[ilds] the great duck shoot

slighcl slighcl at wfu.edu
Fri Jun 15 13:16:12 PDT 2007


On 6/15/2007 1:21 PM, william godshalk wrote:

>We have mentioned the duck shoot briefly -- and then the ducks done 
>disappeared. Am I wrong in believing that most Durrellians think the 
>shoot is the climax of the novel? Or if not the climax, then one of 
>the most important parts of the novel?
>
>But why is it important? 
>
>  
>
I think that the Duck Shoot stands out on narrative and aesthetic 
merit.  I like the sudden sharpened focus of purpose in the narration of 
these murky dealings.  In the previous episodes the reader has had to 
navigate among the shifting floors of Nessim's paranoia and historical 
dreams; the interwoven, simultaneous narratives of Melissa's time with 
Nessim / Darley's moments with Justine (that stitching is finely done! 
sorry I am out at the Morgan Library in NYC and don't have my copy of 
/Justine /for episode #); and all of the Durrellian retrospect and mixed 
temporality that comes before those episodes.  Then, like a burden 
lifting and a reckoning made ready for, there comes the sudden release 
of the Duck Hunt.  

Nessim's narrative control is palpable for Darley.  It is "Nessim's Duck 
Shoot" because he has outlined and orchestrated it.  Darley's has signed 
himself over to Nessim's control when he sends back the card.  Nessim 
divides the hunters and separates the lovers.  From my memory I am 
recalling the allotment of the guns and the talk late in to the night.  
Especially fine is Nessim's touch upon Darley to wake him in the 
morning--what might be sinister in that touch is also gentle, even 
sympathetic and knowing, in that masculine way that used to characterize 
all of the little scrupulous acts of hunting back in the days.  If you 
come from an old hunting tradition I suppose that you will recognize 
what Durrell gets right here.  The care, the piety, and the gentleness 
of the hunter for the prey.  (Darley feels that he will shortly be 
sitting in Nessim's sights.  Nessim has placed him in a "blind.")  I am 
holding the Duck Shoot up to Hemingway's Nick stories and Faulkner's Big 
Woods cycle, and I do not find it wanting.

Have you ever fired a beautiful light twelve by Purdy, Bill?  Again, I 
know American shotguns--all of ours were manufactured between 1912 - 
1950--but do not know the pleasure of those British guns.  I assume the 
shorthand of make and model is important.  A custom.  Highest quality.  
Mark of taste.  Tell me what that gun tells us about its mistress.
http://www.800shotgun.com/usedguns/images/PurdyPair_rec_gif.jpg
I also think of Leslie Durrell, one time gun enthusiast, late time 
street sweeper (at least in Gerry's and Larry's characterization of the 
odd brother. who never got to tell his story.)

More when I reach Cambridge.

Charles

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

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