|Chris, you stated:
"Except that the one reprint of that essay was by The Objectivist Center, and Nathaniel Branden indicates explicitly that he made "a few cuts." (He was not explicit about what the cuts were, but Rand herself was not fully explicit about the cuts she made to the 1959 edition of We the Living, so I'm not going to fault Branden for not providing an essay-length discussion of the cuts he actually made; the Peikoff note is only one of several.)"
What Nathaniel Branden said about the cuts he made was:
"Except for a few cuts of superfluous words or sentences, the essay is reproduced in its original form."
No one could guess that a footnote crediting Leonard Peikoff for a point that was still included in the reprint of the essay was "superfluous" or would be included in that kind of description of the cuts. Only by examining both versions could one discover that such a cut was made and no where else in the reprinted essay could one find out that Peikoff had contributed this point, so how could it be deemed "superfluous?" (For the record.)
"As for the Brandens: It's not as if none of us was aware of the Branden deceptions prior to Jim's book. And whatever you want to say about Rand's critics, there isn't a reputable scholar alive that I know who did not place the Branden books in their proper context as "first words" from witnesses who had a very personal stake in the events they described."
I'm glad they feel that way. However, I don't recall them raising the issue (at TOC or ARI!) and I think it is at least as important to make this concession in public as are the disputes about ARI removing references to the Brandens. With such deafening silence on the part of scholars who almost universally feel this way about the Brandens' books, as you say, smears like that cited on the "Ayn Rand Smeared Again" thread would have less currency, no? And ARI would have less reason to [omit] reference [to] the Brandens if their works were as universally (and publicly) characterized as unreliable from a historical perspective (except as studies of the Brandens' personal biases). As long as scholars remain silent about the serious problems in the Brandens' books, ARI has even more reason not to refer to the Brandens. Also, ARI might be more trusting of scholars outside of ARI if they showed more of the skepticism regarding the Brandens' works that you allude to.
Of course, I differ drastically from your view of the Brandens' books. Too many sweeping inferences were drawn from minutaie (dishwashing, careful cooking, marginalia, good luck charms, the single "trial" Rand attended that both Brandens reference and the occasional chuckle they evidence for her psychological authoritarianism, the anxiety about flying for the first time, etc., etc.) for me to believe they were not deliberately after an overall picture of a conflicted, hypocritical, psychological basket case whose volatile and unfair moralism inhibited them from dealing honestly with her. What you see as individual and discrete impressions honestly drawn if distorted by raw emotions, I see as an attempt to bolster a fabricated image of Rand out of dubious trivia. Not surprisingly, Rand's enemies, such as the author who wrote for Commentary, see it my way -- they immediately see the overarching caricature all of these "innocent observations" contribute to. If the Brandens were not trying to build up an overall psychological profile of Rand, the very one her critics have latched onto, then their individual observations and the conclusions they drew from them exhibit an unbelievably faulty judgement on their part, and each one of the amazing conclusions they reach from such paltry evidence just coincidentally contributes to a unified thesis. And the vast omissions from their accounts concerning the therapy sessions and what they reveal about what the Brandens were telling Ayn Rand, concerning their marriage and N. Branden's specific claims of sexual paralysis, etc., indicate more intentional crafting of their portraits that is very troublesome indeed. As much as Barbara Branden believes, as she stated on SOLO, that lying to her dying mother about the state of her marriage was appropriate, and as much as she may have felt it was important for the same reason to lie to Rand about the issue, the fact that she omitted this from her biography cannot be said to have a similar excuse, since Rand was dead by the time her book was published. I think you are confusing these lies with their motivations -- i.e., their feelings were raw and are reflected in their memories -- but raw feelings alone do not account for the next step of altering the truth that they certainly knew existed despite the emotions they were feeling. We could argue these points forever, I suppose -- but they should be argued.
(Substantive edits bracketed and bolded -- sorry, but I've had MSK trying to prove I am a hypocrite by referencing the fact that I edited posts, so, learning from his strict historical standards, I note the nature of the edit, a case of writer's dislexia, for historians. Please don't let it interrupt the flow of the sentence. -C)
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