Saturday, March 14, 2015

Fragment of a Fascinating Facebook discussion--Here Paul Seydor cites FT&VI and MELVILLE BIOGRAPHY: AN INSIDE NARRATIVE

Paul Seydor Well, Christopher, I'm certainly not going to turn down free publicity. I wish I had known about your blog before the book was published, as I may have looked it over for some of the photographic material. By the way, it's fine by me if you want to SELL my book from your blog! And, yes, you are quite right, there are people all over the place who would a lot of this stuff if it were available. That's one reason why I suspect it's not. Another is that if the studios start making too much of it widely available, the most powerful stars and directors would wind up demanding that the unused footage be destroyed once the film was cut and released. And that would be truly tragic. PGBtK represents such a tricky case--in some ways, it's unique--but if you want my position stated simply, it's something like this. If an artist makes a decision to release or allow to be released a version of his work, even if he's somewhat coerced into doing so, then we may "consume" that version if we like. If he or she decides years later to release a different version of that work, fine and good, but then I think we should be allowed to enjoy the previous RELEASED versions if we prefer. This is to some extent easier in literature. When Henry James prepared the famous New York edition of his stories and novels, he revised much of his earlier work to make it conform to his famous--or notorious, depending on your point of view--late style. I know very people who actually prefer his revisions to the works as they originally appeared. I've actually done a study of some of this. It's the rare instance in which the work has been improved--mostly it lessened the earlier works' power and effect. This is why I think we should have both available. But I don't believe it's fair game to take a passage James left out of the stories before they were published and reinstate it into the story just because we happen to like it. This is a simple example and it more or less suggests my basic belief. However, what I also believe is that this sort of thing requires examination on a case by case basis. For example, I see no point in not henceforth showing Straw Dogs with the fifteen seconds or so in the rape that were censored from American but retained for Europe not being restored permanently in all prints. I also see no reason for watching The Wild Bunch without the Mapache scene and all of the flashbacks because we know that all except the Aurora one were removed without Peckinpah's approval. He did approve the Aurora one for the domestic release, so if people want to see it that way and can find it, fine. For myself, let's just restore it too and be done with it. Would that the situation in PGBtK admitted of such ease and simplicity of decision making! By the way, Christopher, though we disagree I do admire the zeal and passion with which you present your case. An invigorating discussion for a Saturday afternoon.
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  • Paul Seydor Back to Brad Stevens's "Reputational Roundelays" entry from his blog above. I've covered this in my response to Christopher immediately above and for the most part I agree entirely with the points you make in this piece. I urge all to read it. But keep in mind that the situation is not strictly analogous to PGBtK. In the case of Fitzgerald and Ophuls, the artists had already released early versions of their work, these versions were public, so I think it's perfectly okay to prefer the previous versions and to read them. It's a rather different matter when the work is literally unfinished. By the way, I recommend everybody here should check the work of my close friend, the great literary and textual critic Hershel Parker. Hershel has made a life's work on these sorts of issues of proper texts, flawed texts, incomplete texts, unfinished texts, and textual variants and also issues of authorship. You should start with his groundbreaking book FLAWED TEXTS AND VERBAL ICONS, and then read his newest book, MELVILLE BIOGRAPHY: AN INSIDE NARRATIVE, also published by Northwestern University Press.

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