James Valliant and I have been engaging in a friendly discussion about his book on Ayn Rand and the biographies/memoires of Rand's former associates, Nathaniel and Barabara Branden.
Now, as I see it, Mr. Valliant is making the following claim (I paraphrase):
"There are so many significant mistakes, ommissions, contradictions (within and among the books and with the known facts), excessive psychologizing, failure to name sources and self-serving allegations in the Brandens' works that the only explanation is that their works are deliberately dishonest."
There is nothing wrong with this approach. It's the way we normally judge credibility and juries find people guilty every day using this methodology. If I say that I was born in Salt Lake City, my father is the president of the Mormon Church, and I read the Book of Mormon every day then the only conclusion that can be drawn is that I am lying (or insane).
But this requires an analysis of the various errors and a determination of whether there are innocent explanations. At times a narrow view if required (is it a literal contradiction?) and some times a broad view (is what the Brandens say consistent with those undisputed things we know about Rand?). My reading thus far of PARC indicates that Mr. Valliant has not shown that there are deliberate fabrications. (Which isn't to say that I consider these books the last word on Rand, or even reliable.)
For example, I think that there is an innocent explantion for the mistakes about Rand's name. I suspect that Rand said something that lent credence to the Remington Rand story. I do find it interesting that Gotthelf believed this story until at least 2000. And even if he relied on Branden, one gets the impression that there was uncertainty on this issue. (Incidentally, Gotthelf says that he received comments from Harry Binswanger on "each chapter." Did the draft that Dr. Binswanger reviewed contain a discussion of the name?) Of course, I don't know what Rand told Branden on this issue and whether Branden may have misunderstood it. But Mr. Valliant doesn't know either. (If this were the only mistake in Branden's book, is the evidence so strong that the only inference to be drawn is that Branden is fabricating the origin of the name or the reason for it?)
Likewise, Branden's views on Rand's intellectual influences and the changes in We the Living do not demonstrate that she has deliberately misrepresented Rand's philosophical development. People other than Branden have said the same thing about these topics and is Mr. Valliant accusing them of lying?