[ilds] Durrell's Cut and Paste?

Denise Tart & David Green dtart at bigpond.net.au
Fri Jun 8 15:47:29 PDT 2007


As well as all the other things Durrell was; drinker, thinker, eccentric civil servant etc, etc, he was a professional writer and, apart from the odd jobs he had from time to time, his income came from the stories he sold. Now, when I working freelance years ago, I was told (advised) by a couple of magazine editors to minimise the cost it takes to get a story. Use the phone not the car, don't re-invent the wheel, so to speak, avoid cliches and write stuff people want to read. I wrote a big story on the mushroom industry west of Sydney without leaving my office (not that you'd want to read that!)

Durrell was well aware of the formula for 'pot boilers' and admitted to writing a couple, but what he does is add a uniquness to them (avoiding cliches) based in his own experience and reflections - on his time in Corfu and on his time in Rhodes and later Cyprus. he combines memories of the people and landscapes that he experienced in those places and intermingles them with ready to hand scholarship on the history and the cullture of the places he spent time in (as opposed to traveling to a location specifically to write about it). If you are a writer this saves time and effort. You write about the interesteing things you experienced while there, paint a poetic picture of the lanscape and read up on and present histories of the place and its culture for the reader. 

With his island books and perhaps with his novel cycles this style of writing enabled Durrell to write without moving beyond the comfort of home, library and tavern. Notoriously money conscious, this method saved time and money on the writing process. If his memories of, for example, the evening play of Karaghiosis in Prospero's Cell, or the Festival of Soroni in Reflections on a Marine Venus, were a little vague due to say an excess of wine, he could always read up on the festival and flesh out the experience from that.

What make Durrell so good is the strength of his personality, his keen eye for an interesting angle, his deep, almost painterly eye for spirit of place and the skillful way he blends personal experience with history and cultural empathy. I always feel I am in Greece living as he did and that the count D and Gideon are my fiends also and that I too have drunk conjac under the tree of idleness.

Denise Tart & David Green
16 William Street, Marrickville NSW 2204

+61 2 9564 6165
0412 707 625
dtart at bigpond.net.au
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