[ilds] Taking the Mickey: LD as a man of letters

slighcl slighcl at wfu.edu
Wed Oct 24 10:48:54 PDT 2007

On 10/24/2007 6:56 AM, Denise Tart & David Green wrote:
>         Why do people think they own writers?
>         "Oh I used to like him, but he has gone off you know"
>         Durrell was a first rate novelist, but he also wrote
>         potboilers. c'est la
>         vie - I can deal with it
All of these points are of interest to me, David. 

For my own part, I find that telling myself that "Lawrence Durrell was a 
man of letters" helps like a necessary charm.  That designation allows 
for me to react with wonder at what I think of as LD's works of 
aesthetic merit, while also letting me recognize that he always worked 
here in the real world as a journeyman-writer making ends meet, patching 
his roofs, buildings his garden walls, drinking too much wine, paying 
alimony, &c.  In other words, the phrase "Lawrence Durrell, Man of 
Letters" guards against the too-easy romanticizing tendencies central to 
how we talk about authors--i.e., by setting them up on splendid 
pedestals, like pieces in a museum--reminding us instead of how /White 
Eagle/s and the "Antrobus" stories and the poetry and /Justine /and 
/Bitter Lemons/ all originated with very real human needs, with very 
real human limits and with most unexpected spots of brilliance set off 
by real-world conditions.

Following Hamlet,

    /He was a man, /take him for all in all/,
    I shall not look upon his like again./

This summer Bill and I had a good time reading the mss and typescripts 
for the "Antrobus" stories.  I did find some humor in looking at the 
boiler-plating aspect of LD's writing process.  Once he had the 
opening--"As for ______ (said Antrobus)"--the stories were already in a 
sense done.  It would be something to trace out the patterns of his 
attention within the severe limits of this story form--what caught his 
fancy or became grist to his grindstone?


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

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