Sunday, November 15, 2009

Not that Myers

Cynthia Crossen’s generous mention of A Commonplace Blog in the Friday edition of the Wall Street Journal briefly drove my traffic above two thousand readers. Another thousand clicked over on Saturday, which never happens: regular readers know that nothing new is to be found here on the Jewish sabbath.

Responding to a question from a reader who asked about “the best blogs/bloggers who focus on books,” Crossen says that she first encountered my writing in a “blistering critique of the ‘self-conscious, writerly prose’ of ‘serious fiction’ in Atlantic magazine,” but this was actually written by another Myers altogether—B. R. Myers of Dongseo University. I see from his Wikipedia entry that that Myers is a “supporter of the Green Party (United States), animal rights, and veganism.” Nothing could be further from my own political sympathies. Pave Paradise, and pass the barbecued brisket.

Being mistaken for another Myers is something I’m used to. In 1992, Harper Collins reprinted my Commentary essay on college sports in The Writer’s Library. For the first time in my career, I received the full biographical treatment:

DAVID G. MYERS (1942– ) received a Ph.D. in religion from the University of Iowa in 1966 and began his teaching career as an assistant professor of psychology at Hope College in Holland, Michigan, where he is now a full professor. In addition to the 1978 Gordon Allport Prize from the American Psychological Association that he was for his research on group polarization, Myers has written several books: The Human Puzzle: Psychological Research and Christian Belief, 1978; The Inflated Self: Human Illusions and the Biblical Call to Hope, 1980; Social Psychology, 1983; and Psychology through the Eyes of Faith, 1984. Myers also has contributed articles to Psychology Today, Science Digest, Christianity Today, and Christian Century.I have always wondered whether any teacher ever encouraged her students to consider the essay, in which a 38-year-old Jew marveled that “universities continue to have anything to do with sports,” as the expression of a 48-year-old’s Christian belief. I don’t know why, since the contract I signed was mailed to me at Texas A&M University rather than Hope College, but the editors of the Harper Collins textbook assumed that this Myers wrote my essay.

It’s enough to make a man change his name to Mark Helpern.

At all events, a belated welcome to readers of the Journal. Please don’t be disappointed if my attitude toward “self-conscious fiction” is more ambivalent than B. R. Myers’s, although he and I may agree about seriousness.


Guy Pursey said...

I'm an admirer of B.R. Myers' criticism too and read the manifesto you linked to a few years back. I still disagree with what he has to say about White Noise because he seems to disregard the fact that it's written in the first person, but it's a brilliant and funny piece of criticism nonetheless.

You'd probably agree with each other about Toni Morrison too. Other than that, I find it hard to see how anyone could get you mixed up, if they looked beyond the name!

I can't imagine why anyone would want to "pave paradise" though, if I properly understand what you say. And a brisket's still a section of cadaver, barbecued or not, so I think I side firmly with B.R. on those matters...


Unknown said...

Could be worse. There was a Miriam Burstein stalking Sean Hannity a few years back (which prompted me to issue a rapid disclaimer on my blog!).

D. G. Myers said...

It has been worse. When I was in graduate school at Northwestern, another David Myers was arrested in Chicago for child molestation. The graduate director asked (ha! ha!) if I were he.