Re: franny and zooey [authorial intent, etc.]

From: L. Manning Vines <>
Date: Sun Feb 02 2003 - 01:12:55 EST

This is about ten days late, I think. Sorry about that. I'm behind (as
usual) in my in-box, and I put this off because it was so minor. If it were
less minor I think I would have responded sooner or would not be responding
at all, favoring letting it finally go. There're just two things:

First, Jim said:
<< I've said sincerely generous things about your abilities in the past, and
sincerely not so generous things about my own habits. If you don't find
_those_ in the archives, then the facts being presented your last post are a
bit too selective to be trustworthy. >>

[In case it's already been forgotten, the facts mentioned are those I posted
that I had weaned from spending time in the archives, concerning nastiness
and what I took to be trends of nastiness stretching into the relatively
distant past, and my own trend of becoming less diplomatic about it -- these
"facts" were posted for sake of demonstrating that the change was a gradual
decay of my diplomacy in interactions with Jim rather than the much more
grim change in my character that Jim suggested.]

I did find something like that in the archives (and have hazy memories of it
even without the archive). I thought they weren't relevant, though, because
I was only talking about one specific trend in one specific sort of
argument -- this trend stretching back to an argument that followed from the
first time I entered any discussion on this list. I was only talking about
what I thought was pertinent to that specific trend, and the things like
what you mention (at least all of them that I found or remember) when seen
in light of the rest didn't seem to me to be worth inclusion. A more
thorough analysis, which would include those instances, would have been far
beyond the scope of the measly paragraph or so that I meant to devote to it.

And lastly, Jim said:
<< [. . .] I'll limit myself to a repetition of two pertinent points:

1. I agree with you that there is such a thing as a stable human nature
that exists across times and cultures; i.e., we all experience rage,
maybe even for _some_similar reasons.

2. I disagree that we all understand that human nature in the same way
across time and culture. Assuming continuity of thought from Homer's
time to now about any individual facet of human nature can lead to
careless mistakes...or it can lead you in the right direction. I don't
think we can know without detailed study. >>

I'm glad that you agree with (1). Regarding (2), that doesn't really
constitute disagreement since I don't quite think that we all understand
human nature the same way across time and culture, either. My stance there
is only that there is no way of understanding human nature at one time or in
one culture that is fundamentally impossible at some other time or in some
other culture. So though we might understand something of human nature in a
very different way than did somebody far in time or space, and though in
some cases knowledge of how they understood something might be
irrecoverable, in my view, it is yet not impossible on principle for us to
come to understand the way they did. We might not ultimately prefer it, and
in some cases it might be impossible practically, but my belief is merely
that it is not impossible on principle.

I do agree that assuming continuity of thought from Homer to now can lead to
careless mistakes or can lead one in the right direction. I also agree that
we can't know without detailed study (in some cases perhaps not even then).
But I want to point out (and my desire to point this out is largely why I'm
responding to this message now rather than forgetting about it) that such
detailed study is precisely what I do most every day, and precisely what I
plan to continue doing, in various ways and using various tools, for the
rest of my life.

I am glad to end this now, and glad (even surprised) to end it on such

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Received on Sun Feb 2 01:13:22 2003

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