Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Moses Amariah Costner

My mother's Uncle Mode. Kevin Costner's Great Grandfather.

Isaac Franklin Bell: The Glory of Facebook: Now a 2nd picture of my Great Grandfather Bell

All I knew about him until Mississippi double cousins started their revelations on Facebook was that he was an ornery red-headed cuss who used to say, "I'm Scotch-Irish and Damn Yankee!" The first part was true and the second part in northern Mississippi was downright inflammatory.

How many people seeing this have also seen pictures of ancestors on Facebook for the first time?

Monday, February 25, 2013

The CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION Demonstrates How Economical a Hatchet-Job can be: One Well-Placed Paragraph Can Do It.



The CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION Demonstrates How Economical a Hatchet-Job can be: One Well-Placed Paragraph Can Do It.

The NEW YORKER blog listing Hershel Parker’s MELVILLE BIOGRAPHY: AN INSIDE NARRATIVE as a January 2013 "Book to Watch Out For," concluding its brief description with this: “Parker writes with a rare combination of humor and passion which hooks the reader into this potentially arcane subject.” Perfect, I thought, humor and passion—I think I’m funny and Lord knows I am passionate about literature. Someone at the CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION saw this mention and asked Northwestern University for a copy of the book.  On January 28th David Wescott interviewed me by telephone for just over an hour. Then on the first of February Rose Engelland, the CHE “Photography Editor,” emailed me asking if I could give her permission to use a photo of me. To keep things simple I agreed, although it was an old bearded picture, taken from the jacket of the 2008 MELVILLE: THE MAKING OF THE POET, not the recent picture from the new book. On February 4 in an email Wescott thanked me for working with the CHE “art department on getting a photo.” He wanted confirmation on my place of residence and age and two more items, my status as retiree from the University of Delaware and the working title of a future book. I suggested that he use the specific title, “H. Fletcher Brown Professor Emeritus, University of Delaware” and that he include the full title of the book I am working on, “ORNERY PEOPLE: WHAT WAS A DEPRESSION OKIE?” As published, the article did not contain the photograph from the 2008 book but instead the Eaton portrait of Melville, credited to “Rue des Archives, PVDE,” not Houghton Library, and did not include either “H. Fletcher Brown Professor” or the subtitle. Well, Delaware likes to have its endowment lines acknowledged, and I wanted the explanatory subtitle, but okay. So far, so good.

Most of the article fairly reports what a said on the phone or else what I say in the book. I don’t mind being called in the first sentence “an archival-research fanatic,” and I hardly think justice is done in saying “Melville Biography is made up of many small vendettas,” but okay. 

The problem starts with the last line of the first paragraph, the assertion that my two-volume biography garnered “to Parker’s mind, unwarranted condemnation from many within the academy.” Now, the straightforward thing to have said would have been that Parker elaborately assesses the damage done by two particular reviewers in 2002, Richard Brodhead in the New York TIMES and Andrew Delbanco in the NEW REPUBLIC.

The facts are very simple. In 2002 Richard H. Brodhead lied about me in the New York TIMES, saying that it was merely a surmise of mine that Melville finished a book in 1853 and that I alone in my “black hole” thought that Melville had finished a book called POEMS in 1860. Scholars had known since 1960, for sure, that Melville had finished a book in mid-1853 and still had possession of it in November of that year.  (I discovered the title, THE ISLE OF THE CROSS, later, in 1987). The fact is that everyone had known all about POEMS since 1922—not Raymond Weaver in his 1921 biography, but everyone since 1922. 

What Brodhead did was bad, but what Andrew Delbanco did in the NEW REPUBLIC was worse: he not only said only I had surmised the two books, he said I could not be trusted anywhere because I was given to such fantasies. According to Delbanco, my second volume, like the first, “must be used with caution”: “He [Parker] is sure that when Melville traveled by slow boat to San Francisco in 1860, he expected to find waiting for him a finished copy of a book of poems that he had entrusted in manuscript to his brother for transmission to his publishers before leaving the East. (Such a book was never published—and it is a surmise that Melville ever wrote it.) . . . . In short, Parker trusts his own intuition completely, and, presenting inferences as facts, he expects his readers to trust it, too.”

