Saturday, April 7, 2018

"Unplugging from the news"? Going into total denial?

In today's mail was something called THE WEEK. Much of it, I saw in my fast scan, involved politics, but I stopped scanning and read the article called "Unplugging from the news--completely," about the "Blockade" Erik Hagerman of Gloster, Ohio, had put up against news more than a year ago. I understand. I spent my time with political obsession, starting that day in October, 1952, when, after working at Red Rock, Oklahoma, as a telegraph apprentice on the Santa Fe, I went on a part time job over into Kansas, where people desperately wanted to watch a TV program, that day, and my boss installed TV antennas as a sideline. We had to install an enceedingly high rod, I recall, and then were invited into the tall wooden structure with tall vicious dogs roaming round. Surely we deserved to see the speech, the Checkers Speech, it turned out to be. I was the only one in the house who understood the manipulative malice of the man, and in the 60s I fought him except when I was fooled into thinking I would not have him to kick around any more. At the last, I was a poorer father for my obsession to that crook, then after the resignation, when I though I could heal, Ford committed the unforgivable sin by pardoning him. Well, at the last national election I knew I could not survive another period with that obsession. At 8 pm on November 8 2016 I said I was through watching news on TV. I got out without ever hearing Kellyanne Conway's voice, though I saw her face several times. I have survived without hearing a single rant by Rachel Maddow. I have not glimpsed Chris or the other more self-righteous yuppy Chris or any of the rest of them. Now, I see headlines and sort of understand them but I have allowed myself only one obsession, and that very recently: Greitens is just so much fun to watch twisting in the wind that I check on him now and then. I gave up Fixer Upper and all other home shows on 8 Nov. 2016 because you never know what face is going to pop out at you on commercial time. Now, what have I done? I wrote 4 pieces for JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION, one of which is going to reappear in hardback next month. I finished the 3rd Norton Critical Edition of MOBY-DICK. I and three other veterans finished what Hayford, I, and Tanselle started in 1865, the 15 volume THE WRITINGS OF HERMAN MELVILLE. I am very very far along in my major work, ORNERY PEOPLE, about my American ancestors (whom I had assumed were in no records) in relation to movements in American history. I have agreed to do the LIBRARY OF AMERICA volume on Herman Melville: The Complete Poetry, and am working now on notes for CLAREL. Then Gallimard is publishing a Quarto edition of MOBY-DICK with my very detailed Chronologie decked out by Professor Philippe Jaworski with many gorgeous Melville family photographs--ready and for sale April 19. And today on the Internet the news that 2000 or so Frenchmen and Frenchwomen (mainly) who already have the equivalent of Master's degrees will be buying copies of Mark Niemeyer's and my 2nd Norton Critical Edition of THE CONFIDENCE-MAN for their 2019 and 2020 agregation (imagine the accent mark) exam. I am thinking, hour by hour, about how to my astonishment Union activity survived in public in North Carolina all through the Civil War, with Sparks and Dellinger cousins bravely protesting against the Confederacy and McGehee cousins ardently defending slavery. I have become historian enough to publish in the webzine JAR a dozen or so times, even to be quoted a couple of times in book books, printed and bound histories, and I am learning more every week, if not every day. Rarely has a week gone by that I have not been stunned at some new discovery. I can live, at my age, without Rachel, even if it means not making myself a sacrifice for the next generations. I can live out any years I have left without obsessing about evangelicals who are not Christians and what they have brought into being. Go, Erik Hagerman, go.

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