[ilds] RG Justine -- book reviewing for fun and profit

Ilyas Khan ilyas.khan at crosby.com
Tue May 29 08:15:22 PDT 2007

Michael, I am afraid that Eagleton follows right in the slipstream of a
growing tradition of reviewers from the 80's onwards who don't realise that
their lack of anything other than the most passing of acquaintances with a
book will get picked up.

I make no comment here with respect to RP - and will avoid any interpersonal
stuff between the two of you, but I do add my voice to the increasing number
of people who bemoan the standards of the English book reviewer.

On 5/29/07 10:11 PM, "Michael Haag" <michaelhaag at btinternet.com> wrote:

> In his review of MacNiven's biography of Lawrence Durrell, Eagleton
> makes a number of broad remarks about Durrell's work, expressions of
> his views on the literary worth of Durrell's poetry and novels.
> Whatever one thinks of Eagleton's points of view, these remarks offer
> no indication that he read the biography.
> I have picked out from the review the statements of fact made by
> Eagleton.  These offer the only indication that he may or may not have
> read the biography.  In every case his statements are false and can
> readily be falsified by reference to the biography.  If this is what
> people like Eagleton and Richard Pine practice in the name of book
> reviewing, it would be better if they grew turnips.
> :Michael
>>>> 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.
> -- Durrell was indeed born in India in 1912 to a successful self-made
> father.  But it is untrue that Durrell spent the rest of his life
> drifting from one fancy European hotel to another.  He lived in no
> hotels at all, except as a boy when his mother briefly lived at a
> residential hotel (which she did for economy) in south London, or
> during his first period in Corfu when looking for a home, or briefly
> when a refugee in Egypt.  He worked the whole of his life, from before
> his majority until his dying day, entirely supporting himself through
> jobs and his writing -- the exceptions being the year 1934 when he
> lived in a cottage in Sussex and the years 1936-39 when he lived in
> Corfu, and of course during these exact years he wrote three novels and
> any number of poems.  Not exactly drifting, not exactly a literary
> playboy; more like hard work.
>>>> 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. ... While
>>>> Hitler was on the rampage,
>>>> Durrell was in search of a spot more sunshine.
> -- As MacNiven's biography makes clear, this place-shifting was
> dictated by his work; furthermore Durrell attempted to join the armed
> forces while in Greece.  His positions, which were valuable ones, in
> Greece and in Egypt put him directly in the path of the invading
> Germans.  His position in Yugoslavia, not mentioned above, again put
> him in an extremely exposed position.  Not the behaviour of a shirker.
> As for the wives, well, bad luck; one had a long history of
> instability, another died.

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