A Joe Sobran Story

In Glen Arbor, Michigan Thursday, I saw Sobran Gallery, and indulged my curiosity, engaging the man who appeared to be the owner:

Me: I have to ask this. I’m a great admirer of the late Joseph Sobran, and I know he was from Michigan. Do you know if you’re related to him?

Artist (rising from his sofa): He was my brother.

Greg Sobran and I then engaged in some pleasantries, and I recounted when I met Joe, when he shared the dais with Attorney General C. Everett Koop in the early 1980s. Koop bantered that he was trying to get Joe to give up his cigars – which in my book captured a lot about both Koop and Sobran.

I knew that Joe was an amateur Shakespeare scholar, but I wasn’t ready for this:

When we were in high school, he’d hand me his volume of the complete plays, and tell me to open it randomly and read a line. Then he’d quote the next line.

“I think I’ve got it memorized,” he said, a little sheepishly. “I didn’t mean to, but I think it’s happened.”

He’d started seriously reading Shakespeare at age 9. Greg says that more and more scholars seem to be adopting Joe’s “Oxfordian theory that Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, was the true author of the plays generally attributed to William Shakespeare of Stratford-on-Avon.” (Wikipedia)

The rest of our conversation tip-toed around the issue of Joe’s alleged anti-semitism, and Greg’s perception of Joe’s world-weariness, following his banishment from the increasingly neo-con pages of National Review, preceding his death at age 64.

Joe lived too late for one to shrug off any anti-semitism by attributing it to the spirit of the age – since philo-semitism was the spirit of his age. I like to attribute it more to contentiousness accompanied by a sort of Aspie cluelessness about how much trouble contentiousness on that subject can land one in.

I lamented his death at the time and I lament it still.

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“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.