Melville, Warren, Milch

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Stephen Hoy

Dec 27, 2008, 3:33:44 PM12/27/08
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I know a wind in purpose strong--
It spins against the way it drives.
- Herman Melville. "The Conflict of Convictions." Battle-Pieces and
Aspects of the War. 1866. Lines 63-4.

64. See "Misgivings" lines 12-14. In the brilliant metaphor here, we
have one of the ideas, or ironies, that dominate Battle-Pieces--the
idea that there may "be a strong necessity" which underlies history.
The same idea appears in Clarel (II, iv, 106-8).
- Robert Penn Warren. "Notes on the Text." Selected Poems of Herman
Melville. (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1998) 353.

Like the best of Warren's works, Milch's finest creations, especially
Deadwood, employ a distinctive, divers, and mannered style to
delineate a harshly naturalistic vision of the dark and divided depths
within the American national character, an identity simultaneously and
paradoxically both innocent and corrupted.
- Joseph Millichap. "Robert Penn Warren, David Milch, and the Literary
Contexts of Deadwood." South Carolina Review 38.2 (Spring 2006).

MILCH: One question that probably occurs here is, who is God's
instrument? Melville said that any good poem spins against its drive.
I think any good scene does that, and all human behavior as well.
Hawthorne said that man's accidents are God's purposes. We miss the
good we seek and do the good we little sought. Why Swearengen thinks
he does it and why God wants him to do it might be totally different
- Interview of David Milch by David Thornburn. "tv's great writer"
Edited summary of appearance at Bartos Theater 20 April 2006. MIT
Communications Forum. website visited 22 Dec 2008.

David [Milch] told me once doing a different scene, what he--and I'm
going to completely f[ra]k this up and bastardize what he said, but he
was, he was sort of quoting Melville, I think--he's one of his
favorite authors--who'd said something like, "the only good scene"--or
now--"a good scene is about the opposite of what it appears to be"--
and he really adhered to that belief, and uh--I forget that sometimes,
and the thing, after the fact, you see it, and like "Oh! I get it now,
I don't know why I was so resistant to it."
- Garret Dillahunt. Audio commentary for "E.B. was Left Out,"
Deadwood, Season 2 Episode 7. Disk 3, counter 03222-03257. (HBO,

The scene is often about just the opposite of what you think it is. It
usually angles toward, I think, pain and conflict in the characters,
and even in guessing along those lines, you're often wrong as to what
he wants.
- John Hawkes. "Trusting the Process, with David Milch," Deadwood
Season 2. Disk 6, counter 02046-02099. (HBO, 2006.)

David said how much he loves Melville, and that Melville had said "The
only truly great scene is actually about the opposite of what it
appears to be about. And that's really what I feel happens every time
we come to work here. And he'll come in and say, "Here's what's
psychologically going on" and I go "OH! That's the opposite of what I
thought even, and that's even better than just playing it straight!"
- Garret Dillahunt. "Trusting the Process, with David Milch,"
Deadwood Season 2. Disk 6, counter 02105-02126. (HBO, 2006.)

The emblematic speech of the series occurs in the fifth episode of the
first season. It’s a funeral oration for Wild Bill Hickok, who was
murdered during a poker game in Deadwood in 1876. The speaker, a
radiant but seemingly demented preacher who is himself doomed by a
brain tumor, elaborates on St. Paul’s first Epistle to the
Corinthians: “St. Paul tells us from one spirit are we all baptized
into one body, whether we be Jew or Gentile, bond or free, and have
all been made to drink into one spirit. For the body is not one member
but many. He tells us: ‘The eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no
need of thee; nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of thee.’
Nay, much more those members of the body which seem to be more
feeble . . . and those members of the body which we think of as less
honorable—all are necessary. He says that there should be no schism in
the body but that the members should have the same care one to
another. And whether one member suffer all the members suffer with
- Mark Singer, "The Misfit: How David Milch got from “NYPD Blue” to
“Deadwood” by way of an Epistle of St. Paul." The New Yorker, 14 Feb
2005. website visited 27 Dec 2008.

I delight in the law of God after the inward man. But I see another
law in my members, warring against the law of mind and bringing me
into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
- Romans 18:24
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