Nothing that Brodhead and Delbanco say about my merely surmising the existence of the two lost books is true. Melville’s letter to the Harpers on 24 November 1853 proves the existence of a work he could not publish “last Spring,” and my March 1990 AMERICAN LITERATURE article on THE ISLE OF THE CROSS lays out the evidence for the exact or closely approximate date of Melville’s finishing the book he took to New York City in early June 1853. As far as POEMS goes, the documentation is extensive—in the 1921 trove in the Duyckinck Collection of the NYPL are letters from Melville and his wife to Evert Duyckinck, for example, as well as Melville’s 12-point memo to his brother Allan on the publishing of POEMS. And besides that, Jay Leyda later found a rejection of the volume by Scribner. We know that two publishers, at least, rejected the volume. Full documentation is in my biography which Brodhead and Delbanco were reviewing.  How can anyone read that 12-point memo and question that Melville had finished a collection he called POEMS? What Brodhead and Delbanco say is false. They lied about my work in such a way as to trash my credibility. Delbanco, in particular, went out of his way to say that everything I said had to be used with caution. Weirdly, in his 2005 book Delbanco mentions the existence of the books he said I had merely surmised. Paula Backscheider says, “For an academic to be accused of ‘making up things’ . . . is the most serious charge that can be levelled against him or her and may discredit that person forever.” This was very serious damage to my reputation and to my health.

To explain why I might sound a tad annoyed in some of my comments to the reporter on the telephone it would have been essential to state the nature of my grievances against Brodhead and Delbanco: they had done horrific damage to me by lying about what all scholars and I knew about the 1853 and 1860 books. This was not a matter of interpretation: it was a simple matter of facts.
Instead of moving from the first paragraph (“to Parker’s mind, unwarranted condemnation from many within the academy”), the CHRONICLE report proceeds to this paragraph:

Critical reviews appeared in newspapers, magazines, and journals, and Parker, a professor emeritus of English at the University of Delaware, found himself at odds with such Melville scholars as Richard Brodhead (who raised questions about Parker's "editorial principles" in The New York Times) and Andrew Delbanco (who, while criticizing Parker's misreading of sex and sin, did declare, in The New York Review of Books, that "Parker's biography is written with love and devotion"). Critics' skepticism centered on two issues: the name of a lost Melville story ("The Isle of the Cross") and the importance of an 1860 manuscript called "Poems." A falling-out followed, and Parker, who felt he had been victimized, drifted away from groups like the Melville Society.

What happened? This is a totally fabricated paragraph. I can’t find “editorial principles” in Brodhead’s review and can’t find it in MELVILLE BIOGRAPHY: AN INSIDE NARRATIVE. Of course, my quarrel with Brodhead had nothing to do with editorial principles but only with his saying I merely surmised the existence of two lost books, and in particular that only I in my “black hole” had identified POEMS. Why did the CHRONICLE reach back to a review by Delbanco in the NYRofB in 1997 instead of looking at his accusation in 2002 that I had made up two books which I claimed Melville wrote but which are now lost? And of course the “name” of THE ISLE OF THE CROSS is not in dispute but the existence of the book, and of course it’s not “the importance of an 1860 manuscript called ‘Poems’” but the existence of that book. The last paragraph says a “falling-out” followed—a falling out with Brodhead over “editorial principles”? and a “falling-out” with Delbanco over what—his criticizing my “misreading of sex and sin”? Anyhow, who was misreading? Feeling victimized, after 2002 I “drifted away” from the Melville Society. No, after the new-leftist takeover in 1990 I stopped going to Melville Society meetings, except when I got to climb pyramids in Central America one year. My standards are flexible!

