|Debating trivia like the typewriter story makes for a great way to waste time, but there is an important point here, which is one Michael raised with his quote from Greek Fire: people place waaay too much confidence on individual sources of biographical information. No offense intended to Barbara, but I'm surprised that anyone wouldn't expect her book to have scads of mistakes and biased perspectives. She isn't a professional historian, and she had a long personal history with the subject of her book. A future academic evaluating sources from a distance would naturally look on such a work with some suspicion, wondering how much of it is based on research vs. (notoriously unreliable) personal recollection, and how the writer's personal feelings might have skewed her treatment of the subject. We should wonder the same things, and read accordingly. This is basic historiography: sources should be approached carefully, not with naive trust.|
In this respect, Valliant (and other critics who take the same tack) does himself a disservice by attributing the flaws of Barbara Branden's book to malice instead of more ordinary failings. I think he presents relatively good evidence that Nathaniel Branden was a real S.O.B. in his treatment of Rand, moreso than NB has admitted in his own writings. But by dragging in trivia like the typewriter story and trying to trump each little item into a case of intentional lying, Valliant undercuts his own credibility.