[ilds] The Lost Art of Lying

James Gifford odos.fanourios at gmail.com
Fri Mar 7 12:40:38 PST 2008

Yes, Bruce, it has been discussed, but you keep skipping that discussion 
and pretending you needn't address it.  Please, more substance and less 
vitriol...  Perhaps you could go back to the examples and discuss them 
in detail.  I'd like to see your close analysis.

But, for the sake of making some real progress, let's get back to that 
sticky situation you dodged.  What about Wilde?  If you're keen on Wilde 
(as I certainly am), how do you distinguish his work and Durrell's, or 
should we toss Wilde, Joyce, Miller, Bach, Handel, Mozart, and Eliot out 
without any further consideration?  If that's not an "aesthetic 
tradition," then what would count as one?

Moreover, Durrell seems to have been pretty thorough in giving credit 
where credit was due in his critical works -- so why not the novels?  In 
conjunction, he alludes very, very heavily to a series of writers who 
did precisely the same when reusing past creative works.  For instance, 
both Eliot and Wilde borrow far more heavily than Durrell, yet they 
don't offend you -- wherein lies the distinction, and can you *detail* 
it?  How would you respond to the likes of Kathy Acker or Burroughs?

Or, we could ponder the examples in paragraph 3 of William Posner's 
essay here (all familiar names in our past discussions -- Shax's theft 
of phrases from a contemporary translation of Plutarch is the most 
notable, as well as Eliot's later theft of Shax's theft):


How, Bruce, can you tame plagiarism as the master-mistress of those 
desires?  And, what exactly do they seem to desire, 'cause it don't seem 
like a shortcut, and it's not some fire in rose-red youth...  Or, 
instead, is there a very clear tradition to which Durrell has aligned 
himself?  After all, why even have a tradition if you can't take it up, 
chop it up, and reuse it in new ways that serve your own purposes?  And 
why would he allude to a tradition of authors who say exactly that if he 
didn't see any reason for it?  It seems like far more work than a 
plagiarist would go to!

I've formally charged people with plagiarism, most often with quite 
significant consequences.  It's a charge I take very serious, as do most 
academics.  However, I remain largely untroubled by Durrell.  Does that 
strike you as simply bizarre, or does it seem more rational that there 
are compelling reasons?  If you're here for a dialogue, wouldn't it be 
worthwhile to discuss those reasons in conjunction with your own?  As 
Wilde already said, the truth is rarely simple and never pure.

But, there's no sense in writing much on this topic -- I doubt there 
will be more response than repetition of what's already been said.  I'd 
welcome thoughts from others or anyone who sees more instances of 
borrowings in LD's texts.  We know that he shamelessly stole plots from 
psychoanalytic case studies, and that strikes me as a very engaging 
place to discuss how these borrowings enrich a text when we recognize 
them.  What about Groddeck's noses, Hutin's Gnostics, and Torhild 
Leira's tears?

And what of Wilde?  I've asked some direct questions here, and I'm 
interested in responses -- dodging direct question (albeit more loudly 
each time) doesn't interest me at all...  Borrow some of Wilde's art, 
and I'll go along for the ride.


ps: where's the hook and who was fishing?

pps: Biographically, how do you respond to my previous (and detailed) 
discussion of Caesar's Vast Ghost?  MacNiven is pretty clear on the 
point on p. 683, noting that Mary Byrne typed up Durrell's mess of notes 
and notebooks (all of which always contain transcripts & clippings from 
things he found interesting, being both notebooks and commonplace 
books).  Isabelle Keller can likely contribute more about the ms., 
perhaps in discussion in Paris this summer, but the "notes-to ts." 
transformation suggests he didn't compile it himself, and the biography 
asserts this too, as well as the point about Haag's writing that you 
keep going back to.  Just watch "Une Amitie Parisienne" and tell me how 
carefully you think Old D. went through Byrne's transcriptions of his 

Bruce Redwine wrote:
> I will not let Durrell off the hook by an appeal to an
 > "aesthetic tradition."  Nor do I think he was not
 > responsible at the end of his life for his MS of
 > Caesar's Vast Ghost.  The examples I have in mind are
 > not playful "borrowings," they are not allusions, but
 > they are quite clearly gross examples of plagiarism.
 > This has been discussed before and need not be rehashed.
 > Compare those known passages in Prospero's Cell, the
 > Quartet, and Caesar's Vast Ghost with their sources in
 > Durrell's contemporaries.  He could have been sued and
 > would have probably lost.  Given the extent of Durrell's
 > "borrowings," I don't think any court would accept a
 > defense based on the free circulation of other writers'
 > prose and ideas.  Deception is relevant when a writer
 > passes off other people's words as his own, without any
 > accreditation or even remotely suggested accreditation,
 > and that was what Durrell was doing on numerous occasions.
> Bruce
> -----Original Message-----
>> From: James Gifford <odos.fanourios at gmail.com>
>> Sent: Mar 7, 2008 10:01 AM
>> To: ilds at lists.uvic.ca
>> Subject: Re: [ilds] The Lost Art of Lying
>> Hey Bruce,
>> I'd say Durrell and Wilde are actually remarkably akin here -- Wilde's 
>> use of pastiche and reworking of other texts is on display /in spades/ 
>> in his "The Decay of Lying."  It's nearly impossible to miss it.  The 
>> point, in part, for Wilde is that his "misrepresented" stolen bits taken 
>> on a new shape when they are recreated in his work.  And Wilde certainly 
>> did much more of this "misrepresentation" than Durrell ever did (any 
>> good critical edition will identify these extensive borrowings and 
>> reconstructions).
>> You might disagree with Durrell using the second sense of lying, which 
>> you tie to copyright laws, and I can appreciate why you'd dislike it or 
>> not value it as a reader, but he came to it through a very clear 
>> aesthetic tradition to which he constantly alludes, and in which it has 
>> a specific function.
>> I see very little difference between Durrell and Wilde in either of the 
>> two senses of lying here, but I doubt either was limited to just two 
>> senses...
>>   "Appropriate what is yours, for to publish
>>    anything is to make it public property"
>>         -- Wilde
>> Best,
>> James
>> Bruce Redwine wrote:
>>> Wilde is playing off the first sense of lying, namely,
>>> misrepresentation of fact and applying that to fiction.
>>> But there is another sense, known to all, of deliberate
>>> deception, for which we have such things as copyright
>>> laws.  Durrell uses the first sense admirably but
>>> misuses the second.
>>> Bruce
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