[ilds] 1957 novels

slighcl slighcl at wfu.edu
Mon Aug 6 14:18:28 PDT 2007

On 8/6/2007 4:09 PM, william godshalk wrote:
>         Among certain people, Ayn Rand was and is considered
>         inconsiderable (as Leslie Fiedler quipped). I know she's still
>         taught in certain high schools, but the students quickly
>         understand the foolishness of her "philosophy." 
I would follow with a couple of points, both of which I think are 
related to our concerns with the current estimations of Durrell's 
/Justine/, 1957 - 2007. 

First, Bill, you write about the "foolishness of Rand's philosophy."  I 
think that you mean here her "Objectivism" and the ideologies that the 
character John Galt comes to stand for.  But I would ask--/fabulously 
significant aesthetic and political differences set to one side/--how is 
this quite common and widespread critical dismissal of Rand's writing as 
"foolish" so different from current dismissals of Durrell's ideas 
("spirit of place," "investigations of modern love," &c) as foolish?  

Of course, one easy answer might be that Durrell entertained ideas for 
their shapes and sounds, letting them appear and then evanesce as his 
attention turned elsewhere.  Ayn Rand was decidedly more adamant about 
the importance of her ideas.  (Simple answer: one author understood 
humor and irony, while the other avoided those at all costs.)

As we saw in the /American Scholar/ piece, and as I have encountered in 
my own conversations, in their very different ways, /Atlas Shrugged/, 
/On the Road/, and /Justine /are seen today as appealing to passing 
phases, "youthful enthusiasms" (Trueheart's phrase: 
http://www.theamericanscholar.org/su07/quartet-trueheart.html), whether 
in varieties Romantic (Durrell or Kerouac) or varieties Fascist (Rand).  
That is, I think a common and unexamined response to /Justine/--"/oh, I 
remember that book from my youth; that all seems a very, very long time 
ago now; fancy that I ever went in for that sort of silliness/"--is 
different only in the specific terms of objection.

I will also offer that another late-1950s writer regularly paired with 
Durrell (and Pasternak), Vladimir Nabokov, seems to have survived and 
grown in critical estimation. 

Strangely, I had a conversation with some other university teachers in 
Ghent regarding the fading of Kerouac's audience.  Those three or four 
UK teachers said that /On the Road/ seems another world (now long lost) 
to their more conservative university students who live in today's world 
of parenta/governmentall protection and travel as consumption.  I found 
that to be true of students in Virginia, also, the exception being a 
student who came to class already read in Hermann Hesse's /Siddhartha 
/(1922; 1951) and Pirsig's /Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance/.  
Small prize for guessing that the same exceptional student eagerly took 
up Durrell's /Prospero's Cell/ also.

/Justine /also has some curious (but unclear) kinship with /Zhivago/, I 
think.  Atmosphere and historical place so indelible as to become like a 
film score of a certain time and place in life.  The very titles have 
come associative, perfume-like.


Try this silliness for what diversion it is worth:


        TYPE IN <Lawrence Durrell>

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

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: http://lists.uvic.ca/pipermail/ilds/attachments/20070806/53b3e1c1/attachment.html 

More information about the ILDS mailing list