Tuesday, January 22, 2013


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and Beautifully Written! January 17, 2013
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If you have any interest in Melville, Moby-Dick, literary biography ... or beautiful, lucid prose, Professor Parker's magnificent new book is for you. I can't recommend it highly enough. Imagine: A brilliant scholar who can write! No wonder Parker understands Melville better than any of the many Melvillians working today--he is a fellow writer. The book is chock-full of so many illuminating and fascinating elements. Whether he is explaining to us--always so clearly and entertainingly--what he knows of Melville's hotel dinner with Hawthorne, at which HM presented one of the first copies of Moby-Dick to its deidcatee, and how he knows it, or elucidating the enormity of the cost HM (and his family) paid for his genius and it manifestation on paper, Parker is always your favorite college lecturer--wise, informed, enthused, reasoned, often funny, and empathetic. He desires to tell you why he loves Melville and why you will, too. Parker also knows the value of archival research--and the hours and miles logged during the creation of his definitive two-volume life of HM are stunning. Mr. Parker has the ability to convey the excitement of the true research scholar in the moment of "the find," as in this passage: "There will always be a few literary detectives who devote months or years to the pursuit of documents in the confidence that at last they will sit at midnight in a little bare motel room in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and turn through a big shoebox full of what looks like only bills of lading until they spy a blue folded paper, clearly a letter, a letter with the signature `Really Thine, H Melville'..."
Melville, our greatest novelist, deserves Parker, our greatest biographer. My own opinion is that Parker was robbed of the Pulitzer for Herman Melville: A Biography. Is it too much to hope that the Pulitzer committee corrects its mistake by selecting Melville Biography: An Inside Narrative for next year's prize?
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5.0 out of 5 stars Joining the Chorus of Praise January 22, 2013
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Heartily I join with Jack O'Connell in his chorus of praise for Hershel Parker's marvelous new book Melville Biography: An Inside Narrative. Much of what I would say about it to my friends he has already elegantly enumerated in his review so I won't repeat his points here, with all of which I agree. I would only add that if your subject is Melville, then like the deep-diving writer himself, you have to want more More MORE from his biographer and the only MORE biographer of Melville is Dr. Parker. That he has been attacked by the lesser "researchers" in the field for the archival-based detail-oriented biographic approach (isn't that the essence of scholarship?) is baffling to me and I don't blame him a bit for fighting back in this book with a vitriol equal to that which has been flung at him. (Who can help thinking of Moby-Dick under attack by harpoons?) But what is new here is a rare glimpse of the personal cost of scholarship, not only in regard to inexcusable reviews but to eyes and vertebrae and lungs, day after weary day bending over microfiche machines and difficult-to-decipher documents, seeking out the gold nugget that will increase our understanding of the details of Melville's life. (There is also an update on new information regarding Melville which has been found since the 2-volume biography.) I am especially pleased therefore in this book to learn something of the personal life of this matchless Melville scholar himself. In fact, what is so special about Dr. Parker's 2-volume biography about Melville is that it is all about Melville, not about Parker, whereas in most of the New Criticism biographies the subject of the biography too often is lost in the fog of the self-serving viewpoint of the biographer whose main purpose is to prove some academic/sociologic/sexual thesis. Not so with Dr. Parker who is all Melville all the time. But at least now, with the Inside Narrative, we at last see something of Hershel as well. I am personally delighted.
Robert Pratt Hastie
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Good Time Coming January 22, 2013
Parker's new book was on display at MLA in Boston earlier this month (Jan 2013), so I bought one of the copies on the spot. Much controversy surrounded Parker's earlier two-volume biography of Melville, and I wanted to see how Parker would shape his public justification in this work. The book accomplishes that, but in the larger context of Parker's own life of scholarship and continuing discoveries in Melville Biography. Parker could have published his central section, the exposure of bad scholarship and irresponsible reviewing, without going farther, but the presence of Parts I and III shows the process of scholarship and its fruits in a way that goes far beyond the structured arguments of Part II. Many years ago from Randall's DUKEDOM LARGE ENOUGH I recognized the joy of book collecting and the value of early editions to the scholar. Parker's book should stimulate an equal appreciation of the scholar's life and work at the same time he increases our appreciation of Melville's.
MELVILLE BIOGRAPHY: AN INSIDE NARRATIVE functions as both prologue and epilogue to Herman Melville: A Biography (Herman Melville: A Biography (Volume 1, 1819-1851), Herman Melville: A Biography (Volume 2, 1851-1891)), as Parker's Melville: The Making of the Poet expands his second volume of the big biography. Parker's work compares to that of the great Shakespeare scholars: E. K. Chambers, who in volume after volume established the modern understanding of Shakespeare and his theatre, S. Schoenbaum, who sorted out Shakespeare's lives, and Andrew Gurr, the modern Chambers. None of these had to deal with the resistance Parker did when presenting his profound research, including paradigm-shifting discoveries that were ignored or denied by his reviewers. Hereafter, as Melville said about a contemporary writer, "a grateful posterity will take the best care" of Hershel Parker.

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