What is the "way" of reading that is at stake here?
I have, for instance, read Sencourt and Matthews and Tate. They are not
very useful as biography. On the other hand, they do give insights from the
perspective of friends, and are cited by Gordon in her bibliography. They
are not useful because the authors really knew very little and did no
extensive research but mainly wrote their own reactions to him. Some of
the writers in Tate knew him well and wrote valuable things, but those are
not biographies. So the way of reading in those is to focus on a few
personal responses. That can contribute to biography but it is not
biography. The way of reading in Gordon is to spend years collecting all
she can find and reading everything available in collections on both sides of
the Atlantic and interviewing people and piecing it into a serious look at the
Separately, I have just read two chapters, and Seymour-Jones has done
her homework. She also can write. I think it may well be that she
speculates beyond what some evidence shows and it may be that she has
a way of looking at the material. That is true of any biography, and one can
agree or disagree and still get the mass of information on which it is based.
She has read a great deal of material I have never seen cited before, and
her quotations from that are incredibly valuable. So her way of reading is to
find what has not been known and to write what is therefore a new
contribution. I have not read enough to say what I think of the whole.
Reviewers are human beings. They give one a base to work from. Unless
they demonstrate failure in research or show incompetence from evidence
or show serious gaps, their evaluation is simply one view. They are seldom
more expert than the authors they review. So their value is to present what
was written and their position on it, not to establish final truth. Most
reviewers of The Waste Land totally trashed it. I'm quoting from my own
book here: "On the negative side, it was called a 'mad medley,' an
'unhappy composition,' and 'so much wastepaper.' The style was
described as full of 'blatancies' and parody without taste or skill. the notes
were seen as a substitute for poetry and the quotations as a substitute for
originality. F. L. Lucas, reviewing the poem for the New Statesman,
summed it up: 'All this is very difficult; as Dr. Johnson said under similar
circumstances, 'I wish it were impossible.' "
Most people now think those reviewers were just wrong and did not
recognize genius. I share that view. They had, however, read the poem,
and they were distinguished commentators in serious journals or papers.
Date sent: Sun, 27 Jan 2002 08:55:24 -0500
Send reply to: [log in to unmask]
From: Ken Armstrong <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Thoughts on "La Figlia che Piange"
--On Friday, January 25, 2002 8:02 PM -0500 Nancy Gish
<[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> I am about to read
> the new bio of Vivienne, and despite the immediate dismissal by many
> (in some cases prior to reading it)
Could this fall under the notion that "It is not necessary to address a
specific 'reading' in order to disagree with a way of reading or a method
BTW, it appears that all of the reviewers who dismissed the book did so,
specifically, after reading it.