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17922Re: [mythsoc] Re: which biography?

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  • David Bratman
    Apr 4, 2007
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      At 03:13 AM 4/4/2007 -0400, WendellWag@... wrote:

      >I disagree somewhat about this. There are specific types of errors in
      >conclusions that someone who, like Wilson, isn't very well read in his
      >subject and
      >has to acquire a lot of information in a short amount of time is more likely
      >to make.

      This may be true (but I'm not entirely sure; see below). What's odd,
      though, is that of all the many critiques of Wilson's errors I've read,
      none but yours just now has made this argument. Most of the critics, as
      you've already noted, fall into the "death by a thousand cuts" approach.


      >For instance, the two boneheaded errors that were so bad that
      >Wilson (or more likely Wilson's publisher) dropped without comment from the
      >second edition of the book - the misinterpretation of the "Nazi, homosexual
      >pleasures" letter and the misunderstanding of when Douglas Gresham saw his
      >mother and Lewis in bed - are typical of fast-reading errors.

      It is curious, then, that WIlson introduces the first of those errors
      (first edition, p. 162) by writing, "It is twenty-two years since I read
      that letter, first published in Warnie's selection of his brother's
      correspondence, and on and off I have been thinking it over. At no time
      have I been able to see ..."

      Perhaps Wilson is lying about his experience reading this letter, but it
      seems an odd thing to lie about. Still, I know what Lindskoog would say.
      She'd say that WIlson is just wacko and there's no explanation for anything
      he does. (Why else does she - I think it was she who did this - cite his
      experience in a rock band as evidence of his mendacity?)


      >People who are very familiar with the work or life of their subject also
      >make errors, but they are different sorts of errors. ...
      >I think that they also have more trouble placing their subject in the
      >larger context of his time.

      Again, maybe. But I find it curious that Carpenter's "The Inklings", a
      book written in extreme haste (though based on a couple of years of
      extensive research for his Tolkien biography: still, if a couple of years
      isn't Wilsonian haste, it's not exactly a lifetime of detailed study
      either) is most flawed in exactly that area: understanding the Inklings in
      the context of their times, and in the context of their beliefs.


      >Wilson also makes errors because he wants to fit Lewis into the slots that
      >he already had established in his mind before he began his research. This
      >partly accounts for the weird Freudian readings of Lewis that Wilson does.

      If that's evidence of the quickness of Wilson's reading, then David
      Holbrook must have gone through Lewis's work in a nanosecond.

      David Bratman
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