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

Durrell School of Corfu durrells at otenet.gr
Tue May 29 11:08:00 PDT 2007

This is ridiculous. Professional reviewers (of which I was one in the 
1970s-80s) must skim other than the most notable titles otherwise they can't 
do the work they are paid for (another topic we shall be addressing next 
week without any input from the ILDS). It is obvious that Eagleton couldnt 
possibly have acquired the minimal facts unlesss he had skimmed MacNiven. 
Eagleton (for whom, I repeat, I hold no candle) was not 'shabby and 
dishonest' - he just wrote what he felt about LD - is that so wrong? 
Opinions please,.
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Michael Haag" <michaelhaag at btinternet.com>
To: <ilds at lists.uvic.ca>
Sent: Tuesday, May 29, 2007 6:37 PM
Subject: Re: [ilds] RG Justine -- book reviewing for fun and profit

> I have only mentioned Richard Pine in the same breath because he
> himself did -- he said that reviewers like himself and Eagleton did not
> have the time to read entire books when reviewing them but he insisted
> that Eagleton did at least skim MacNiven's book.  I can find no
> evidence of that in the review.  If Pine equates his own efforts with
> those of Eagleton's, and if he finds that sort of thing excusable, then
> he is asking for the sort of reply I gave.  I have also reviewed books,
> and I would be ashamed to turn in anything as shabby and dishonest as
> that.
> :Michael
> On Tuesday, May 29, 2007, at 04:15  pm, Ilyas Khan wrote:
>> 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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