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Re: [mythsoc] Re: which biography?

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  • WendellWag@aol.com
    In a message dated 4/4/2007 1:46:27 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time, dbratman@earthlink.net writes: Factual sloppiness is not limited to fast workers. And whether
    Message 1 of 6 , Apr 4, 2007
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      In a message dated 4/4/2007 1:46:27 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time,
      dbratman@... writes:

      Factual sloppiness is not limited to fast
      workers. And whether Wilson worked quickly or slowly, it doesn't prove
      that he was wrong on the bigger points.


      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. They tend to read strange meanings into innocent events or
      writings because they don't stop to reread or reconsider how out of character such
      misreadings are. 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.

      People who are very familiar with the work or life of their subject also
      make errors, but they are different sorts of errors. It's not just that they
      tend to treat the work and life of their subject too kindly, although that
      often happens. It's also that they are so familiar with the contours of the
      subjects work and life that they fail to notice the internal contradictions in
      them. I think that they also have more trouble placing their subject in the
      larger context of his time.

      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. I'm
      not just complaining that his readings made Lewis look bad. A careful
      psychological reading of Lewis, with some actual consulting of psychological texts,
      might or might not look more favorablely on Lewis, but it certainly wouldn't
      find it necessary to fit him in some narrow psychological category.

      Wendell Wagner



      ************************************** See what's free at http://www.aol.com


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    • David Bratman
      ... 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
      Message 2 of 6 , 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
      • WendellWag@aol.com
        ... In a message dated 4/4/2007 10:51:22 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time, dbratman@earthlink.net writes: If that s evidence of the quickness of Wilson s reading,
        Message 3 of 6 , Apr 4, 2007
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          In reply to my comment:

          > 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.

          In a message dated 4/4/2007 10:51:22 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time,
          dbratman@... writes:

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



          I expressed myself badly in my last post about this. I was saying that this
          is one additional sort of error that Wilson makes, not that it was
          necessarily typical of the sort of errors that biographers who work quickly tend to
          make.

          Wendell Wagner



          ************************************** See what's free at http://www.aol.com


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        • WendellWag@aol.com
          In a message dated 4/4/2007 10:51:22 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time, dbratman@earthlink.net writes: This may be true (but I m not entirely sure; see below).
          Message 4 of 6 , Apr 4, 2007
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            In a message dated 4/4/2007 10:51:22 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time,
            dbratman@... writes:

            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.



            Also, a lot of the reaction to Wilson's book among long-time readers of
            Lewis was in reply to the way that mainstream literary outlets seemed to be
            giving a pass to Wilson. It was as though the mainstream reviewers had been
            saying, "Wilson writes very polished prose, has a major literary reputation, makes
            some snide comments that I find funny, and has a lot of glib opinions which
            fit my worldview already." The mainstream literary world seemed to be
            accepting Wilson and dismissing other opinion about Lewis because Wilson was one of
            their own. In reaction, long-time readers of Lewis dismissed Wilson because
            he wasn't one of their own.

            Wendell Wagner



            ************************************** See what's free at http://www.aol.com


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