Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Whales again or still, for hours, hours

No photos in local papers yet, but whales are spouting very near fishing boats. There are many, spread out over the whole bay.


The HUFFINGTON POST makes a definitive answer: it keeps up William Cohan's article but drops all the comments on it. So much for free speech in the Huffington Post!!!!

Now, have I lost my comment forever? And Jim Peterson had good comments, as others did. Are they all lost? Well, miracle! I have found at least a version of my comments:

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

My comment in the Huffington POST on Cohan's complaints about "free speech" on Amazon

Hershel Parker · Top Commenter · Northwestern University
As Dorothy Rabinowitz says in the WALL STREET JOURNAL, Cohan wrote a dishonest book and compounded his folly by embarking on a Media blitz in which he has made increasingly reckless false claims about the falsely-accused Duke lacrosse players. He may turn out to have said actionable lies. The WSJ on 11 April had already published a puff piece by David M. Shribman, one of many ignorant incompetent puff pieces that welcomed THE PRICE OF SILENCE. Cohan was the beneficiary of the corruption of reviewing in the mainstream media. I have a vested interest here because the President of Duke University (as he is now), Richard H. Brodhead, lied about me in the NEW YORK TIMES in June 2002, saying that only I in my "black hole" had ever heard of the book Herman Melville finished in 1860 and called POEMS. That is, the Dean of Yale College defamed me as a biographer who merely "surmised" rather than worked from documentary evidence. Of course, everyone had known about POEMS since 1922. I became interested in the non-rape case because I knew of Brodhead's dishonesty in the NEW YORK TIMES, and then became appalled at the behavior of the Gang of 88 at Duke. I have written about this at some length in MELVILLE BIOGRAPHY: AN INSIDE NARRATIVE (published January 2013). Now, I am one of the Amazon reviewers of Cohan's THE PRICE OF SILENCE. I have also made several comments on other reviews of the book. If you go to my (admittedly long) review on Amazon you will find detailed criticism of the incompetence and even viciousness of Cohan's book. I dare to hope that Rabinowitz's review will be a turning point. This may be the time when the amateur reviewers in Amazon push the mainstream media toward honesty. Here is a comment I posted this morning on the comment by carla4515:

What's most encouraging is that the WSJ corrected itself. Someone assigned a review to someone who ought to have been responsible, David M. Shribman, boss at the Pittsburgh POST-GAZETTE. That review, published 11 April 2014, was an incompetent puff piece. So the WALL STREET JOURNAL had to look at its own mistake and decide to protect its new reputation as the most serious national reviewing newspaper (much better now than the NEW YORK TIMES) even if it meant repudiating its own review. Don't look for more reviews by the shamed Shribman in the WSJ! All this speaks very well for the seriousness of the Book Review editor at the WSJ and the integrity of some members of the editorial staff, particularly Rabinowitz herself, who paid attention to what Cohan was doing on his Media Circuit Circus as well as the falsifications in the book. I regard Rabinowitz's review as a turning point in the long-term fate of Cohan's very bad book, but I am optimistic enough to see it as just maybe a turning point in reviewing, the point where the corrupt mainstream media meets the Great Waters of the Amazon. How can I be so optimistic at almost 80? Well, I'll tell you--I'm optimistic after reading so many intelligent one-star reviews of William D. Cohan's THE PRICE OF SILENCE here on Amazon.

I will keep using the image of GREAT WATERS OF THE AMAZON in celebrating the best hope readers have of fighting the ignorance and incompetence of the mainstream media.

How Much Freedom of Speech is Too Much?

Monday, August 25, 2014


But are they here again or here still? It is after all high tourist season in Morro Bay, Europeans and 2nd Generation Okies from the Central Valley crowding in on us 1st Generation Depression Okies.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Town-Ho, Town-Ho, times 10

Emerged from frugal shower (catching as much water as possible in bucket) and looked out. Three sailboats too close together, where none had been. No sailboats--gone. Oh, blows! All around three fishing boats, in spearing distance. Tomorrow, great photographs in the local newspaper? All over the middle part of the bay in bright day, flat sea, blows. 10 or more?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Ready for Black Tie Dinner at Delaware

We haven't changed a bit, surely,
although I did notice that I don't look in the mirror while I am brushing my teeth.

