Friday, April 25, 2014

After Stuart Taylor, Jr., talked to Brian Lamb on C-Span today about Cohan's very bad book

42 one-star reviews on Amazon, Brian Lamb said twice. Conspiracy? No--just a lot of pretty well informed people, all of us outraged at the scurrilous book.

Brodhead may have asked one good question in his whole life: "Why do you have to write this book?" That's what Cohan quotes him as saying on 605. Of course Brodhead ruins that by continuing, "We are just getting over the events of March 2006." Clearly Brodhead wants his behavior forgotten and the behavior of most Duke professors forgotten, but the question is still good. Why did Cohan "have" to write the book? KC and Stuart "had" to write UNTIL PROVEN INNOCENT because of the horrendous mistreatment of the lacrosse players by Nifong, the Durham police department, almost all Duke professors, and almost all the high profile writers in magazines and newspapers and TV "personalities" like Nancy Grace. They had masses of new evidence that needed to be mustered into comprehensible order and put into a readable narrative. I understand this because I was the only one to transcribe all the letters in the great trove of Melville documents discovered in upstate New York in 1983 and to transcribe (ultimately) thousands of pages of other 19th century documents until I had a 9,000 or so page LOG in my computer. Until I got the story out in long books in 1996 and 2002 I was the ONLY one to know many stories about Melville. I "HAD" to write the biography, or at least try to get it out before I died, or get it in shape that someone else could finish it if I did die. I understand "HAVING" to write a book.

This next 2 paragraphs are from my Amazon review of Cohan: On the blog LieStoppers LTC8K6 commented: He [Cohan] wrote the book the way it is because he is angry that he couldn't document the story he wanted to tell. He wanted the story in the title, but it just isn't there. Anyone who didn't cooperate with him is therefore made to look bad in the book. He couldn't find the story he promised to the publisher, so he just rehashed old stuff with a Mangum/Nifong slant to make it "juicy", and blamed the lack of a story on the defendants." The full title, I should say, is THE PRICE OF SILENCE: THE DUKE LACROSSE SCANDAL, THE POWER OF THE ELITE, AND THE CORRUPTION OF OUR GREAT UNIVERSITIES.

As someone who knows something about publishing I find this comment on LieStoppers very plausible. This would account for the vast amount of padding in the book as well as Cohan's frustration at not getting all the doors wide open to him, as he expected, so that he had to content himself with Nifong, Peterson, and Mangum , and therefore rewarded them with page after page of self-justifying lies, and gave great space to Steel, the former chairman of the board of Trustees, for his maunderings (on Brodhead: "Dick is a talker . . . Dick wants to pontificate. He's an English professor"). It is as if Cohan is saying, "Who are the lacrosse players not to agree to talk to ME?" Cohan got the contract expecting unimpeded access or even welcoming arms and found that people were suspicious of him and did not want to play. Even Brodhead would not play with him, and asked, "`Why do you have to write this book?'" . Yes, this sounds right. There might possibly have been an excuse for pitching the book to Scribners but there was not excuse for writing it after it turned out that there was nothing new (or nothing new and honorable) to be said.

Now I think that Cohan was governed at the start by the stereotypes of race, class, and gender that motivated the Group of 88 and that left Brodhead terrified of offending the mob at Angry Studies. As a Duke graduate and as a published writer he thought he would have easy access to people at Duke and could write a book pretty easily. Now, the easy way to write a very long book is to fill it with very long quotations from documents that have already been printed (Jackki!! Saunders!!) and to eke it out with very long quotations from people who are saying new things. Unfortunately the only people willing to maunder on and on to him were Steel (now, even he was maundering in what he said of Brodhead), Mangum (so petite and attractive and with such a warm smile), and Nifong ("spit-roasted" but spewing foul-mouthed religiosity). So the only "news" is not evidence but self-justification, much of it patently false. What would a decent person have done? Drop the project. What did Cohan do? Fill his book with indignation about how the players hired expensive lawyers (and got off only because the had the money to hire such lawyers), how much money the players extorted from vulnerable Duke (using as Stuart Taylor says, wildly inflated figures), pepper the book, page after page, with dark suggestions that the lacrosse players were guilty of uncertain but certainly horrible deeds. The innuendo, the insinuation, the dark hints--all of this shows a flawed character. Cohan is not only a lousy excuse for a researcher. He is not a moral man. Now, what will Bill Anderson report about the earlier books? I don't expect people to turn evil and incompetent in their third or fourth or fifth book.

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