[ilds] RG Justine - Eagleton

Durrell School of Corfu durrells at otenet.gr
Tue May 29 05:57:20 PDT 2007

No it does not and you are being mischievous. I am not aware that a) 
Eagleton had not read MacNiven's biography - what proof do you have of that, 
since there are numerous points in his review which indicate that he HAD 
read it? (And please remember that anyone who is a professional reviewer, 
i.e. who earns a significant part of his/her income from reviewing, as I 
myself have done, does not in fact read the whole book - how could they, if 
they reviewed 2-3 books per week and held down a 'day job'?)
b) Eagleton was a 'liar', which is what you have branded him.
I never suggested that the DSC 'stands by the integrity' of Eagleton. I am 
perfectly aware of instances in which Eagleton has been devious, but can you 
name anyone, including yourself, who is not devious/lacks integrity. Come 
off it Michael, you are a nervous nelly pretending to be  a great big/grisly 
brown bear, and it isnt convincing.
Eagleton's remarks about Durrell are pretty close to what this discussion 
group has been saying for the past few weeks - rather more incisively and 
viciously, perhaps, but nonetheless somewhat devastating to D's reputation - 
and I can't say more because I have to direct a seminar on 'The Writer's 
Reputation' in 3 days' time.
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Michael Haag" <michaelhaag at btinternet.com>
To: <ilds at lists.uvic.ca>
Sent: Tuesday, May 29, 2007 2:53 PM
Subject: Re: [ilds] RG Justine - Eagleton