The Real Test of my Seriousness: When Books I Wrote Go in the Wine-Cellar

That day is not here yet.

The Day I Tote to the Wine-Cellar 10 Linear Feet of Copies of Books Melville Owned

ADMISSION that I am now HP, Boy Historian, working on the Revolutionary War in the Carolinas, and overwhelmed with absolutely essential NC and SC books.

Shelves formerly occupied by copies of books Melville owed.

Part of the collection of books in copies of the editions Melville owned, now banished to the wine-cellar.
Yes, this is a turning point. Don't ask me about Evert Duyckinck any more. Let me tell you about David Fanning.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Salisbury Post on SCOTT SYFERT: How a Lawyer became a Historian


Author Scott Syfert will be at Literary Bookpost & Just the Thing on Saturday, July 19, 11-1 p.m. to talk about and sign his book, ‘The First American Declaration of Independence.’
Author Scott Syfert will be at Literary Bookpost & Just the Thing on Saturday, July 19, 11-1 p.m. to talk about and sign his book, ‘The First American Declaration of Independence.’
“The First American Declaration of Independence? The Disputed History of the Mecklenburg Declaration of May 20, 1775,” by Scott Syfert. McFarland & Co. 2014. 247 pp. $35.
Scott Syfert is an attorney, so uncovering evidence is right up his alley. He’s tenacious, too, and that’s why he spent 10 years digging to find out if the Mecklenburg Declaration of May 20, 1775, was real or rumor.

The definitive answer can be found in his book, “The First American Declaration of Independence?” and it’s a doozy.
There is no definitive answer. There’s little hard evidence of the document’s existence — no copy has survived. It made the same bold statements as the declaration we know from 1776, and it was prompted by news of the battles in Lexington and Concord, Mass., over taxation. The news of the April events did not reach North Carolina for a month, but it fired up citizens who were living freely, without any help from the king, and wanted to maintain their independence.
If you believe the Mecklenburg Declaration existed more than a year before the Declaration of Independence, you’ll find Syfert’s arguments most compelling. If you think it’s a bunch of bull made up by some backwoods rabblerousers, you’ll still think that, Syfert argues.
“The story has not died in 250 years,” Syfert says. “Why does anyone care anymore? What’s at stake? Why are people so animated about it?” The May 20, 1775, date is part of North Carolina’s flag to this day.
Syfert ended up in the May 20th Society in Mecklenburg County, where he practices law. Syfert doesn’t remember hearing the story before then. They were working to install a statue of Capt. Jack, the courier who took the 1775 declaration to Philadelphia. The statue is part of a series in Charlotte devoted to local history. Syfert researched Jack and wrote something for the group’s website, then he ended up becoming the regimental historian and “had all this research on the coherent points, all this fragmentary research.
“I’ve always heard you should write the book you want to read. That’s what I did.” He describes the trail as totally non-linear, because stories about what some believe to be the first declaration of independence were rampant at one point, then they died down; 150 years later, Moravians pick it up again.
“To me it was a detective story,” he says. He read Thomas Jefferson’s papers and learned of a heated debate between Jefferson and John Adams over the declaration. In 1819, after seeing the MecDec, Adams accused Jefferson of plagiarizing it. Jefferson called the declaration from Mecklenburg “spurious.” This brought the debate into the national spotlight, where it stayed for quite a while.
Syfert said his research became like putting together all the legal arguments that would support the existence of the Mecklenburg Declaration.
“The story has so many levels to it. The pure history, what happened in Mecklenburg County and Salisbury at the time. The stories go dormant, then the Jefferson-Adams debate comes up and you have North Carolina rising in anger against Jefferson.”
There were public celebrations of the MecDec for hundreds of years, Syfert says. The date is on the flag. “Then you have the evidentiary arguments. Where is the evidence? How good is it? You have 19th century historians pooh-poohing it.
“History is selective, not necessarily factual. This illustrates it perfectly.” We only know the survivors’ version of history.
The papers, the original and copies of the MecDec, were lost. John McKnitt (or McKnight) Alexander is credited as the author during a meeting of militia leaders who wanted to decree Mecklenburg as free and independent. Some say the declaration never existed. McKnitt was long dead when the questions were asked and some of his property burned. “What if the papers were not lost? My theory is if someone found in their attic a copy of the MecDec next week, it wouldn’t change anyone’s mind anyway.”
The declaration was drafted by a small group of people in a very isolated place. Salisbury was far larger, and it was tiny. There were few settlers but those who were there were a strong group of Scots-Irish Presbyterians. “It’s a lot more plausible, if anyone in America did it, it would be these people who would take action,” Syfert says.
After he had done all the research, Syfert was ready to present it in the form of this book. He’s struck a chord, selling more than he ever expected, “to people with an interest in local history, to the descendants of the Alexanders and others, to the local business and civic community to the chamber of commerce. The famous, or infamous Capt. Jack has 500 descendants spread all over.”
Syfert says one of most interesting aspects is “how can something so important to the community be completely forgotten. Imagine not celebrating the 4th of July because no one cares.” His theory about Charlotte tearing down so much history is that it represents a dark time, unpleasant circumstances. It’s no coincidence, he says, that the state seceded from the Union on May 20, 1861. It was to celebrate that May 20, 1775, independence.
You can continue the argument about the Mecklenburg Declaration on Saturday, July 19, from 11 a.m.-1 p.m., when he will be at Literary Bookpost & Just the Thing to sign his book.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Notes for the Care and Feeding of a Melville Lover, the Krakenman