Now, any good critic, and not just a New Critic, reads every following paragraph with this fabricated second paragraph in mind. What made the New Criticism so easy to apply that much of it is based on how real people read all the time. You put that second paragraph in, the one about “editorial principles” and “misreading of sex and sin,” and every harsh thing you quote me as saying after that is transformed into the rantings of an old codger who believes without warrant that he has been criticized too much by reviewers, who really had merely disagreed on editorial principles (principles, after all) and who really recognized that he had written with “love and devotion.”  You would have to be loony to complain about such reviewers. So with this setup, was it any surprise that the first comment in the CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION starts “Hershel Parker Crazy”?

By the strategic fabrication of the content and by the strategic placement of the 2nd paragraph, the CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION defended the President of Duke University and a chaired professor at Columbia while injuring me all over again. Rather than laying out the genuine grievance, the CHRONICLE damaged me all over again. 

If Tesla can shame the New York TIMES into an apology over its review of Tesla's Model S sedan, can I shame the CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION into printing an honest paragraph in place of the fabricated 2nd paragraph?

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Poniewozik on Tesla and N Y Times / If the TIMES can be Shamed, can the Chronicle of Higher Education be Shamed over its Protection of Brodhead and Delbanco???



http://entertainment.time.com/2013/02/21/dead-tree-alert-the-charged-debate-between-tesla-and-the-times/

This is James Poniewozik's followup to his "Charged Debate. A Tesla review sparks a battle between data and news" in TIME magazine 4 March 2013, p. 64.
Tuned In

Dead Tree Alert: The Charged Debate Between Tesla and the Times




In my print TIME column this week, I take a look at the throwdown over the past week between the Tesla electric car company and the New York Times over a bad review, and what it might mean for the future of p.r. spats between companies and the outlets that cover them. . . .

I wanted to get under the hood of the media thing here, and what struck me about the ruckus (the Times reviewer took an ill-fated test drive that ended with the Tesla shut down on a flatbed, and Musk wrote a data-filled blog post contending the writer, John M. Broder, essentially sabotaged the test) was how different it was from your typical corporate p.r. response.

First, there was the fact that the blog post existed at all. In the digital age, everyone buys ink by the barrel now, and Tesla was essentially able to act in this like its own media company: first Musk blasted the review on Twitter, then he put up a long post full of data monitored from the Times drive—some of which directly refuted claims in the review, some of which didn’t, but all of which created at least the surface impression that Tesla had made an ironclad objective case, because it was data. Once, Tesla might have had to try to pitch a more sympathetic story to a rival paper. Now, companies are media companies too, for good or ill—ill, for instance, in the case of Jeep and Burger King, whose Twitter accounts got hacked this week.

The second thing that struck me was that Tesla’s response didn’t feel like standard corporate crisis p.r. at all. It felt like a political rapid-response operation from a campaign. The first rule of those, in the post Swift Boat era, is that you hit back hard and fast: Musk tweeted a day after the review’s publication that it was “fake.” There was an attack, not just against Broder’s facts, but against his motives: he was “working hard” to make the Tesla fail, purportedly because he had an agenda against the electric car. There was the mobilization of a fervent fanbase: Tesla owners, or sympathetic non-owners, flooded every Times posting (and plenty of third-party ones) with comments, many of them asserting that Broder was in the pocket of oil companies.

Not every corporate crisis lends itself to this kind of response, of course. Tesla was positioned both with data on hand and a vocal base of support. There were no telemetry logs Carnival could have released to get over its poop-cruise debacle. And in the long term I don’t know if Tesla helped itself or not. In the short term, CNN and CNBC, among others, did successful, high-profile re-drives of the Times route this week, with much more attention than they otherwise would have gotten.
In that sense, anyway, the squeaky wheel got the grease this time.

Read more: http://entertainment.time.com/2013/02/21/dead-tree-alert-the-charged-debate-between-tesla-and-the-times/#ixzz2LpnhG8na

This is a protest against one paragraph in the 11 February 2013 CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION
Premium Link
By David Wescott
"More than a decade after the publication of his career-defining Melville volumes, Hershel Parker strikes back at his critics in a genre-bending new work."

