--On Sunday, January 27, 2002 10:49 AM -0500 Nancy Gish
<[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> Dear Ken,
> What is the "way" of reading that is at stake here?
I don't think that that is relevant to my question, for which, if I may,
I'd like to have an answer before proceeding beyond it.
The quotation is of one of your posts. If you stand by it, it cannot then
be selectively applied, as you seem to be doing when you notice that "some"
have dismissed the Seymour-Jones book without having read it. After all,
that is what your principle calls for: "It is not necessary to address a
specific 'reading' in order to disagree with a way of reading or a method
of criticism." It seems to me premature to discuss the specific "way"
until the rules of discussion are agreed upon.
> Separately, I have just read two chapters, and Seymour-Jones has done
> her homework. She also can write.
It is interesting, then, that in the reviews of the book mentioned on
this list it is exactly that she has not done her homework that is the
criticism, with examples cited. Just out of curiosity: have you read those
reviews? They mention specific flaws (misrepresentations, out of ignorance,
of facts)in just the area that you point to now as a strength. Are they
mistaken? If they aren't, I am tempted to think you are simply expressing a
preference in opining that she "has done her homework."
> 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.
I agree in part, with the second sentence above, and find the expression
"a way of looking at the material" enchanting. But I do not see why a
reviewer should not point out that her "way of looking at the material"
includes serious errors of fact, and that these errors make the other
component you mention, her speculative conclusions, highly suspect or
simply lacking in credibility. I don't think that constitutes dismissal; it
seems rather more like recognition and discernment, what one hopes to get
from a review.
> Reviewers are human beings.
I agree in whole. Ditto biographers.
> They give one a base to work from.
> So their value [reviewers'] is to
> present what was written and their position on it, not to establish
> final truth.
Let us hope, too, that the above applies also to biographers. I'd hate to
think that some unsuspecting person would wade into any biography of
anybody on a mission to read "final truth." A scary thought, that.
> Most people now think those reviewers [the early negative reviews of TWL]
were > just wrong and did not recognize genius. I share that view.
I am heartened to read that. Some day, in all sincerity, I hope you will
share that enthusiasm. In the meantime, I would be satisfied just to know
that I could legitimately employ your principle, i.e. that it is as
legitimate for me to employ as it is for you.
> They had, however, read the poem,
> and they were distinguished commentators in serious journals or papers.
One wonders as to the propriety of "distinguished" and "serious" here. As
my parents often told me, just because it is in print does not make it
true. Some things don't change.