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

Michael Haag michaelhaag at btinternet.com
Tue May 29 11:30:42 PDT 2007

What minimum facts?  Name the minimum facts that Eagleton gleaned from 
his reading of MacNiven's biography -- the minimum accurate facts.


On Tuesday, May 29, 2007, at 07:08  pm, Durrell School of Corfu wrote:

> 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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