This teaser in the CHRONICLE OF EDUCATION contains a term I had not encountered before, although Google shows that it is now common--"genre-bending." I certainly intended MELVILLE BIOGRAPHY: AN INSIDE NARRATIVE to be genre-bending--part autobiography of biographer and biography of biography, part history of the denial of scholarship by New Critics and New Historicists and NYC "Intellectuals," part demonstration of ways of doing biographical research, and part (in the endnotes) a conference with other biographers on biographical methods.  So the CHE teaser works for me, except that "strikes back at his critics" minimizes the book.

Very curiously, the CHRONICLE article, as I point out in my "mealy-mouthed" post, DOES NOT EXPLAIN WHY I STRIKE BACK, or what I had to strike back at. Three reviewers of the second volume of my biography, including Richard H. Brodhead and Andrew Delbanco, said I merely surmised the existence of Melville's lost books, THE ISLE OF THE CROSS and POEMS. Brodhead said I alone in my "black hole" had surmised the existence of POEMS. Delbanco said because I was so irresponsible in imagining lost books I had to be used with caution throughout the 2 volumes. Of course, 3 years later in his own book he casually mentioned the existence of both lost books.

Wescott blurs, in fact hides, what I defended myself against. Being lied about in ways that shake your credibility is very different from objecting to someone's calling your prose inept or pointing out that you misspell a name or two. Being lied about as Brodhead and Delbanco leaves you discredited in print and on the Internet whatever defense you can make. And being lied about leads others to slander you, as Alan Helms did when he quoted Delbanco for his proof that I was a "slippery fish" with evidence.

How invested in hiding the truth is the CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION?

My "mealy-mouthed post":




On Being Mealy Mouthed:

Evert Duyckinck’s diary, end of January 1860:



Herman Melville called for some volumes of the Essayists to take with him to his winter reading at Pittsfield. Says the mealy mouthed habit of writing of human nature of the present day would not tolerate the plain speaking of Johnson, for instance, in the Rambler—who does not hesitate to use the word malignity!”


            In “A Leviathan Task of Biography” in the Chronicle of Higher Education 11 February 2013 the writer avoids ugly words such as “falsehood” and “lie.” I have no complaints about most of the review, although I wish it had indicated the extent to which my book deals with the “genre of biography,” something Carol Rollyson noticed at once, according to his post in Biographers Organization International. What I want to deal with here is the extreme reluctance of the CHE to face the fact that reviewers can lie about the authors of books they are reviewing. Has this ever happened to any biographer in the world before it happened to me? Has it ever happened to any biographer since?

            In 2002 Richard H. Brodhead lied about me in the New York TIMES, saying that it was merely a surmise of mine that Melville finished a book in 1853 and that I alone in my “black hole” thought that Melville had finished a book called POEMS in 1860. The fact is that scholars had known since 1960, for sure, that Melville had finished a book in mid-1853 and still had possession of it in November.  (I discovered the title, THE ISLE OF THE CROSS, later, in 1987). The fact is that everyone had known all about POEMS since 1922. What Brodhead did was bad, but what Andrew Delbanco did in the NEW REPUBLIC was worse: he not only said only I had surmised the two books, he said I could not be trusted anywhere because I was given to such fantasies. According to Delbanco, my second volume, like the first, “must be used with caution” (34): “He [Parker] is sure that when Melville traveled by slow boat to San Francisco in 1860, he expected to find waiting for him a finished copy of a book of poems that he had entrusted in manuscript to his brother for transmission to his publishers before leaving the East. (Such a book was never published—and it is a surmise that Melville ever wrote it.) . . . . In short, Parker trusts his own intuition completely, and, presenting inferences as facts, he expects his readers to trust it, too.”

