Try listening to the real ideas and ignore vitriolic attacks

From: Will Hochman <>
Date: Thu Feb 27 2003 - 09:46:41 EST

 From the snippet of email Jim included in his post from someone whose
email I do not read, I can see that once again my point is set up as
a straw man to be attacked. I expect that kind of ignorance from the
anti-professor crowd, but I still post on this list (for now) to make
good points about ideas about Salinger and his fiction. I didn't say
reading an author's literary works is not necessary for good
biographical scholarship--that's just poor reading combined with a
vitriolic dislike for me to ineptly try to make a falacious point. I
doubt any legitimate literary biography would fail to connect the
writers fictive worlds to his actual ones. All I wanted to suggest
was a couple of insights that great teachers and writers have shown
me about literary biography.

Certainly reading all a writer has read is not necessary, but in the
case of Mitchell Leaska's work on Virginia Woolf, it enhanced his
scholarship significantly. Certainly the idea of uncovering a
writer's "true myth" is an interpretive act. Adding good ideas to
thinking about Salinger biographies is what I had hoped we would do.
Thanks Jim for your interesting post! Reading what an author read is
merely another way of acquiring biographical information--not the
only way. Jim, you are right to qualify my use of "everything" an
author read--that was Leaska's approach but I would agree that is not
only carrying the point past a practical point, it's difficult to
know. In the case of Virginia Woolf, her diaries and letters recorded
her reading life very carefully, but in the case of Salinger, we
don't know that much about his reading life. Nonetheless, we do know
several important authors for him (mentioned in his fiction and those
mentioned in some biographical scraps), and the addition of this
knowledge is likely to sharpen any literary and biographical thinking
about Salinger.


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Received on Thu Feb 27 09:46:44 2003

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