[ilds] an assassin of polish

James Gifford odos.fanourios at gmail.com
Sun Feb 3 16:04:54 PST 2008


As someone who likes Burgess and even teaches _Clockwork Orange_ 
(although I *do not* think it is a "great" novel), isn't the response 
here obvious?  If Burgess wants to find, ahem, prose that "melts into a 
romantic wash a little too close to the old lending-library 
sadistic-sentimental exotic escapism beloved of the dreaming shop-girl," 
couldn't he look at that sentence itself?

I think the answer fall far closer to home.  Burgess saw himself in much 
this same guise, and that made Durrell direct competition.

Also, I have to agree with Charles.  The polyphonic voices of the text 
make it difficult to hammer it down to a single narrator.  After all, 
how could we link the narrative voice of the first page of _Monsieur_ 
with that of the first pages of _Justine_?  Perhaps in the word 
"brndled," but in little else.  Even within the Quartet, the duckshoot 
seems to have found its own, while Arnauti is given to dramatics that 
seem to vanish by the time _Balthazar_ arrives.  The voices here differ, 
and that would also answer Burgess' challenge in provocative ways.

Still, what of a stylistic analysis of Burgess' _Clockwork Orange_ 
against _Justine_.  Wipe away the rather simplistic (though appealing) 
social commentary in Burgess' novel, and I think style is clearly 
accorded first position in both books -- on that level, Burgess creates 
one catchy voice, but I think Durrell goes a bit further.

Still, I liked the reminder of Steiner's comments on Durrell's style. 
That seems spot on.

Best,
James

slighcl wrote:
> I feel responsible for the way in which my copying-and-pasting from a 
> pdf doc made a hash of Burgess's prose.  Here is a corrected version--
>>
>>>         It is a prose-poetry whose rhythms tend to flaccidity and
>>>         which sometimes
>>>
>>>         melts into a romantic wash a little too close to the old
>>>         lending-library sadistic-sentimental
>>>
>>>         exotic escapism beloved of the dreaming shop-girl. For all that,
>>>
>>>         there are passages which are powerful and masterly-sharply
>>>         and exactly observant.
>>>
>>>         But the final impression is of something shimmering in a
>>>         rather old-fashioned
>>>
>>>         fin de siècle way, suggesting languor and satiety after
>>>         elaborate self-indulgence.
>>>
>>>         The decadence smells of stale incense.
>>>
>>>         (/The Novel Now: A Guide to Contemporary Fiction/ 97)
>>>
> Just as a quick reaction to Burgess's pronouncements, I would ask 
> Burgess--or perhaps his frittering shade in Hades, supplicated by small 
> ponds of bourbon--to point out where the "flaccidity" occurs.  If 
> Burgess is thinking of /Justine/, then it all gets a bit more 
> complicated.  Context is all.  Durrell has written his prose under 
> multiple masks (Darley, Arnauti, Pursewarden, &c.), thus creating the 
> "out" or the explanation that it is the prose style of the /Creatures/, 
> not the Creator, that has gone "flaccid."  
> 
> Once Durrell creates the fiction that /Balthazar /is to follow 
> /Justine/, then this game truly becomes genius--revision and 
> self-criticism of style as storyline and drama.
> 
> Seen in these terms, I think, we can better understand that the "plot" 
> of /Justine /is in its prose "style"--when and how the style starts, 
> when and how it eddies, when and how it returns to start afresh, and 
> when and how it finds or does not find its way to new resources.
> 
> Did "shop girls" read such things?  Oh dear. . . .
> 
> Charles
> 
> -- 
> **********************
> Charles L. Sligh
> Department of English
> Wake Forest University
> slighcl at wfu.edu
> **********************
> 
> 
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