            Nothing that Brodhead and Delbanco allege here is true. These are lies. Melville’s letter to the Harpers on 24 November 1853 proves the existence of a work he could not publish “last Spring,” and my AMERICAN LITERATURE article on THE ISLE OF THE CROSS in the March 1990 laid out the evidence for the exact or closely approximate date of Melville’s finishing the book he took to New York City in early June 1853. As far as POEMS goes, the documentation is extensive—letters from Melville and his wife to Evert Duyckinck, for example, as well as Melville’s 12-point memo to his brother Allan on the publishing of POEMS. How can anyone read that memo and question that Melville had finished a collection he called POEMS? And besides that, Jay Leyda found a rejection of the volume by Scribner. What Brodhead and Delbanco say is false. They lied about my work in such a way as to trash my credibility. Delbanco, in particular, went out of his way to say that everything I said had to be used with caution.

            Paula Backscheider says, “For an academic to be accused of ‘making up
things’ . . . is the most serious charge that can be levelled against him or her
and may discredit that person forever.”

            I may die still widely discredited and shamed in print and on the Internet by the false accusations of Brodhead and Delbanco, as well as those later made by Elizabeth Schultz, who echoed their accusations in the COMMON REVIEW.

            Yet the Chronicle of Higher Education cannot say the word “lie,” or address directly my defense in MELVILLE BIOGRAPHY: AN INSIDE NARRATIVE. Here is what the CHE says:
“Parker, a professor emeritus of English at the University of Delaware, found himself at odds with such Melville scholars as Richard Brodhead (who raised questions about Parker's ‘editorial principles’ in The New York Times) and Andrew Delbanco (who, while criticizing Parker's misreading of sex and sin, did declare, in The New York Review of Books, that "Parker's biography is written with love and devotion").  [But this was not the 2002 review of the biography in the NEW REPUBLIC and of course is not a matter that would make me at odds with anyone.] Critics' skepticism centered on two issues: the name of a lost Melville story ("The Isle of the Cross") and the importance of an 1860 manuscript called "Poems." A falling-out followed, and Parker, who felt he had been victimized, drifted away from groups like the Melville Society.”
            See how this blurs the issue, almost as if I had been overly sensitive to reviewers’ pointing out that I used the run-on construction too often or that my adverbs were strained. “Editorial principles”? No: the accusation was that I made up POEMS, which no one else had ever heard of, just me in my “black hole”!  The “name of a lost Melville story”? No: not the NAME of the book but the fact of Melville’s writing it, the fact of its existence.
            The Chronicle of Higher Education apparently could not deal with a fact as ugly as falsehood, it would seem—not when a purveyor of false information is the dean of Yale College, then President of Duke University; not when the purveyor of false information is a chaired professor at Columbia University.
            This part of “A Leviathan Task of Biography” makes me look like an author who is peeved at reviewers’ picking at his inept prose when dealing with the greatness of OMOO and not praising him highly enough for his reading of "The Piazza."
Why do I love Melville? Why, he’s the man who says that “the mealy mouthed habit of writing of human nature of the present day would not tolerate the plain speaking of Johnson, for instance, in the Rambler—who does not hesitate to use the word malignity!”



Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION Protects the Elite

Finger surgery just for a cyst but I'm hunting and pecking for a few days. Subject again: HOW THESE ELITE PEOPLE AT ELITE INSTITUTIONS, INCLUDING THE PRESS, PROTECT EACH OTHER, EVEN IF THEY HAVE TO FABRICATE ISSUES OR FLAT OUT LIE. SEE THIS IN LAST WEEK'S CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION:

In many ways the culmination of a scholarly career, the biography garnered Parker awards from the Association of American Publishers, recognition as a Pulitzer Prize finalist, and, to Parker's mind, unwarranted condemnation from many within the academy.

Critical reviews appeared in newspapers, magazines, and journals, and Parker, a professor emeritus of English at the University of Delaware, found himself at odds with such Melville scholars as Richard Brodhead (who raised questions about Parker's "editorial principles" in The New York Times) and Andrew Delbanco (who, while criticizing Parker's misreading of sex and sin, did declare, in The New York Review of Books, that "Parker's biography is written with love and devotion"). Critics' skepticism centered on two issues: the name of a lost Melville story ("The Isle of the Cross") and the importance of an 1860 manuscript called "Poems." A falling-out followed, and Parker, who felt he had been victimized, drifted away from groups like the Melville Society.

