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This all strikes me as a Jamesian disagreement:  over words.  There is no 
such thing as a biography without interpretation.  It is an interpretation to 
decide what to put in and what to leave out.  It is an interpretation to 
arrange facts in an order.  And I think very few biographers see themselves 
as not involved in a far more intensive form of interpretation.  The many 
interpretations will create a context for evaluation, whereas mere lists of 
facts on everyone's part would never get anywhere toward understanding 
the person as far as I can see.  For example, the only thing near biography 
I ever wrote was the first chapter to the MacDiarmid book.  But I do know 
that having interviewed everyone I could find who was still living and had 
known Chris meant I had a vast context of awareness that no one could 
have without doing that.  So simply listing "facts" about him would have 
created a "fiction."
Nancy 




Date sent:      	Thu, 8 Mar 2001 20:58:04 +0100
Send reply to:  	[log in to unmask]
From:           	"Arwin van Arum" <[log in to unmask]>
To:             	<[log in to unmask]>
Subject:        	RE: Eliot's letters--Gordon's Biography

My point, and probably Ken's too, is that I'd rather have a biography
that's a quarter the size, which sticks to the facts and leaves out the
interpretation. I know that some people are specifically interested in
interpretation of lives, but I am not, and certainly not by people with a
decent grounding in cognitive and other forms of modern psychology (which
is to say of the last 20 years). I'd much rather have the facts speak for
themselves so that I can use them as I please whilst interpreting a poem
or a poet.

Notice that I did say that Gordon had more facts than Akroyd. I just wish
that they'd have been more accessible. A CD-ROM would have been a great
help here - she could have listed all the facts, and attach
interpretations for those who are interested. That would leave the reader
with the choice to read around them. Now, when you (or, in this case, I)
really disagree with the interpretations, or just plainly don't like them,
they tend to get disproportionally annoying. For the Eliot site I
extracted facts about Eliot up to 1922 that I thought were interesting
from both biographies and to get the interesting morsels from Gordon took
a lot of sifting.

Interpretations are for me fiction by default. It's perhaps hard to say
what interpretations really are, but since I won't call them fact, I tend
to rather harshly call them fiction. That's perhaps not really fair -
there is probably a smooth line between fact and fiction, and each
individual interpretation is somewhere along that line, sometimes closer
to fact, sometimes closer to fiction. I only read the most recent version
of the biography, and a lot of the interpretation part of that massive
work I simply don't buy - although then again I bought the book anyway ...
;-)

Arwin


> Dear Ken,
>
> As I don't know Gordon but am greatly impressed by her scrupulous
> pursuit of every shred of available information, and as I am more prone
> to think her unduly deferential to TSE's self-created legacy (in the
> first two books especially), I am very interested in what
> --specifically--you disagree with and what you know about her as a
> source that I don't.  Is there some reason to see her as not scrupulous
> or as prejudiced?  Why is she a less reliable source than, say, Ackroyd?
>
> Nancy
>
> Date sent:      	Wed, 7 Mar 2001 14:00:56 -0500
> Send reply to:  	[log in to unmask]
> From:           	Ken Armstrong <[log in to unmask]>
> To:             	[log in to unmask]
> Subject:        	RE: Eliot's letters--Gordon's Biography
>
> Message-ID: <[log in to unmask]
> >
> Priority: NORMAL
> X-Mailer: Execmail for Win32 Version 5.0.1 Build (55)
> MIME-Version: 1.0
> Content-Type: Text/Plain; charset="us-ascii"
>
> Dear Nancy,
>
>  Interesting, makes me think of my old favorite Katherine Anne Porter
>  who,
> like many others, described fiction as creating lies to tell the truth.
> I do see your point, but if I disagree with Gordon's interpretation, it
> is because I think it is not true, and if I think it is not true, I
> guess I'm stuck if someone says I'm calling it a fiction--how can I
> disagree--though that kind of fiction may not (is all but cerainly not)
> her conscious intention.
>
>  In the end, I think her work is seriously flawed. It seems to me not
>  more
> nuanced in its "Imperfect Life" manifestation, but more polarized in its
> own proclivities (it was polarized more than enough in its previous
> manifestations). To anyone who would conclude something about TSE based
> on her work, I would have to say "Consider the source." That doesn't
> dismiss it; it puts in (I would say) a better (truer) perspective.
>
>  Ken
>
> On Wed, 7 Mar 2001 10:00:08 -0500 Nancy Gish
> <[log in to unmask]>
> wrote:
>
> > Dear Ken,
> >
> > Interpretation is not fiction.
> > Calling her work "fiction" is dismissive. What fascinates me is that
> > her first two books were so cautious and admiring, and she only moved
> > to a more nuanced and mixed mode in the third.  But even if one does
> > not agree with her interpretation, it is valid interpretation, not
> > fiction. Nancy
> >
> > Date sent:      	Wed, 7 Mar 2001 10:55:47 -0500
> > Send reply to:  	[log in to unmask]
> > From:           	Ken Armstrong <[log in to unmask]>
> > To:             	[log in to unmask]
> > Subject:        	RE: Eliot's letters--Gordon's Biography
> >
> > Message-ID: <[log in to unmask]
> > >
> > Priority: NORMAL
> > X-Mailer: Execmail for Win32 Version 5.0.1 Build (55)
> > MIME-Version: 1.0
> > Content-Type: Text/Plain; charset="us-ascii"
> >
> >
> >
> > On Tue, 6 Mar 2001 21:04:49 -0500 Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]>
> > wrote:
> >
> > > I do not understand on what possible basis you can judge Gordon's
> > > meticulously researched material "fiction."  It is consistently
> > > based on cited material, and--more signicantly--Gordon has now done
> > > three biographies that have gone over and over parallel ground with
> > > exacting care.  It is simply not possible to dismiss
> >  Nancy,
> >
> >   But no one is dismissing Gordon; just pointing out that her
> > interpretation of Eliot's life is still that, an interpretation. There
> > are citations, and then there are the selection and presentation of
> > citations.
> >
> >
> >  Arwin says explicitly that she excels in facts. It is what she has
> > done with them that raises eyebrows. She has cut Eliot's life to fit
> > her prejudices. That, too, should not be dismissed.
> >
> >  Ken
> >
> >
>
> Ken Armstrong
> [log in to unmask]
>
>
>