[ilds] Time and Justine

slighcl slighcl at wfu.edu
Tue May 29 14:14:05 PDT 2007

On 5/29/2007 3:57 PM, Bruce Redwine wrote:

>Way back on 5/25/07, aeons of discourse ago, Ed Hungerford wrote a query about time in Justine.  He found some difficulties or inconsistencies in Durrell's time scheme.  Despite the Quartet being about "space and time," I'm beginning to think Durrell was just being careless, not in the negligent sense, but literally he "cared not" about the Fourth Dimension.  Which is really my sense of time in the Quartet.  It's really quite timeless, strangely timeless, which is not the right word, maybe something closer to atemporality in the midst of a particular spot in time.  Anyone else feel this way?
I will agree that in the sense that at this later stage in my reading of 
/Justine /I tend to allow it all to be pretty impressionistic, to enjoy 
the novel as a tidelike wash of flux and reflux.  I used to go in for 
sleuthing and mapping out the intricacies of narrative and time.  That 
attracts me less these days.   So when Justine and Darley  pause at the 
Summer Palace in order to discuss Pursewarden's suicide as if we all 
already understood what had happened, I note the momentary trembling of 
my curiosity and unknowing but then go right back to the immediate 
moment.   (The art of pretence: as if I had not been right there before.) 

Some of that preference comes from a surfeit of -ims--whether modernism, 
postmodernism, or what have you.   I simply could not hear and enjoy 
/Justine /anymore.  Some of that preference is an aesthetic sensibility 
shaped by my preference for poetry over narrative fiction.  When I read 
for my own pleasure, I do not require that /Justine /has anything more 
than music for me.   Sometimes I discover that a sound and shape washes 
up some surprising notion, carried into the text from Durrell's readings 
in history or philosophy or letters.   If I pick up some line or phrase 
that catches my fancy in that way, a little piece of drift carried to me 
out from the "real world," I know that I can turn to a number of 
scholars, historians, and biographers who can help me understand as need 
be.  There is much good work there, and I am pleased to know some of 
those workers.

I know that you and others will recognize the following passage, Bruce, 
but what I am talking about in regard to how I read /Justine /today in 
2007 (versus 1997 or 1987) stems from my interest in Durrell's 
Aesthetic, his (early) characteristic style and sensibility of words, 
and my attempt to forget a great deal of clutter that I have gone 
through.  Does anyone else recall Durrell's best chapter opening?

>         The sea's curious workmanship: bottle-green glass sucked
>         smooth and porous by the waves: vitreous shells: wood stripped
>         and cleaned, and bark swollen with salt: a bead: sea-charcoal,
>         brittle and sticky:  fronds of bladder-wart with their greasy
>         marine skin and reptilian feel: rocks, gnawed and rubbed:
>         sponges, heavy with tears: amber: bone: the sea. 
>         ("Ionian Profiles," /Prospero's Cell/)
Again, that is what I value as pattern and craft and sensibility when I 
read /Justine /and /Prospero's Cell &c. /for pleasure in 2007.  It is in 
a sense an extension of my current concentration on tracking and editing 
Durrell's composition process for the /Quartet /in notebook, typescript, 
and print.  It is at present somewhat willfully myopic--my other 
teaching and writing centers on Victorian Poetry, not modernist 
texts--and it in no way precludes the other approaches to reading and 
discussing Durrell.   For example, I am most interested at all times in 
what Jamie and Beatrice and Michael teach me when we meet and talk.   
None of them pursues Durrell in quite the same way.   I think what I 
value is ardency and focus and whatever opens up the conversation, 
rather than closes it.

I would be interested to hear how other readers of Durrell have found 
their reading experiences to change over time.  My twenty-years is not 
so very long compared to most of you.  Bruce has spoken of reading 
Durrell in a 1958 moment.  Who else?  Ed?  Brewster?  Ilyas? Anna?  What 
is it all about for you now?


Charles L. Sligh
Department of English
Wake Forest University
slighcl at wfu.edu

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