[ilds] RG Justine 1.4 -- active reading & Justine

James Gifford odos.fanourios at gmail.com
Sat Apr 21 12:40:44 PDT 2007

Between Rita and Bill:
>> the book is there and says
>> something what is not only subjective and without being
>> something stable but in time.It does something , like a
>> spirit of place, I guess even to the author.
> I think Stanley Fish would argue that the book (or
> narrative in the book) is an artefact, and the reader
> is the archaeologist... I am in my library surrounded
> by lazy books that refuse to do anything!!

I like the image of the lazy books...  I must admit, while I'm packing mine
down to head back to Edmonton for the summer, they do very little to help
move themselves.

One observation -- Reed Way Dasenbrock (a familiar name in Durrell works)
has one of the best send-ups of Fish I've seen.  "Is there a text in this
classroom?" suggests we don't have texts, we only have communities of
readers or different readings.  Yet, in order to say the readings differ, we
must have access to them, and are those readings not themselves texts?  So,
we do have a text -- we just disagree about it.

That's why I like the idea of Durrell giving a frame, providing a direction,
or a prompt, but those big gaps in the text are there for us to fill, and I
highly doubt Durrell was keen on lazy readers.  I've seen how he read, and I
think he expected marginal interventions from the reader.

As for Rita's last word, which has vanished in Bill's new edition of her
email (I'm reminded of the missing "So that..." at the end of Justine in the
Dutton edition), she notes "Difficult..."  Where's the following noun?

Rita, you've posed, in your email, exactly the trap that I find so
compelling in Durrell: ...

Those missing gaps that become increasingly palpable as we re-read strike me
as being more than a style.  My Kant is pretty poor, but might we compare
Durrell's ethical quandary in those opening epigraphs ('talking' somewhere
between the noose of the superego or the crime of the id)?  Durrell's "talk"
seems like it assume an interlocutor, and in that assumption of an Other, it
seems the responsibility to listen and hear is born.  Does the unnamed
narrator achieve 'hearing' his others by the end of Justine?  I suspect not.
Perhaps by Clea that responsibility has been born, but in the beginning,
even the child is mute and unnamed.

And, how do we as listeners hear those palpable gaps and lacunae in the
text?  What is our responsibility to silence?  I sincerely doubt those gaps
are some kind of 'literature of exhaustion,' we might be inclined to
typically think of silence in other writers.  For Durrell, I think they are
highly fertile silences, rich as an opening in the conversations where we
are given the opportunity to speak back to the text, encouraged to do so,
learning to interrupt it when we wish, as we wish, and for whatever purpose
we wish. ~~~so long as we purchase the next book...

Just like a music score, it creates the horizon of possibility, but it
remains mute until we speak for it, and like music, as readers we listen to
our own performance, not the score itself.

But, I must get back to hefting about my lazy books.


James Gifford
Department of English
University of Victoria
Victoria, B.C., Canada

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