Sunday, 12 October 2008

Who really wrote "Obama"'s Dreams from My Father? (x-posted.) Part 1: The “Argument” According to Jack Cashill—in an article first published at WorldNetDaily—Dreams from My Father was probably written by Bill Ayers. Cashill opens by demonstrating that Obama, unlike every undergraduate ever, published crap poems in a college literary journal. These crap poems “show not a glint of promise,” Cashill tells us, nor did a “heavily edited, unsigned student case comment” published in the Harvard Law Review. He then quotes an attorney consulted by Politico, who called it “a fairly standard example of the genre.” Cashill has a point here: The “temperate legal language” of “a fairly standard example” of “a heavily edited, unsigned student case comment” is completely different from the style Obama would employ a few years later in his autobiography. Cashill is right to be suspicious. Who wouldn’t write their autobiography in the temperate language of an anonymous legal brief? What style is better suited to the tale of being abandoned by a father and raised to be a black man by a white woman in the wake of the Civil Right Movements? None. But Cashill isn’t content to let the matter rest on logic. He consults an expert—in this case, Patrick Juola of the Authorship Attribution Program—and is advised to continue doing “good old-fashioned literary detective work” of the sort that’s proven the plays of William Shakespeare were written by Roger Bacon, Christopher Marlowe, William Stanley, Walter Raleigh, Edmund Spenser, or Edward de Vere. Cashill is no ordinary literary detective: in the past he has been called upon to rescue celebrity biographies, so he recognizes when someone, in this case “[w]hoever rescued Barack Obama’s Dreams from My Father[,] invest[s] considerable time to invent a distinct voice and style for an unknown author.” And who is this someone? Bill Ayers. How does Cashill know? Because the “distinct voice and style” Ayers invents for Obama “is surely Ayers’ [own].” Ayers invented a style—his own—then wrote Dreams from My Father in it. To the untrained eye, that may sound ridiculous; but as a Doctor of Philosophy of Literature, I assure you his “deconstruction” of Obama’s autobiography is sound and valid. His technical argument begins by pointing out that both Obama’s Dreams from My Father and Ayers’ Fugitive Days “are obsessed with memory and its instability.” Both address this heretofore unheard topic in the history of autobiography in a very similar style. Compare this passage from Obama: Identity is funny being yourself is funny as you are never yourself to yourself except as you remember yourself and then of course you do not believe yourself you do not really believe yourself why should you, you know so well so very well that it is not yourself. To this one from Ayers: Now it could not be yourself because you cannot remember right and if you do remember right it does not sound right and of course it does not sound right because it is not right. You are of course never yourself. The obsession with the instability of...
UC turf war: Beneath whose armpit dwells a ferocious goat?* (x-posted.) So I avoided these duties today by defending what I’d written yesterday from this. I don’t know what to make of that—the anger spills from, well, I’m not sure—but in the end, I’m blamed for present hate-mail from Atlantic readers and future hate-mail from American Conservative readers. All because I considered Jeff Goldstein’s “disinterested” disquisition on the relationship of ghostwriters to their subjects insufficiently disinterested, what with it being a series of hypotheticals about Bill Ayers ghostwriting Barack Obama’s autobiographies and all. Why would I think Goldstein’s interests weren’t disinterested? Probably because he’s been postulating this here and that there about Ayers’ relation to Obama’s relation to Alinksy’s relation to the New Left and all things radical. Admittedly, in the post I linked to—the disinterested “What If…?” about Ayers ghostwriting Obama’s memoirs—Jeff didn’t speak directly to his beliefs about Obama and the totalitarian state his victory will usher in. He spoke entirely hypothetically and disinterestedly about the sort of material James Olney wrote brilliantly about in Memory & Narrative—a book I can’t recommend highly enough, for what it lacks in the faux-theoretical sophistication of insecure blowhards it makes up with genuine, old-school erudition—except unlike Olney, whose impetus was either Beckett or St. Augustine, Jeff felt compelled to share his wholly and entirely disinterested thoughts about life-writing after reading Cashill’s hackneyed “analysis” of Ayers and Obama’s memoirs. What was I thinking, connecting what he’d been writing to months to his totally disinterested post about life-writing that just so happened to feature the same two figures who star in his drama of inevitable American decline? I’m such a liar . . . but if you can bear with me for a moment, there’s a more important topic at stake here. Jeff’s commenters have sunk to a new low: Now they’re claiming UCI is a community college. They’re making fun of the institution that made me a Doctor of Philosophy of Literature, and I won’t stand for it. I’m this close to blowing all my gaskets and— —what’s that you say? UCI isn’t the armpit of the UC system? Davis is? I suppose my gaskets are safe then. I can’t imagine anyone here taking offense to that. *Via Insult incarnate.

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