"EDITORIAL PRINCIPLES" HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH MY COMPLAINTS ABOUT BRODHEAD. THE REVIEW BY DELBANCO IS NOT EVEN THE REVIEW OF THE BIOGRAPHY, VOL. 2 (2002). THE "NAME" OF THE BOOK WAS NOT AN ISSUE--IT WAS ITS EXISTENCE. BRODHEAD AND DELBANCO LIED ABOUT ME, SAYING I SURMISED OR OUTRIGHT INVENTED 2 LOST BOOKS. BRODHEAD SAID I ALONE IN MY "BLACK HOLE" HAD HEARD OF POEMS. DELBANCO WENT ON TO SAY THAT EVERYTHING I SAID WAS SUSPECT BECAUSE I HAD INVENTED THE 2 BOOKS--EVERYTHING HAD TO BE USED WITH CAUTION. THIS COULD NOT BE CLEARER. I SAID IT MORE THAN ONCE IN THE BOOK TO SUGGEST HOW THEIR SLANDER HAD SPREAD ON THE INTERNET.

HOW DO YOU ACCOUNT FOR THE WORDS QUOTED ABOVE FROM THE CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION? i WAS VERY CLEAR IN THE INTERVIEW. I THINK SOMEONE ABOVE THE REPORTER INTERVENED. ANOTHER REASON FOR THINKING SO IS THAT SEVERAL DAYS AFTER THE INTERVIEW SOMEONE FROM THE CHRONICLE ASKED If A PHOTO OF ME THEY HAD WAS OK TO RUN. I SAID OK. EVEN ON THE FRIDAY BEFORE THE MONDAY THE REPORTER THANKED ME FOR AGREEING TO LET THEM USE THE PHOTO AND DID A LITTLE FACT CHECKING--BUT THE CORRECTIONS WERE NOT USED ON MONDAY.  THE PHOTO WAS NOT USED, EITHER--AND JUST AS WELL!

I AM NOT PARANOID, FOLKS. THESE PEOPLE PROTECT THEIR OWN. AND THEY ARE USED TO GETTING AWAY WITH IT.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Fayaway--Cover of TYPEE in the Barnacle Books / Rare Bird edition

Hot out of the mailbox! This edition contains the Northwestern-Newberry text and my introduction, "Melville as 'The Modern Boccaccio': The Fascinations of Fayaway." For those who do not remember, all during Melville's lifetime his most famous character was Fayaway and he was regarded as America's first literary sex symbol (and heterosexual at that, for the first decades).



http://www.rarebirdlit.com/post/23678340785/the-rare-bird-books-a-barnacle-book-library
 


Fess Up, CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION

Please, instead of faking causes of my disagreement with Richard Brodhead and Andrew Delbanco as you did Monday in A LEVIATHAN TASK OF BIOGRAPHY, just print what Brodhead said in the New York TIMES in 2002 about THE ISLE OF THE CROSS and POEMS and just print what Delbanco said in the NEW REPUBLIC in 2002 about THE ISLE OF THE CROSS and POEMS. That way you can't possibly get in any legal trouble. Just quote them. And if you really want to be honest, quote what Delbanco said about those 2 lost books in 2005.

These two critics trashed my reputation for scholarly integrity, Brodhead by saying I alone in my "black hole" had surmised the existence of POEMS, Delbanco by saying I merely surmised both books and therefore should not be trusted in either volume.

These were horrifically damaging accusations, and they were false. All scholars had known about the 1853 book since 1960, although I did not discover the title until 1987. Everyone had known about POEMS since 1922.

Why can't the CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION deal straightforwardly with what Brodhead and Delbanco did?

As it is, you have anonymous smears on your comments section. Would "flotsam" have been quite so contemptuous if you had honestly stated the cause of my complaints against these two critics?