[ilds] One-Volume Alexandria Quartet

Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Sat Apr 26 09:40:15 PDT 2008

Well said, Charles, but where and when will all this appear in print and preserved for all time?  I also add that Durrell was very well served by David Gentleman, who did the covers for the Faber editions of the Quartet and the Quintet.  Magnificent watercolors of the Egyptian countryside but -- strangely -- none of Alexandria itself.


-----Original Message-----
>From: slighcl <slighcl at wfu.edu>
>Sent: Apr 25, 2008 4:50 PM
>To: Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net>, ilds at lists.uvic.ca
>Subject: Re: [ilds] One-Volume Alexandria Quartet
>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 
>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 
>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 
>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.
>Charles L. Sligh
>Department of English
>Wake Forest University
>slighcl at wfu.edu

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