Inhumane Resource Center

Twenty-five years ago, book/daddy did a little research on some marginalia that Gerard Manley Hopkins penned on a manuscript copy of one of his poems. The single piece of paper is in the Humanities Resource Center, the great archive at the University of Texas at Austin, and book/daddy wrote an article about what the musical notations (Hopkins was helping his sister set the poem to music) revealed about Hopkins' idiosyncratic poetic techniques.

The article was accepted by an academic journal -- a nifty little coup for a grad student. But then book/daddy's troubles with the HRC began. The journal wanted to run an image of the manuscript, and the HRC did a fine job throwing up roadblocks. Eventually, the journal gave up. The frustrations involved were one of several last straws in Austin that led book/daddy to exit graduate studies entirely -- "and twitch his mantle blue, tomorrow to fresh woods and pastures new."

That's all an intro for D. T. Max's fascinating backstage look at the HRC's increrdible holdings and its wheeling-and-dealing with authors. The HRC had so much money when it came to literary manuscript auctions that, it was said in the '70s, the Texans had single-handedly doubled the asking price for an author's attic garbage. As Mr. Max also mentions in his New Yorker story, the place was once a secretive outfit, which explains my running up against that particular no-publication wall. But the place has changed, although it's mostly a return to its cattle-rustling glory days, thanks to director Tom Staley, who exemplifies the kind of aggressive horsetrading Texans love.

The article's extra-added fascination, though, seems to come out of left field: Mr. Max gives the most detailed account anyone has set down of Don DeLillo's writing process (judging from multiple manuscripts and letters to fellow writers like David Foster Wallace that the HRC owns). It's the most detailed account we're likely to have until someone writes a post-mortem DeLillo bio.

Thanks to Ernie for the heads up.

June 10, 2007 11:26 PM |



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This page contains a single entry by book/daddy published on June 10, 2007 11:26 PM.

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