In Brooklyn they did not let you say, "I don't eat beets."

If I die a few weeks before I am 80

I will be very very unhappy if anyone says I died at 79. What is the point of living through eleven months if you don't get credit for persistence and endurance and achievement? "Almost 80." "Within a few weeks of 80." "What the Chinese would call more than 80 and a half." "A few weeks shy of his 80th birthday."

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Being reprinted in the Gaston-Lincoln Genealogical Society's FOOTPRINTS IN TIME

How's this for speed? Yesterday the webzine JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION published my piece in what is now known as the Tryon Resolves. Robert C. Carpenter, the president of the Gaston-Lincoln Genealogical Society, immediately wanted it for FOOTSTEPS IN TIME, the paper magazine. As it happened, I had a slightly longer version with more about local Revolutionary families. With permission, and assurances of proper credit to JAR, this version will go into Carpenter's paper. This morning I eked out the paragraph about the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence with a statement about my reading a couple of weeks ago Jim Piecuch's review in JAR of Scott Syfert's THE FIRST DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE?--a really terrific book. Trouble was, to say what I needed to say about the Tryon "An Association" I had spent a week in June going through newspaper databases for information about the Mecklenburg Declaration. 130 hits for a search term, 130 hits I looked at. 82 hits for a search term, 82 hits I looked at. When I saw Syfert's saying that Archibald Murphey's article in the Hillsborough RECORDER of March 1821 "no longer exists," I said, wait wait wait. I had spent 5 hours or so one day looking for FLORIAN, the pseudonym at the end of the reprinting of this article in the Salem MA Gazette for 3 July 1821, and presumably the name signed to the RECORDER text. I had identified Florian as Murphey, with certainty, and had found other pieces by him which I did not realize were unknown to North Carolina scholars. After all, what I was doing was informing myself so I would understand why the Tryon document had been so neglected for so long. I was not going to write about the MecDec. If Scott will do it, I won't have to. You see what this is about--my erratic education which makes me tend not to look for books on a topic but to begin assembling documents from the ground up. If I had seen Scott's book sooner I might not have spent (wasted, some would have said) that week in June.
And now Robert Carpenter reveals that he is a Costner cousin, a descendant of Uncle Jacob, a character in my Journal of the American Revolution piece. No surprise. I told Syfert, who lives in Charlotte, that he must know many of my cousins (descendants of pre-Revolutionary families). Rudisill, I said, Dellinger--and he said at once that next door was a Rudisill.
Is there anything more fun than a new late career? David Fanning does not know what he is in for.

