[ilds] One-Volume Alexandria Quartet

Marc Piel marcpiel at interdesign.fr
Sat Apr 26 03:29:27 PDT 2008

Perhaps it was not good fortune but simply shared 

slighcl a écrit :
> On 4/25/2008 3:26 PM, Bruce Redwine wrote:
>> Charles?
> Oh, I know better than to start on this topic, Bruce.  How to keep it 
> short? 
> Suffice to say, I think that Durrell found a rich imaginative resource 
> in the tactile, sensual, material aspect of composition and creation.  
> This discovery became prime in the decade-and-a-half period leading to 
> the publication of the /Quartet/.  His /Quartet /notebooks are elaborate 
> particolored--even pied!--palimpsests of prose and pictorial "sketches" 
> in different inks and different styles, impressions laid down on top of 
> impressions, recollecting a tangle of different times, places, and 
> peoples. 
> I think that there is a meaningful correspondence between how Darley 
> luxuriates, temporizes, and struggles with his materials in the 
> storytime moment and how Durrell luxuriated, temporized, and struggled 
> with his materials in the real-time actuality.  And by materials I do 
> not mean simply the "prose medium."  I mean that the whole (imagined) 
> material dossier of collected documents seems to somehow correspond to 
> the real and extant material dossier of notebooks and typescripts out of 
> which Durrell quarried and cobbled and assembled his /Justine/. 
> We have discussed it before here, but I will say it again.  As a young 
> reader, I responded in a way that I still recall as thrilling to 
> "bookishness" of the /Quartet/.  I found myself moving back and forth 
> between these jewel-colored bindings, /Justine/, /Balthazar/, 
> /Mountolive/, and /Clea/, assembling meaning and undoing meaning in that 
> Janus-faced kind of readerly after-glancing and afterthought that 
> certainly occurs in most literary texts but which seems to occur at a 
> heightened frequency here.  And this was exciting because that seemed to 
> be precisely what Darley was doing while he assembled and reshuffled his 
> multiple documents within the story of the /Quartet/.
> Then there was the excellence of the Faber production of the original 
> cloth-covered issues.  Wolpe set the standard for mid-twentieth century 
> house-style, and his team at Faber did much to make certain that the 
> physical sensual aesthetic of Durrell's Alexandria found its tactile 
> embodiment in the books as published 1957 - 1960.   As Pater said in the 
> 1880s, matter and spirit here are fused and blent, inextricably. 
> I will include several images here that bring home this last point.  The 
> first is the distinctive Centaur typeface that Wolpe selected for 
> Durrell's first editions of /Justine/, /Balthazar/, /Mountolive/, and 
> /Clea/.
> I will remark how the end punctuation studs the prose with little 
> embossed diamond-cut emphases, while the commas run along like kites 
> high-strung across the old harbour.
> And then there also is the matter of oft-repeated exclamation markers in 
> /Justine/--often literally, "Justine!" or "Melissa!"--which seem to ring 
> out like struck scimitar when read in their original typographical 
> format, which really does bring out the blade from the sheathe:
> Finally, here are Durrell's books set out on a shelf with some of 
> Wolpe's other designs.
> Clearly Durrell had good fortune in finding such a designer.
> C&c.
> -- 
> **********************
> Charles L. Sligh
> Department of English
> Wake Forest University
> slighcl at wfu.edu
> **********************
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