Friday, December 20, 2013


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Gift idea! (even if it's for yourself)

Released this year: Melville Biography,
An Inside Narrative
For the Melvillian on your list is this unclassifiable tome by Hershel Parker: Melville Biography, An Inside Narrative.
"Unclassifiable" because it is part autobiography, part rebuttal of his critics, part explication of his approach to biography, part continuation of his monumental Melville biography.
More than that I hesitate to say—because I've only just started reading it, and because my ignorance in these matters is vast. For a real review, see this one by Carl Rollyson, himself an accomplished biographer. (You may need a Wall St. Journal account to load the review. I was able to view it once; no longer. If you have access to back issues, it's in the 3/29/2013 WSJ.) A slightly condensed version of Rollyson's review is here, about halfway down the page.
I can tell you that it is interesting reading. (Be sure to read the Notes in the back, too.) 


  1. Thanks, Gansevoort. It's all I knew and then some, so add to what you say: it's a running history of Melville biography from Weaver on. Maybe more important in the long run, it's a textbook on the theory and practice of biography (something especially evident in the endnotes). It's pretty much failed, after the great opening in the New Yorker blog as one of the Books to Watch Out For in January. There's Rollyson's long review in the Wall Street Journal and a review by the NN collaborator Robert Madison in Nautilus, and that's about it. Nothing in Publisher's Weekly or Choice. I hoped Internet bloggers would notice it but that has not happened. Well, it took years for FLAWED TEXTS AND VERBAL ICONS to stop being trashed and to begin being read and applied. Of course, in 1984 I thought I could wait a quarter century for recognition! At least I got to say what I wanted to say, and Northwestern made the book beautiful.

  2. Thank you for taking note of "Ahab Beckons"--it's exciting (and intimidating) to find you on our little hobby-blog. I, for one, was glad that you were able to lay out your arguments in an actual _book_ that can live on in libraries and private collections, beyond the ephemeral blog.
    All the best for the holidays.