In response to:
Pound and Fascism from the April 1, 1976 issue
To the Editors:
I would like to respond in part to Donald Davie’s attack on my book on Ezra Pound [NYR, April 1].
Several weeks ago I myself was approached by an academic journal to review Davie’s forthcoming book on Pound, in the Modern Masters series, also published by Viking. I refused on ethical grounds: we had both, after all, written books on the same figure, both of which were published within the same period of time and both issued by the same publisher. Moreover, I had seen a review of Davie’s book in the TLS (February 6), panning it completely, referring to it as “a mini study” whose “syntax creaks and groans.” Robert M. Adams, the reviewer, describes Davie as an author who “loses sight of Pound altogether” and “seriously misreads his work.” The TLS account further points out that Davie’s premises “as poet and critic” are “not exactly sympathetic with Pound’s, nor for that matter with the now-historical ‘modernism’ of which Pound, Yeats, Joyce, and Eliot were so largely the creators.” Davie’s book (as well as the Modern Masters series) comprise (according to the reviewer) an output of “careless quickies aimed at providing material for cocktail chitchat.”
Poor as Davie’s book sounds it was at least accorded the attention of a reviewer who had no personal interest in the fate of the work. I think it is fairly obvious that this is not the case here. I do not insist on a necessarily favorable review, but I do think it incumbent on the part of the publication to at least provide an objective reviewer. NYR has been negligent in this respect in the past and continues to pander to sensationalism rather than concentrate on sound, objective journalism (the Weinstein-Smith issue is another case in point).
In any case, some corrections for the record:
(1) I was never, nor am I now, a professor of English at Stony Brook. I was merely a lecturer there, a fact which is clearly pointed out on the jacket of my book. When a reviewer uses a galley which is unrevised he runs the risk of making errors of this sort. That is precisely why almost every galley has this inscription on its cover: “Unrevised proofs. Please do not quote for publication until verified with finished book.”
(2) In accordance with the above there is no sentence in my book which refers to Eliot as having enjoyed “one of the sterling literary careers of this century.” If Davie must quote (as well as take sentences out of context) let him at least quote accurately.
(3) The phrase Davie cites from a Guest Word of mine which appeared long ago in The New York Times Book Review was not a “malapropism”; it was a misprint on the part of the Times. But why does Davie fixate on that two-year-old article? And why is he so concerned with how much or how little publicity my book was given and what terms Viking used to describe it in its advertising campaign? This sounds like rank jealousy to me.
(4) That “poor harvest” of fourteen volumes worth of FBI files, as Davie calls them, yielded some forty previously unpublished Pound letters to the likes of Mussolini, Ciano, and Mezzasoma. That fact may not be of interest to stiff-wristed Davie, but I think it of interest to other potential readers.
Enough quibbling for the time being. Let those interested in such affairs read my book as well as Davie’s latest and decide for themselves which of the two is more worthy.
C. David Heymann
New York City
Donald Davie replies:
I am sorry for crediting Mr. Heymann with a dignity that Stony Brook has not in fact accorded him. Where I called him “professor,” the correct term is “lecturer.”