[ilds] The solace of such work. . . .and truth

James Gifford odos.fanourios at gmail.com
Sun Sep 16 13:13:10 PDT 2007

Or, rather, David Gascoyne was having a bad writing day...  I'd have to 
double check, but "Paris Journal" is for Gascoyne's book of the same 
title, though I don't know when Durrell actually wrote it.  I've seen 
one critic refer to the poem as a nasty mockery of Gascoyne, but I think 
it's quite the opposite when read along side the journal itself.  The 
young Gascoyne of those journal's days was deeply indebted to Durrell, 
and a great deal of Gascoyne's shift away from the mainstream club of 
surrealists comes down to his interactions with everyone at the Villa 

At any rate, Truth seems to be both "what is" and yet the question of 
"what it is" cannot be answered...  Very Gascoyne, and very Durrell.  I 
think they fit together as the loosely surrealist image, but with the 
underlying allusions that create an order (and order imposed by the 
reader) -- the day of rest is without the labour of writing, and cutting 
the Gordian knot doesn't answer it's question.  The monster in the booth 
may be at rest, the minotaur of the unconscious, but being at rest is 
equally unanswered.  It's just not stirring up problems on the day of 
rest.  Perhaps best of all (I'm teaching Wilde right now, so...) is that 
the mask is the only thing speaking when the beast, knots, and God are 
at rest.  Without the big trouble-makers, writing can't happen and only 
masks can speak rather than faces or 'real' voices.

I've been dabbling in the Miller, Gascoyne, Durrell, and Robert Duncan 
mix lately, and Anais Nin's preoccupations might unravel some of this 
poem as well.


william godshalk wrote:
> I suppose the "axe and the knot" is a reference to Alexander's cutting 
> the Gordian knot. But the other images -- pit, monster in a booth, the 
> mask -- are they images from Poe? But wherever they come from, I can't 
> fit them together -- or see why they are here. I suppose Larry was 
> having a bad writing day: cannot write.
> Bill
>>> /But today Sunday. The pit.
>>> *The axe and the knot.* Cannot write.
>>> The monster in its booth.
>>> At a quarter to one the mask repeating:
>>> 'Truth is what is
>>> Truth is what is Truth? /
>> -- "Paris Journal"
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