For Robin Williams, one gull-pecked dolphin. For Betty Bacall, a whole pod of whales.

Yesterday, one washed up dolphin with gull-pecked holes. Just now as I was reading the New York TIMES obituary of Bacall I got summoned and for thirty minutes from balconies on three levels watched a great pod of whales passing in tribute. One whale, straight down, turned flukes, something I had never seen before. And one beautiful Jewish woman who lived a remarkable American life . . . . "It's a nice bed," said Melville's landlord, after urging Ishmael to turn flukes. Well, it was "getting dreadful late," yes, but not nearly late enough for this.

Monday, August 11, 2014

After the TABLET Declared me over 100 and Dead I Refuse to Open this Link

Hershel Parker Scholarship August 11, 2014 The Tryon County Patriots of 1775 and Their “Association”


On August 14, 1775 some North Carolina colonial men, possibly as many as four dozen or so, met at the Tryon County courthouse. That is, they crowded into Christian (“Christy”) Mauney’s isolated log house at a country cross roads thirty some miles west of Charlotte. There they drafted and copied into the minutes a document they called “An Association.” That term in patriotic documents of 1774 and 1775 did not identify the signers as having joined a civic group or social club. The meaning, now long obsolete, was a written pledge to carry out an enterprise. At the risk of their fortunes and their lives they were pledging to take up arms against British soldiers in defense of what they saw as their natural rights under the British constitution. The men at Mauney’s resolved that their “Association” should “be Signed by the Inhabitants of Tryon County.” Presumably many signed there at Mauney’s, but the document may have been carried around to encourage other “Inhabitants” to sign it.[1] The document said,
The unprecedented, barbarous & bloody actions Committed by the British Troops on our American Brethren near Boston, on the 19th of April & 20th of May last together with the Hostile opperations & Traiterous Designs now Carrying on by the Tools of Ministerial Vengeance & Despotism for the Subjugating all British America, Sugest to us the painful Necessity of having recourse to Arms, for the preservation of those Rights & Liberties which the principles of our Constitution and the Laws of God Nature & nations have made it our Duty to Defend.—
We therefore the Subscribers freeholders & Inhabitants of Tryon County, do hereby faithfully unite Ourselves under the most Sacred ties of Religion Honor & love to Our Country, firmly to Resist force by force in defence of our Natural Freedom & Constitutional Rights against all Invasions, & at the same time do Solemnly Engage to take up Arms and Risque our lives and fortunes in Maintaining the Freedom of our Country whenever the Wisdom & Council of the Continental Congress or our provincial Convention shall Declare it necessary, & this Engagement we will Continue in & hold Sacred, till a Reconciliation shall take place between Great Britain & America on Constitutional principles, which we most ardently desire. And we do firmly agree to hold all such persons Inimical to the liberties of America, who shall refuse to Subscribe this Association.[2] . . . .

This is the opening of my first publication as historian in 50 years, since an article was published by the New-York Historical Quarterly.  My intention is to publish more articles all of which involve at least one ancestor, whether tangentially or prominently. It is possible they could make up ORNERY PEOPLE: WHAT WAS A DEPRESSION OKIE? but chances are they will be a side-product, too historical, although some of the episodes like the Sims Intruder story have the ancestors front and center. We will see. Meanwhile, I am overjoyed at being Boy Historian at nearly 79. What joy, being published in the webzine JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Hershel Walker Strikes Again

A comment on a very ignorant 4-star Amazon review of a 1-star book, William D. Cohan's THE PRICE OF SILENCE. Everyone should be reading Stuart Taylor Jr. and KC Johnson's UNTIL PROVEN INNOCENT instead of this Cohan book which Dorothy Rabinowitz in the Wall Street Journal rightly called dishonest.
Grandjete says:
Did you read any of the "caustic" reviews here? If so, you will note that the best of them list, in the aggregate, dozens of specific weaknesses, biases, oversight, and misleading statements from "Price".

