Everybody mocks the 70s now, and no one does it better than Lawrence Rainey, the scholar who has finally put together the drafts of THE WASTE LAND and once and for all proved in what order the poem was written.
But in the 1970s, when Valerie Eliot, T.S.'s widow, published the original draft of THE WASTE LAND with Pound's emendations, gave birth to a whole crew of scholars who, as Rainey shows through painful example after painful example, got just about everything wrong you could possible imagine and a few things you can't. Valerie had illustrated her edition with as many facsimile pages as possible of the 1920-2 manuscript. Everyone took a look at what appeared to be three different typewriters with different keys--a real giveaway was the capital letter "T" on one of the typewriters, a T that jumped up a little as though in fright every time the key was tapped. Without consulting the original papers, and just going by the reproductions Valerie Eliot had given the world, these scholars went to town constructing their own Bizarro World timelines and triumphantly "proving" that Part V was created before Part III and so forth.
These poor schnooks, Hugh Kenner and Grover Smith, are the straw men of REVISITING THE WASTE LAND, and Lawrence Rainey seems to delight in tearing them new ones with his velvet glove treatment. About Lyndall Gordon, who perpetrated some of their same mistakes seven years later, Rainey is even more waspish. She wrote, "It is impossible, so far, to date the Hieratica cluster exactly, but 1918 seems a reasonable guess." To which Rainey replies, "The guess is just that, a guess, and it is bu no means a reasonable one." Ronald Bush also gets it in the neck when he follows Gordon's crazy dating to "make an argument about Eliot having programmatic intentions [for THE WASTE LAND] which later 'fell away.'"
Basically Rainey discovered that you had to go to the libraries and museums and see these drafts for yourself and you had to follow the watermarks, for stingy Eliot would buy a single pack of typing paper and would use every page on it, and simultaneously to the composition of THE WASTE LAND he would use the next blank piece for writing a letter to his wife or his friends or whomever, and because these letters (and other miscellaneous prose by TSE) would usually be dated down to the very day, you could pretty much tell when any particular passage in the poem was typed. Voila, it all seems so simple when he tells it, and he makes it the most interesting story in the world. I don't know if I'm as sanguine as he, that THE WASTE LAND retains its status as the single greatest long poem written in the twentieth century, but his book is delightful throughout and will appeal to many, esepcially those of us who like seeing bad scholarship get the screws put to it.