[ilds] On Flops

Richard Pine richardpin at eircom.net
Sat Oct 27 02:21:13 PDT 2007

I feel very sorry for people who lack a sense of humour. RP
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Bruce Redwine" <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net>
To: <ilds at lists.uvic.ca>
Sent: Friday, October 26, 2007 9:25 PM
Subject: [ilds] On Flops

>I guess Rexroth was in the vanguard of po-co.  In terms of Durrell's 
>writing in Stiff and Esprit, I think Kenneth was right on target.  The 
>stories are bad, not because of their subject matter, but because they're 
>just badly constructed.  Out of the twenty-nine stories in Antrobus 
>Complete (Faber, 1985), I find five humorous.  The rest are forced and 
>contrived.  In short, they're flops, bad jokes.
> BR
> -----Original Message-----
>>From: Denise Tart & David Green <dtart at bigpond.net.au>
>>Sent: Oct 26, 2007 12:58 PM
>>To: Durrel <ilds at lists.uvic.ca>
>>Subject: [ilds] Durrell Damned and Done for
>>Dear Durrellians,
>>    As we say here in the antipodes "cop this!"
>>"While the four parts of the novel were coming out, Durrell published 
>>Bitter Lemons, Esprit de Corps, Stiff Upper Lip. These are all concerned 
>>with his own life as a diplomatic representative of Great Britain. They 
>>all have the same fault, a blissfully unconscious, but none the less 
>>absolute ethnocentrism. In Bitter Lemons the Cypriots are happy childlike 
>>innocents, misled by “demagogues” and the “envenomed insinuations of the 
>>Athens Radio.” It never occurs to Durrell that they might just want to be 
>>free of the British. Only the most unworthy motives are ever ascribed to 
>>either the Turkish or Greek leaders, who are always portrayed as “outside 
>>agitators,” interested only in advancing themselves at the expense of 
>>naïve and friendly schoolchildren. The English, on the other hand, are 
>>seen as silly, bumbling, out of date, but oh so sane and wholesome and 
>>always concerned only with the good of the charges that God has entrusted 
>>to them. We’ve heard all this before; in fact, we can hear it almost any 
>>day when a Southern Congressman is sounding off, and what day is one not? 
>>Stiff Upper Lip and Esprit de Corps are unforgivable. They are written in 
>>the most dreadful imitation of P.G. Wodehouse, a favorite author of 
>>Durrell, by his own admission. (He reads him in Bitter Lemons during 
>>negotiations with the Cypriots over their freedom.) It is a bad imitation 
>>and so vulgar it makes your flesh crawl. These two books of purported 
>>humor explain much about what happened to the splendid plan announced in 
>>Justine. Possibly, carefully read, they explain everything. British 
>>diplomats are noble and silly, Indians, Negroes, Egyptians are sly and 
>>rascally children, uniformly portrayed in terms of a Soho pickpocket — the 
>>only “native,” you feel, reading these disgraceful books, Durrell has ever 
>>known personally. This, of course, is not true; he has lived most of his 
>>life in the Levant. What is wrong with him? What is wrong with 
>>                    - Kenneth Rexroth (whoever he may be?)
>>perhaps I misread Bitter Lemons. Durrell clearly has an affection for 
>>greeks, but 'happy childlike innocents' I don't think so. Durrell's 
>>Cypriots were often quite scary and unpredictable. While he writes it for 
>>humour, Voices at the Tavern Door has menace in it. I would not want to 
>>have been a 5 feet 4 inch tall Englishman alone in a bar with Frangos and 
>>co in bad mood.
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