It would be refreshing if you, or anyone who recommends anyone buy this book, actually address some of these specific criticisms with logical argument and verifiable facts, instead of broad, unsupported assertions of the book's quality. It would be very easy to find these criticisms, as dozens are cited to specific page numbers in "Price" (see, for example, the review here by Mark Wylie, and the review by Pulitzer Prize Finalist Hershel Walker).

If you can. You would be the first, you know.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Hercules Pursuing the Stag--How a Loving Spouse May See You

Gnarled by sciatica now, lurching from chair to chair, facial features formless, how can anyone stand to look at that?

What she says is that one visual image supplants all others.

Just south of the Mason-Dixon line in the WHITE CLAY CREEK PRESERVE, long ago, in the parking lot looking down the slope toward the South, a vision:

Bursting out of a grove of trees in the middle of the slope, an 8-point stag, a tall naked man in full-on pursuit. The stag breaks away and heads across the road and back toward Maryland and Pennsylvania and Arcadia.

As he makes his way up the slope the man is revealed to be wearing tan running shorts.

"How far did you chase him?"

My absolutely truthful reply: "Not more than two miles."

She says, being absolutely truthful, "That is how I see you, still."

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Menand, de Man, Brodhead: Your Literary Theory Determines Your Actions

Your literary theory has immediate and enduring effects on your behavior.

This was written as if to be published in the TABLET.

          In its July 11, 2012, tribute to M. H. Abrams at 100 the TABLET with the best intentions put me in the good company of “Jewish professors, critics, and scholars” who starting in the postwar years were “newly acceptable” in academia, but then the TABLET killed me off along with Trilling, Levin, Edel, and Kazin, leaving only Abrams. When I plaintively declared that I was still alive and did not spell my first name with a “c”, the TABLET revised the article to say that Mike (whom I loved not as a contemporary but as a mentor at W. W. Norton) was “one” of the last survivors of that group, not the very last. As another survivor, may I now comment on the “Horrible Ideas” which Liel Leibovitz wrote about on March 21. 2014?
          In the review of Evelyn Barish’s The Double Life of Paul de Man Leibovitz says: “For all his darkness, de Man was not the first and will not be the last prominent man to be unmasked as a charming and cruel sociopath. If we choose to read his life’s story as a thriller—‘The Talented Mr. Ripley, Ph.D.’—we’re left with nothing but the pleasure of a good yarn; de Man’s habits tell us no more about his fellow academics than Rob Ford’s do about his fellow Canadian mayors. But there’s another reading of the de Man story, one at which Barish hints and that suggests that the life and the worldview are intertwined, and that even if there’s not necessarily causation there is certainly a correlation between the man perpetually eluding his past and the theory perpetually resisting definitions. It’s in this way that Barish’s book is most illuminating, giving us not only a clearer view of de Man but an intriguing framework through which to understand the sorry state of the contemporary academic landscape he helped shape.”

