who cares about creating great art, for in its tales of triumph, conflict, and suppression at long last overcome, can be found all that one puts at hazard in setting out on such an unfashionable voyage. In Melville Biography, Parker embodies the title of another book on life-writing, Biography as High Adventure.-- James Hime, Edgar finalist for The Night of the Dance, author of other Jeremiah Spur mysteries and the Kindle Book, Three Thousand Bridges.

            Imagine our gain if Richard Ellmann had reflected in a book on his lives of Yeats, Wilde, and Joyce. Like Ellmann, Parker has devoted his career to biography, and now in this Inside Narrative offers his harvests of biographical research and thought. Never before has a literary biographer reflected as deeply and frankly on the craft of life-writing and the fate of a documentary biography as Parker does in this companion to his two-volume Herman Melville: A Biography. Lovers of literary biography will rejoice at the revelations of Parker’s arduous research, his stunning discoveries, his dazzling handling of mundane evidence, and his hard-won theoretical convictions. Melville Biography: An Inside Narrative is part autobiography and historiography of Melville biography; part exposé of the follies of ahistorical writings on Melville by disciples of the New Criticism and their archivophobic successors; and part a series of exemplary demonstrations of a biographer at work, profiting from evolving online and digital archival resources as well as his decades of traditional archival research. Melville Biography leaves us knowing Herman Melville more intimately than ever, points new researchers toward biographical riches on Melville yet unexplored, offers practical guidance and heartfelt inspiration to any life-writer, and enriches all lovers of literary biography. --Robert A. Sandberg –Discoverer- transcriber of Melville’s “House of the Tragic Poet,” design editor for The New Melville Log, co-editor of the final volume of the Northwestern-Newberry Edition of The Writings of Herman Melville.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Melville: "What a Revelation!"

"Hawthorne critiques hegemonic manhood's recourse to domination as a symptom of the traumatic instabilities at the core of traditional models of male identity."--from the Spring 2013 mailer of the Ohio State University Press.

Herman Melville: "What a revelation"!

I want to move Andrew Apter's comment up here where it is visible: 

andrew apterMay 11, 2013 at 6:54 AM 

And I thought Heidegger was bad. "Hegemonic manhood" sounds like something that comes out of the woods at night to get you out of your bed. I remember reading Sokol's "Fashionable Nonsense" when I was a graduate student in Philosophy. Sokol (a scientist) had intentionally written a sham article about "the political and social implications of quantum mechanics along postmodern lines." He published the article to great acclaim from the postmodern academics, then ripped the carpet out from under them by claiming the entire matter was a hoax. It was a one-note trick but worked beautifully. Something Melville would have appreciated no doubt.


5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating book - actually 7 or 8 stars., May 9, 2013
This review is from: Melville Biography: An Inside Narrative (Hardcover)
I began reading this book today, in utter fascination after having read (years ago) the two-volume biography. This is not only a very funny and convincing book (and having glanced through the later chapters I can see I have a lot to look forward to) it is extraordinarily sympathetic to the human being that was Herman Melville and I have always had the sense in reading Melville that here is not only a writer but a really passionate HUMAN BEING - perhaps more so than any other writer. In fact much of Parker's attacks on his critics centers on the fact that they did not grasp whatever agonies or travails Melville was enduring through the trying periods of composition. This reflects his basic belief that contemporary scholars have "dehumanized" the discipline of literary criticism and literary biography - an observation that strikes me as right on the mark and intuitively true. Having endured several years surrounded by such individuals (Duke University graduate school, Stanley Fish and the like) Parker's observations have a ringing, stinging reality to them. In addition I was impressed by his fascinating observations on the New York Review of Books and the New York Times Book Review. In fact the book strikes me as one of those extended vituperative letters one often comes across in the NYRB - but at 500 pages long. At any rate I have selected this as my "take away" book for the summer to Croatia. I plan to sit on the beach and read this and re-re-read Moby Dick. As a throwaway observation, I had the sense as I read the first few chapters that I was re-reading "Fire the Bastards!" by "Jack Green," which was actually William Gaddis's pseudonymous response to his critics of The Recognitions. (A Parker biography of WIlliam Gaddis - now there's a dream.)

Ashala Taylor Photographs a Neighbor--Black Bear on Morro Rock

From the 10 May 2013 San Luis Obispo TRIBUNE.
This wild Logan of the woods lumbered down Morro Creek recently. Attentive joggers were seeing pawprints at the outlet but who believes you when you casually mention seeing three nude male attitudinizers one day and the next day say three deer leaped the path to the parking lot while eight curlews sprang up the other direction?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A whole year since Sendak died

10 or 12 people who were alive when I wrote MELVILLE BIOGRAPHY: AN INSIDE NARRATIVE were not alive to read it. After Sealts died and Hayford was silent and then died and Shneidman died, the great tough-guy encourager was Sendak.

Joyce Deveau Kennedy would have loved reading about herself in the preface.

It was Joyce who planted the notion that Sendak should illustrate Melville's PIERRE.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Draft of an opening paragraph for the "Historical Note" to “Billy Budd, Sailor” and Other Uncompleted Writings

Published Poems, volume 11 in the Northwestern-Newberry Edition of The Writings of Herman Melville, includes three of the four books of poetry which Melville published, Battle-Pieces (1866), John Marr (1888) and Timoleon (1891). Melville’s epic-length Clarel is published separately as NN Volume 12. The present volume, 13 in the NN Edition, Billy Budd, Sailor” and Other Uncompleted Writings, contains the manuscript on Billy Budd which Melville left unfinished at his death, along with other writings, mainly poetical, which he left unpublished, although he thought of some of individual pieces as finished and ready for publication. This volume also includes Melville’s memoir of his uncle Thomas Melvill written a few years before it was published in an editorially altered form in 1876. Our intention is to be comprehensive, but Melville may have written and published poems that have not been discovered. (A June 17, 1877, letter from his sister Frances refers to a paper, yet unlocated, containing “lines by Herman.”) The works in this volume have frequently been mischaracterized, Billy Budd as a work Melville completed and the poems as examples of “Melville’s late poetry.” In fact, much the poetry in this volume was first written earlier in his career, not drafted late in Melville’s life, after his retirement as a customs inspector. The title of this volume is “Billy Budd, Sailor” and Other Uncompleted Writings--not “Billy Budd, Sailor” and Melville’s Late Poetry.