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return to the beginning and to that troublesome little four-letter word "fact" that in the subtitle lies between "fiction" and "form." Nabokov once wrote, having used the word "reality," that it is "one of the few words which mean nothing without quotes." It is to be remarked that quotation marks surround "facts" in the passage above and one suspects that "fact" is, for Nadel, one of those words like "reality" for Nabokov. But to what degree-I would like to conclude by putting the question to Mr. Nadel—is the biographer free to alter, transform, transcend "fact' in the biographical performance? Orlando is one of the works that receives high.marks in Biograpny for its handling of "fact," but are there really many readers, whether common or uncommon, who would find Virginia Woolf's book very satisfactory as a biography? Or put the question in other terms with a different example: When it is revealed that the episode in Richard Wright's Black Boy of Uncle Hoskins driving a wagon into the river is not something recalled by Wright from his childhood but was rather a story told to him by Ralph Ellison only very naive readers, I believe, are troubled by the revelation. However, were a biographer to present this story in a Life of Richard Wright as an event in Wright's life, knowing all the while that it never happened to the young Wright but was instead an anecdote heard in adulthood, I imagine that even very sophisticated readers would find it troubling. I wonder if Nadel's very considerable sophistication could accommodate something of this sort without any theoretical flinching. Is fact not a good deal more stubborn, a good deal more dangerous, also, and demanding of recognition and perhaps even honor, for the biographer than for the autobiographer? And can we therefore~in fact—adopt quite the same terms for discussing the one sort of writing as we employ for the other sort? These are questions, however, that one addresses to Mr. Nadel only because he has succeeded, more fully than anyone else, in raising the critical and theoretical discussion of biograpny to an altogether new level: For that he deserves much Eraise but proper praise can only be in the form of questions that he himself as raised. James Olney Louisiana State University 2. THOMAS HARDY'S LIFE AND POETRY Thomas Hardy. The Life and Work of Thomas Hardy, ed. Michael Millgate. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1985. $35.00. The Complete Poetical Works of Thomas Hardy. Volume II. Satires of Circumstance, Moments of Vision, Late Lyrics and Earlier. Volume 111. Human Shows, Winter Words, Uncollected Poems, ed. Samuel Hynes. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1984, 1985. $47.50 and $49.00 It is becoming clear that the main achievements in Hardy studies in the years since Macmillan lost copyright to the works have been textual and biographical rather than critical. As genuine scholarly editions of the major novels and poetry appear and the letters expand in inverse ratio to the span of Hardy's remaining years, as the various notebooks are given reliable transcription and annotation and a biography that comes close to giving a month by month reading of the life offers a version of Hardy conspicuously more convincing than any of its predecessors, criticism could be forgiven for seeming a touch subdued by 431 the shadow of authoritative scholarship in which it now rests. In the fullness of time, criticism itself will be the main beneficiary of all this energy. In retrospect the seventies and eighties may well stand out as the period in which Hardy achieved genuine canonic integrity. The first of the present volumes is a valuable and somewhat unpredictable part of that process. It offers, under the original title, the version of his life that Hardy intended us to have, however duplicitously he went about consigning it to posterity. There is no surprise that it should come from Michael Millgate, who has established himself during the last decade as the most assured voice that Hardy biographical scholarship has, although there is some in that the American publisher is the University of Georgia Press. Despite a Î)rominent typographical error...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 431-435
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived
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