          In the NEW YORKER on March 24 Louis Menand angrily rejected the notion of a correlation between de Man’s Nazi past and his literary practice. Menand starts his defense this way: “De Man may have been a scoundrel.”  The “may have been” takes one aback—but Menand has already acknowledged that “for all intents and purposes” (my italics) the record shows that “the young de Man was a fascist.” I’ll start my quotation from Menand again: “De Man may have been a scoundrel who found a career teaching a certain method of reading, but that method of reading does not turn people into scoundrels. Probably ninety-nine per cent of the people who studied with de Man wouldn’t run a red light—forget about altering a transcript or voluntarily collaborating with Nazis.” There is, in short, according to Menand, no correlation between de Man’s past behavior and later theory and there is no correlation between his followers’ acceptance of his theory and their later practice toward other human beings. “As a literary critic,” Menand continued smoothly, “de Man was doing what American literature professors had been doing since the nineteen-forties.”  And of course there was no correlation between the New Criticism and bad behavior in the real world. Or was there?

          In Melville Biography: An Inside Narrative (published in January 2013), I looked at the way the New Criticism could seduce its practitioners into dehumanizing both writers like Melville and writers on him. Relentless adherence to a life-denying literary theory, the New Criticism, I decided, has had deleterious consequences not just on literary criticism and what passes as biography (as in one piece entitled “A Brief Biography” which ignores troves of new documents). Worse still, such a theory ultimately damages the character of its practitioners, because to blind yourself to Melville’s aspirations and agonies, to treat him as an abstract “author figure” or “literary personality” (Charles Feidelson’s term) and not a real man, in the end leads critics to blind themselves to the aspirations and agonies of living people.

When the second volume of my biography was published Richard H. Brodhead damned me in the New York Times (June 23, 2002) as a “demon researcher” with a “single-mindedness worthy of a Melville hero,” a hero such as Ahab, who also ended in wreck. Can this have nothing to do with Feidelson’s calling Melville “a prime example of the demonic writer” (Symbolism and American Literature, 163)? I was a demon researcher but I could not be trusted because I had passed off private surmises as fact, Brodhead declared. According to Brodhead there was no evidence that Melville had finished a book called Poems in 1860. In fact, all scholars had known about Poems since 1922. According to Brodhead it was merely a surmise of mine that Melville had completed a book in 1853. Soon Andrew Delbanco echoed Brodhead, declaring in the New Republic that because I merely surmised the existence of The Isle of the Cross and Poems I should not be trusted anywhere in either volume of the biography. In fact, all scholars had known about the 1853 book since 1960, when the Davis-Gilman edition of the Letters was published, and I had published an article on The Isle of the Cross in the then-scholarly American Literature in 1990.

In accusing me (in the New York Times!) of making unfounded surmises Brodhead had blithely done horrific damage to my reputation. Worse, he had erased the existence of the grand array of Melville scholars who had preceded me. Most immediately and most painfully to me, he had erased the existence of three men, all dead by 2002, who had rejoiced at my discovery of the title The Isle of the Cross in 1987—Jay Leyda, Harrison Hayford, and Merton M. Sealts, Jr.  Brodhead’s false accusations about me must be in some way a consequence of his New Critical training and practice, I decided. In sober truth, if your training leads you to dehumanize Melville, to be blind to his agony as Brodhead had been in his commentary on Pierre, how can you not carry your training over to the way you treat real living people, at least people unlike you, such as a fanatic, demonic researcher?

This is worth re-emphasizing in the light of Menand’s aloof certainties: If you think that facts about authors are not real and authors are not real, then you may come to see living people outside your own private circle as unreal. Cut them and they will not bleed, or if they do bleed their suffering can never be of the significance of your own discomforts or the discomforts of your class. Let me offer a maxim: The kind of literary criticism you learn to write and continue to write all your life affects all the rest of your behavior. Some of the behavior of Melville critics who refuse to look at documentary evidence is innate in their character, I assume, but some of their actions, I would think, must be a consequence of lifelong practice of a dehumanizing literary approach, the New Criticism. Their nature is subdued to what it works in, like the dyer’s hand.

          Menand is sure that theory cannot turn anyone into a scoundrel. Well, even the comfortable old New Criticism can lead its practitioners to exterminate the achievements of great scholars, to write as if Leyda and  Hayford and Sealts never existed. Horrible ideas (even horrible ideas about literature) have horrible consequences. Leibovitz is right.