Saturday, August 3, 2013
JAMES HIME, ROBERT A. SANDBERG, PAUL MAHER, AND SCOTT NORSWORTHY ON HERSHEL PARKER'S MELVILLE BIOGRAPHY
JAMES HIME: 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.
ROBERT A. SANDBERG: 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.
PAUL MAHER: 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.”
SCOTT NORSWORTHY: 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.”