> So the Durrell School of Corfu stands by the integrity of Terry
> Eagleton and his remarks about Lawrence Durrell.  Bravo.
> :Michael
> On Tuesday, May 29, 2007, at 05:34  am, Durrell School of Corfu wrote:
>> The DSC did not 'indulge a liar' - that is a shocking accusation.
>> RP
>> ----- Original Message -----
>> From: "Michael Haag" <michaelhaag at btinternet.com>
>> To: <ilds at lists.uvic.ca>
>> Sent: Tuesday, May 29, 2007 7:19 AM
>> Subject: Re: [ilds] RG Justine - Eagleton
>>> What is striking about Eagleton is his lack of integrity.  It is
>>> dishonest to pretend to review a book one has not read.  The man's
>>> knowledge of Durrell and his works is clearly nil, and yet he is happy
>>> to lie his head off, and to do so publicly in the press, and to take
>>> money for being a liar.  Nothing wrong with listening to the views of
>>> those who are critical of Durrell, but to indulge a liar because one
>>> thinks he is a 'big name' is a shocking admission.
>>> :Michael
>>> On Tuesday, May 29, 2007, at 05:06  am, Durrell School of Corfu wrote:
>>>> We wanted a big name. You don't get an audience by billing the little
>>>> people. And I did it in spite of his negative attitude to LD - and he
>>>> came
>>>> here in spite..... But as I said (or should that be Said?) it was a
>>>> disappointment.
>>>> RP
>>>> ----- Original Message -----
>>>> From: "Michael Haag" <michaelhaag at btinternet.com>
>>>> To: <ilds at lists.uvic.ca>
>>>> Sent: Tuesday, May 29, 2007 6:09 AM
>>>> Subject: [ilds] RG Justine - Eagleton
>>>>> I have just read Eagleton's review of MacNiven's Durrell biography.
>>>>> Clearly Eagleton never read the book, nor has he the remotest idea
>>>>> of
>>>>> what Durrell's life or writings were about.  Eagleton is a jerk.
>>>>> Why
>>>>> is a jerk like this presented at the Durrell School of Corfu?  I
>>>>> would
>>>>> like to hear Richard Pine explain that.
>>>>> :Michael
>>> Title: Supreme trickster.,  By: Eagleton, Terry,
>>> New Statesman, 13647431, 04/24/98, Vol. 127, Issue 4382
>>> Database: Academic Search Premier
>>> Find More Like ThisSUPREME TRICKSTER
>>> Ian MacNiven Faber & Faber, £25
>>> My old Cambridge tutor, a deeply traditionalist scholar, used to have
>>> a
>>> copy of Lawrence Durrell's novel Justine lying with casual
>>> deliberateness on his desk. The book looked suspiciously unthumbed. It
>>> was there as testimony to his (entirely spurious) avantgardeness, for
>>> in the early 1960s Durrell was one of the last words in high-brow
>>> literary experiment.
>>> These days Durrell is probably even less of a remembered name than his
>>> zoologist brother Gerald, suggesting that aardvarks linger longer in
>>> the public mind than the avant-garde. Whatever happened to this
>>> audacious aesthete?
>>> Justine is one of the volumes of Durrell's Alexandria Quartet, a
>>> monument of fake exoticism and pseudo-profundity which some of us at
>>> the time mistook for great literature. It was an adolescent taste,
>>> rather in the way only 18 year olds regard Albert Camus as a great
>>> philosopher. In those years in Cambridge some of us saw ourselves as
>>> existentialists, which just meant that as frightened youngsters away
>>> from home we weren't feeling too chirpy. Today it is known in some
>>> quarters as post-structuralism. The brittle, hot-house preciousness of
>>> the Quartet lent itself wonderfully to parody: "The city is languid
>>> tonight, its mood half-churlish, halfremorseful. The sea glints a
>>> jaded
>>> mauve, wrinkled and knotted like the veined neck of a Lebanese
>>> brothel-keeper. Sipping his sherbert, Pelagius says that love is the
>>> stale morsel we are left with when desire lapses into memory."
>>> The Durrell who carved himself a literary colony out of Alexandria was
>>> himself the son of a colonialist. Born in India in 1912, the child of
>>> an affluent engineer, he spent the rest of his life drifting like a
>>> literary playboy from one fancy European hotel to another. Part of the
>>> fag-end of cosmopolitan modernism, he shacked up in Corfu, Athens,
>>> Egypt, Rhodes, Buenos Aires, Cyprus and France, changing wives almost
>>> as often as he changed countries. Some of this placeshifting was an
>>> attempt to keep one step ahead of the second world war, which he did
>>> his aestheticist best to ignore. While Hitler was on the rampage,
>>> Durrell was in search of a spot more sunshine. He despised politics,
>>> thought Marxists "synonymous with pigs and fools", and set his
>>> thoughts
>>> instead on the eternal.
>>> As a textbook bohemian, Durrell knocked around Paris with Henry Miller
>>> and Anais Nin, and loafed about London with Dylan Thomas and a few
>>> stray surrealists, while describing his own artistic tendency as
>>> "Durrealist". Loftily contemptuous at first oft S Eliot, he changed
>>> his
>>> opinion of him overnight when Eliot, then editor at Faber, published
>>> one of his novels. He ended up as a bored, taxevading semi-recluse,
>>> dying in London in 1990 just as he was about to launch yet another
>>> marriage. Samuel Johnson's comment on such marital ventures - "the
>>> triumph of hope over experience" - has rarely been more apt.
>>> Ian MacNiven has chronicled the flittings of this literary flaneur
>>> --"Larry" to him - in 700 pages of painstaking research. The book is a
>>> model of tenacious scholarship, but as Uma Thurman remarks to John
>>> Travolta in Pulp Fiction when he announces his need to take a pee:
>>> "That's just a little more information than I needed."
>>> The trouble with biographers is the dead-levelling way in which every
>>> scrap of information about their subject becomes as important as every
>>> other. The book resounds with the sound of a gnat being blasted by a
>>> Howitzer.
>>> Durrell once described himself as a "supreme trickster", and this is
>>> surely one reason why his celebrity proved so shortlived. The
>>> glittering surface of his prose conceals an emotional anaesthesia, for
>>> which the portentously "profound" reflections of the Quartet are meant
>>> to compensate. Like many poets, his verbal sensitivity is in inverse
>>> proportion to real human sympathy, a sublimated selfishness evident in
>>> his life as much as his work. What was real was what he could
>>> exoticise, convert to mythological archetype or high-sounding
>>> platitude. His Alexandria is a country of the mind, attractive
>>> precisely because its cultural and ethnic mix makes it at once nowhere
>>> and everywhere. If he plundered Egypt for its symbolic capital, he
>>> also
>>> groused about its "stinking inhabitants". His combination of elitism
>>> and aestheticism was finally outstripped by Nabokov, another rootless
>>> emigre who happened to possess a finer literary talent.
>>> Unlike Nabokov, Joyce and D H Lawrence, Durrell was on permanent
>>> vacation rather than in artistic exile. Perhaps because he had been
>>> born outside England, his work lacks that tension between home and
>>> abroad, the pains of expatriation as well as its creative
>>> possibilities, which marks his great modernist forebears. Whereas
>>> Joyce
>>> and Lawrence spent their lives on the run from cultural traditions
>>> they
>>> knew from the inside, Durrell never experienced them in the first
>>> place. Like his life, the overbred, cosmopolitan range of the Quartet
>>> conceals a cultural shallowness. MacNiven's naively uncritical
>>> narrative seems blind to this thinness, perhaps because, like many a
>>> biographer, he forgets to stand back from the trees to give us a
>>> glimpse of the wood. "To understand Lawrence Durrell," he admonishes
>>> us, "one must go to India, physically if possible..."; but this volume
>>> is quite expensive enough.
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