[ilds] pilfering & Sicilian Carousel

James Gifford odos.fanourios at gmail.com
Wed May 30 11:04:16 PDT 2007


For _Sicilian Carousel_, I'd always be wary of accepting Durrell's opinions
on his own works, especially when he calls something lightweight or
pot-boiling.  _Pied Piper of Lovers_ is not a great book, but it's certainly
a serviceable book and one that can be genuinely enjoyed and read in a
literary manner -- Durrell's reasons for denegrating it lay elsewhere...

That said, from _Sicilian Carousel_, I do like "Marble Steel, Syracuse."

For plagiarism in general, and I've had the unsavoury experience of
prosecuting roughly two dozen cases of plagiarism in my classes (or perhaps
more -- roughly 5-10% of my class in each first year course I teach), I
think Durrell is after something slightly different.

I agree with Michael that there's a 'journeyman' quality to this.  Bach,
Handel, and Vivaldi were unrepentant plagiarists, stealing from themselves
and others very, very freely indeed.  That said, they often reset works
slightly, made changes to orchestration, and so forth.  That's of a
different period and a different mindset.

For Durrell, I think there's a combination.  It's expedient in fiction to
lift a set piece or historical background (the ethics of it aside), but
given Durrell's extreme awareness of textuality, what textual scholars do,
and his anticipations of being read that way (his UNESCO lectures on
Shakespeare, to my mind, make that clear), I don't think he assumed his
audience wouldn't find out.  That's also part of the game.

For instance, Michael, do you think Durrell knew you'd read _Caesar's Vast
Ghost_?  Given your interactions with him over Forster and the
Durrell-Miller letters, I think he'd be reasonably sure of that.  The two
pages worked in a journeyman fashion, but they also send scholars to your
footnotes to Forster, which leads to Durrell's "Introduction," which leads
to Durrell's own borrowings from Forster for the Quartet, which leads to...

I think that allusive  function (though not strictly speaking an allusion)
was a part of the very genuine aesthetic appeal.  Durrell did not write
books that exist apart from other books -- even _The Black Book_ is very
heavily indebted to Oscar Wilde and Djuna Barnes, though Durrell only
acknowledges Henry Miller, who I do not think was a particularly profound
influence at all...  Even in Miller's marginal notes, he marks passages that
seem "Miller-esque" but are actually in relation to T.S. Eliot.

Does that leave you more or less disappointed, Bruce?

That's my two cents...

Best,
James




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