[ilds] an assassin of polish

slighcl slighcl at wfu.edu
Sun Feb 3 19:46:42 PST 2008

Let me venture another observation or two about the standard criticisms 
of Durrell's style.  I hate that I am not up for citing specific 
critics, but then I am up late and want to sleep.

First, most criticism of the style voices disapproval of Durrell's 
/lushness /or /exoticism/.  I cry foul when I hear such judgments, not 
because Durrell is not lush or exotic, but because the criticism implies 
that the writer's imagination should be tamed or disciplined to some 
normative sort of prose style, a prose connected point-for-point with a 
corrective (politically or otherwise) sense of reality.   Even an 
educated and cultured stylist like Burgess seems to be following in this 
line of criticism, a most curious thing.  If I could scan it, I would 
say that Burgess thinks a good stylist should stay on point, writing 
always in his characteristic style.  Again, Durrell's changing style 
evidences a more complex view of character and psychology.  If character 
and psychology are multiplex and changing, then the styles expressing 
them will follow by being multiplex and changing. 

I will also admit that in /Justine /and in the /Quartet /Durrell is 
often working in haste.  That the magic occurs even if the unevenness 
and cobbling show through makes it all the more amazing.

A final point:  Like Byron in /Don Juan/, Durrell equally mistrusts the 
prescriptive and proscriptive, I think.  Thus he comes up short because, 
mistrusting "messages," he has no interest or inclination to stay "on 
message."  That last point may be at the heart of the deepest critical 
suspicion of Durrell.  He had loyalty to himself, not a program.  For 
Byron and for Durrell--both of whom favor fragmentation, ellipses, a 
cosmopolitan range of reference, and a disinterest in neat 
endings--style reflects a world-view.


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

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